Last week, two companies licensed to grow cannabis in Massachusetts settled with the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission after state inspectors issued each company violations for its use of illegal pesticides in cultivation operations. The Commission approved settlements with 4Front Ventures Corp. (Georgetown, Ma) for $350,000 and Garden Remedies (Fitchburg, MA) for $200,000.
4Front admitted using banned pesticides including, among others, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Though the company obtained test results showing that its cannabis contained banned pesticides, it did not alert the Commission until two months later. 4Front must pay its fine within two months, and some of the plants at its growing facility were ordered to be destroyed by the Commission.
Garden Remedies similarly disclosed using banned pesticides, but also falsified financial records to hide the pesticide purchases. State inspectors discovered the illegal pesticides use while onsite at Garden Remedies’ grow facility, which prompted inspectors to request all financial documents. The provided documents concealed the pesticide purchases, but an anonymous tip revealed the cover-up to inspectors who confirmed the falsity after investigation. Garden Remedies must pay its fines within two months and has fired employees who participated in the violations.
Along with the monetary settlements, the Commission has required the companies to regularly test the chemicals used on their cannabis plants and to keep detailed records of the test results. Both companies issued statements assuring the Commission and consumers that changes were made to prevent future pesticide violations.
Pesticides used in cultivation operations can be transferred to cannabis products consumed by users. Massachusetts follows guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), which regulates pesticide approval. Unless approved, any pesticide use on cannabis is prohibited. The EPA maintains a list of minimum risk pesticides exempt from registration requirements. Increased federal guidelines for pesticide use on cannabis is important as regulation develops in the face of legalization. Since marijuana is still federally illegal, EPA evaluation of safe pesticides to use on cannabis may not come soon.
* Aaron Parry contributed to this post.
With a practical approach, Chad provides compliance guidance and litigation defense on matters related to cannabis, advertising and marketing, teleservices, and other consumer protection issues.