The city of Denver has been proactive this past year in their efforts to oversee the use of pesticides in the marijuana industry, but now the health department is changing it’s enforcement procedures.
Starting April 15, the Denver Department of Environmental Health announced that it will no longer test marijuana and marijuana products in a privately owned cannabis testing facility. Instead it will place marijuana products suspected of being contaminated with banned pesticides on hold, notify the state agencies that have picked up the recall process, and possibly order the plants or products to be destroyed. “We’re taking a different approach here that’s more in line with other regulated industries,” said DEH executive director Bob McDonald. “It’s always been an option for us to condemn product. That authority has always been there. But we’ve given the industry more than a year now to learn what the public health issues are. And we need to transition into more sustainable and consistent enforcement. This idea of testing product until it’s deemed safe was never meant to be a long-term solution for this public health issue.” The city’s pesticide testing regimen has been the basis of the 20 marijuana recalls issued by Denver and at least six of the 14 recalls later issued by the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division. The city’s controversial lab tests for pesticide residues have been called into question by multiple companies undergoing recalls and maintaining their products’ compliance. EdiPure, one of Colorado’s largest producers of cannabis-infused edibles, was the subject of four city-level recalls between October and December 2015. The company publicly questioned the lab tests conducted by the city’s partner lab Gobi Analytical and is now appealing the recalls to the city’s Board of Environmental Health. But others in the industry are questioning how Denver will quantify pesticide contamination in the absence of testing. “How does this get objectively measured?” asked Mark Slaugh, CEO of compliance outfit iComply and executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance. “What is ‘potentially contaminated’? This could have a negative side.” Denver officials say today’s marijuana is cleaner than it was when these enforcement actions first began in 2015. “We’re in a higher state of compliance than where we were a year ago, even if there’s no way of quantifying that,” said Dan Rowland, communications director at the city’s Office of Marijuana Policy. “This issue is out there, and people understand the critical public health implications associated with it.” Only time will tell if these new measurements will be beneficial or harmful, but the proof is in the trial.