An Alaska cannabis business is under investigation for allegedly using dangerous pesticides on marijuana grown in its facility. 

According to an advisory notice dated Nov. 1, the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office has asked retailers to pull products from Calm N Collective, a cultivator in Houston, from shelves and put them in quarantine.

The notice states investigators "received credible information that the licensee used one or more pesticides on marijuana grown in this facility that pose a threat to human health. 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.”

Calm N Collective owner Ronald Bass said his retail shop, the Houston Grass Station, has pulled hundreds of thousands of dollars of its products. Bass believes a disgruntled employee is behind the complaint to the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office.

“We don’t know if he sprayed it on the way out or not,” Bass said.

The Facebook group ACR, short for Alaska Canna Review, has several posts from a person Bass said was his former grow manager. Last month, the man posted a claim that Calm N Collective’s plants were covered in “feces and other excrement from an explosive plumbing failure” and the plants were “sprayed off before being harvested.”

A Facebook post in the ACR group from a person Calm N Collective owner Ronald Bass says is a disgruntled former employee. (Source: Facebook)

The same person later posted a photo of an unidentified person holding a bottle of Eagle 20 in a grow room.

(Source: Facebook)

Bass said his business is being sabotaged.

“It’s frustrating but I need to look forward. I need to push forward," he said. "This is a speed bump.”

It’s not just his business being impacted, however.

Teri Zell, the chief financial officer for Bad Gramm3r in Wasilla, said they had to remove thousands of dollars of cartridges that were made with some of Calm N Collective’s product.

“It’s created what I like to call a real shit storm, pun intended. The disregard and egregious actions by this man were untenable,” Zell said.

Bass disputes claims he would knowingly use pesticides. He said he got into the industry after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and wanted to help others who were struggling.

“I need the product safe and healthy for people or else what am I doing this for?” he said.

The investigation is ongoing. According to state marijuana statutes, a hearing before the Marijuana Control Board will be scheduled.

Pesticides and marijuana regulations

In September, NBC News commissioned tests of 18 marijuana vaping products, finding that 10 unregulated samples tested contained myclobutanil.

Erika McConnell, director of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, said testing for pesticides is not currently a requirement in the Marijuana Control Board's regulations. In an email, she said she didn't believe any licensed testing facilities have the capacity to test for pesticides.

Cultivators must list "fertilizers, chemicals, gases, and deliver[y] systems, including carbon dioxide, management, to be used," in their application. Pesticides are then checked against the state Department of Environmental Conservation's pesticide criteria. 

According to McConnell's email:

"The regulations require tests for the following, although not all types of marijuana products must be tested for all of these substances—see 3 AAC 306.645:

  • Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC)-bacteria
  • Salmonella species-bacteria
  • Aspergillus fumigatus, Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus niger-fungus
  • Butanes
  • Heptanes
  • Benzene
  • Toluene
  • Hexane
  • Total xylenes (meta-eylenes, para-xylenes, or ortho-xylenes)
  • Potency—concentration of THC, THCA, CBD, CBDA, and CBN cannabinoids

Vaping products are tested for

  • Butanes
  • Heptanes
  • Benzene
  • Toluene
  • Hexane
  • Total xylenes (meta-eylenes, para-xylenes, or ortho-xylenes)
  • Potency—concentration of THC, THCA, CBD, CBDA, and CBN cannabinoids; homogeneity (for edibles)"

McConnell also said the Marijuana Control Board formed a working group in early 2018 to discuss testing, what to test for and acceptable limits of contamination. However, she said the group had "not met in many months or worked on that issue."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include response from Ronald Bass, the owner of Calm N Collective.

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