Weeks after Maryland cultivator ForwardGro had their products pulled from the state’s dispensary shelves, patients are still in the dark about why it happened.
The saga began this summer, when former ForwardGro employees submitted sworn affidavits to Maryland’s General Assembly, alleging that ForwardGro used illegal pesticides. Three months later, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission issued an administrative hold on the products. Now, three weeks after that hold was placed, Maryland’s patients have no idea why — or what they could have been at risk of exposure to.
While the state is calling the action a precautionary measure, it only adds to the troubles Maryland patients have faced over the years they waited for access. Now that they finally got that access, the idea the product would be filled with pesticides is very disconcerting.
FowardGro previously had earned the distinction of being Maryland’s first licensed cultivator. Now, they have the distinction of being the first to publicly draw the ire of the state’s regulatory agency. In comments to the Washington Post, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission declined to comment about the ongoing investigation, but did cite state regulations that authorize the agency to act if it “has reasonable suspicion of an operational failure or of conditions that create a likelihood of diversion, contamination, or a risk to the public health.” They did say the investigation was well underway.
One of the craziest pieces of information to come out of the Washington Post’s reporting on the recall is the fact this wasn’t even the first incident of a cannabis recall in Maryland, and like FowardGro, the details around the other issues are hazy. MMCC Executive Director Joy Strand told the Post that the state had previously issued other quarantines. Strand did not go into details and declined to comment on how many there were or how the situation was resolved.
Those taking part in Maryland’s burgeoning cannabis industry are also wondering what exactly is going on.
Mackie Barch serves as chair of the Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannabis Trade Association. She said she is at a loss for why people are not getting more information from the state.
“From a patient perspective, it’s a little bit scary,” Barch told the Post. “From a company perspective, if you have this happen, it’s so detrimental to your business. It kills you reputationally, but secondarily to that, it impacts your overall financial performance.”
Others found the lack of transparency concerning as to not make the same mistakes that ForwardGro is accused of, whatever they may be.
FowardGro isn’t speaking on the ongoing investigation, but they have previously framed the comments from the former employees as an attack on the business. The employees had claimed the pesticides regiment was in response to a spread of issues, including powdery mildew and spider mites.
“We are cooperating with the Commission and working to learn more about the basis of the hold and to resolve this matter,” ForwardGro spokeswoman Vicki Bendure said. “All ForwardGro’s products have passed pesticide testing by an independent, state-approved lab, and ForwardGro remains committed to providing patients in Maryland with quality medical cannabis.”
Morgan Fox from the National Cannabis Industry Association reflected on how difficult it must be for the state to find the balance between patient safety and protecting the business’s reputation until they have been proven in the wrong.
“I think the most important thing is that patients know not to consume these particular products at this time,” Fox told Cannabis Now. “It is generally better to err on the side of transparency when it comes to issues like this, but the commission is calling this a ‘precautionary’ hold, and publicly stating their suspicions before the investigation is concluded, which could have serious impacts on the business regardless of the outcome of that investigation. It’s a tough call.”
One of the main public benefits of regulating cannabis, apart from not putting people in cages for smoking a plant, is to protect people against the nasty pesticides that can proliferate in the illicit market. It will be fascinating to see exactly how things play out on the state’s side once it’s all said and done. But with the lack of communication about previous holds, it can be understandably tough to have faith.
TELL US, do you know if your cannabis has pesticides in it?