On Nov. 1, the state Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office (AMCO) sent a notice to all of the state's cannabis licensees, notifying them that it was suspending all weed shipments from Calm N Collective, a licensed cannabis cultivator in Houston, Alaska. The agency ordered all cannabis retailers to remove any products containing weed sourced from this company from their shelves and place them in quarantine.
This decision is especially untimely for Alaskan pot shops, as the recall affects new distillate cartridges by Refine, which had only hit the market a couple of weeks ago. These products, which also include “Double Dippers,” meaning cartridges containing both distillates and concentrates, have been highly anticipated by Alaskan weed customers. However, these products contain small amounts of weed sourced from Calm N Collective, and must therefore be quarantined until further notice.
In their notice, the AMCO explained that they banned these products “because we have received credible information that the licensee used one or more pesticides on marijuana grown in this facility that pose a threat to human health,” the Anchorage Press explains. “Specifically, the licensee is alleged to have used Eagle 20, a pesticide containing myclobutanil, which is stable at room temperature but releases a toxic gas [hydrogen cyanide] when combusted.”
Unlike other adult-use states, Alaska does not require its legal weed products to be tested for pesticides. Instead, the state relies upon cultivators to list any fertilizers, chemicals, gases, or other potential contaminants that are used in the production of their cannabis products. The AMCO then checks the list of pesticides against the environmental conservation department's pesticide criteria. But since the agency does not actually require testing, production transparency relies largely on the honesty of cultivators.
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Ron Bass, owner of Calm N Collective, issued a statement explaining that the pesticide contamination was intentionally caused by a disgruntled employee who would soon be terminated from the company. “The employee in question had been accused of stealing and was aware that steps were being made towards firing him,” said Bass, according to The Associated Press. “At some point after this, he posted a picture of himself holding a bottle of unapproved pesticides in the grow room as if he was about to apply them.”
Nick Callahan, a former employee of the company, tells a completely different story, though. Calm N Collective recently received several notices of violation (NOVs) from Alaskan regulators for failing to provide video footage of the drying room at their facility. Bass claimed that the cameras were damaged by a water leak, but Callahan told the Anchorage Press that the leak was actually a sewage leak — and what’s worse, the sewage directly contaminated the company's plants.
Callahan said that the sewage, which leaked from a damaged pipe, “covered almost everything within a good 8 feet of the wall, but the worst part was it happened on a weekend when nobody was there and filled the oxy pot controllers all along that wall with sewage. They fed several times on sewage. All plants were cut down over the following month, then trimmed and sold.”
Regarding the pesticide contamination, Callahan claimed that Bass tried to force him to spray Eagle 20 on the plants in order to deal with an infestation of powdery mildew. Callahan refused to apply this banned pesticide, but Bass allegedly hired other helpers to apply the chemical. The former employee also claimed that Bass set off bug bombs in the cultivation facility to deal with pests, which also directly affected the plants.
Calm N Collective has also received several other NOVs from the state for having improper cannabis clone counts, having plants disappear from their grows, attempting to move large amounts of weed out of the state via the airport, and other issues. The AMCO has shipped samples of the company's product to testing labs in other US states to analyze their pesticide content. After the testing process, which could take up to 60 days, the agency will decide whether to continue banning these products or return them to the shelves.