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Colorado pot grower faces pesticide suit

Two Colorado marijuana consumers filed a lawsuit Oct. 5 in state court, arguing that Denver-based LivWell, which owns Beacon Wellness Group dispensaries in Cortez and Mancos, inappropriately used a pesticide that can turn into cyanide when smoked.

The pesticide in question, Eagle 20, contains myclobutanil, which is used as a fungicide.

“All of our products are safe,” said Beacon manager Nate Fete.

According to the Associated Press, Eagle 20 is commonly used on grapes and hops, for example, but the pesticide can become dangerous when heated. Eagle 20 is banned for use on tobacco, and the plaintiffs in the pending pesticide litigation contend that LivWell should be held accountable.

Since marijuana remains prohibited under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, federal officials haven’t regulated pesticides used on marijuana. Colorado agriculture officials have listed acceptable pesticides, and neither Eagle 20 nor myclobutanil are included.

Neither of the plaintiffs – Brandan Flores of Denver and Brandie Larrabee of Grand Junction – claim that they were sickened by the marijuana. They stated that they wouldn’t have ingested it if they’d known it had been treated with Eagle 20.

LivWell attorney Dean Heizer claimed that the plaintiffs wanted to derail the commercial cannabis industry, adding that LivWell was targeted because to its success. With about 500 employees and nearly two dozen licensed operations across Colorado, LivWell is home to what’s believed to be the largest indoor marijuana production facility in the U.S., a single 140,000-square-foot, or 3.2-acre, grow operation in Denver.

“We value the health and safety of our customers and patients, and have no interest in compromising on that,” Heizer said. “The facts are that we have never used a banned substance in our cultivation.”

Officials at other Cortez dispensaries, including Durango Organics Wellness Center, Medicine Man and The Herbal Alternative, each indicated that they used organic pesticides. All declined to comment about specific pesticides that they use.

“Everything we use, I would put it on my skin or even eat it,” said Herbal Alternative general manager David Pozzi.

Organic pesticides include fish oil, Neem oil or soap, which helps to manage pests such as mites, aphids and thrips. Starting Sept. 29, Colorado officials mandated that all licensed marijuana growers also submit their crops for microbial testing to check for fungi, mold and mildew.

Earlier this year, Denver Department of Environmental Health officials quarantined marijuana plants grown by LivWell and other Front Range ganjapreneurs because of pesticide concerns. After testing, the plants were released to the companies.

“The case is all about making sure that the cannabis industry is safe for consumers,” Steven Woodrow, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the AP.

LivWell officials have indicated the company no longer uses Eagle 20, and testing by third-party laboratories licensed by the state have declared that the company’s products are safe.

“We adhere to the most current rules and regulations regarding product labeling and cultivation as set forth by our regulators, including the Marijuana Enforcement Division and the Colorado Department of Agriculture,” said Heizer. “We believe the litigation is scientifically, legally and factually frivolous, and we will defend it vigorously.”

Two previous class-action lawsuits against LivWell officials have been settled. One lawsuit involved unauthorized business partners that utilized the company’s financials in a failed attempt to expand to other states, and the other was related to a handful of people who reportedly became sick after eating medical brownies at a Denver marijuana fair.

tbaker@the-journal.com

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