DENVER – City officials have temporarily barred the sale of potentially millions of dollars worth of legal marijuana over concerns it has been contaminated by unapproved pesticides.
On Friday alone, city officials, after consulting with state agriculture inspectors and the EPA, placed a "hold" on approximately 60,000 plants at a single grow facility in Denver. They have previously placed crops from 10 other facilities on similar holds, which allows the plants to keep growing but blocks their sale.
A mature marijuana plant can be worth more than $4,000, but it's unclear where these plants were in the growing process. Because marijuana is such a lucrative crop, some growers are taking shortcuts to improve their harvest by spraying young plants with pesticides that aren't approved for human consumption.
Denver city officials' actions came after months of waiting for their state counterparts to launch a long-awaited state monitoring program for contaminants. Colorado officials initially said their pesticide and mold testing would begin in the middle of last year, and then early this year, but they still can't say when they will begin that mandatory testing. Marijuana "flower" – the buds most people are familiar with – is only tested for potency. Washington state, the only other state with a functioning recreational marijuana marketplace, also does not test marijuana for pesticide contamination.
"This is an initiative that Denver is taking on to really make sure consumers do not get into harm's way," said Danica Lee with the Denver Department of Environmental Health. "It is fair to say there are some practices out there that could pose a public health risk, and we are intervening in those cases."
A few weeks ago, records obtained by 9Wants to Know indicate One Grow, RINO Supply, voluntarily destroyed 1,500 plants after the city placed the plants in what amounts to a city-enforced quarantine.
One of the main pesticides in question, according to city records, is a substance known as Eagle 20. The city has targeted E20 because of concern it could be inhaled during the use of marijuana.
"Certainly one of the things we are looking at is, Does the pesticide have any application on commercial food products," said Lee. The Colorado Department of Agriculture will not comment on whether it has found any "unacceptable levels" of unapproved pesticides citing ongoing investigations.
Tuesday night, the owner of LivWell told 9Wants to Know his grow has been unfairly targeted by the City of Denver. His grow is the one that currently has the approximately 60,000 plants on "hold" status due to the city's declaration it may be using Eagle 20.
"We do not use any banned pesticide in our grow," owner John Lord said. "We take this very, very seriously. We take public health very, very seriously. We do not feel there is a concern."
At issue in the debate between the city and growers like LivWell is the issue of what can and cannot be used when it comes to pesticides. Lord insists the pesticide he uses is not banned by the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division and thus remains acceptable to use. He also says Denver isn't "qualified" to make a decision on what can and cannot be used on the indoor crop.
"We are hopeful we can get this cleared up in the next few days," added Lord.
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