Containers holding 1-gram amounts of THC concentrate are prepped for capping and packaging at Mahatma Concentrates, in Denver on May 1, 2014. (Brennan Linsley, Associated Press file)

Denver recalls Mahatma pot extracts over unapproved pesticides

The order comes after an investigation by The Denver Post and lab testing revealed three unapproved pesticides in a pair of Mahatma Concentrates products

State and Denver inspectors on Tuesday ordered a recall of marijuana extracts sold by Mahatma Concentrates that The Denver Post revealed contained high levels of unapproved pesticides.

Mahatma co-owner Brett Mouser confirmed the recall of products that were derived from marijuana plants grown by a supplier, Treatments Unlimited.

Treatments’ co-owner has acknowledged the Denver company used the unapproved pesticides. Treatments earlier this year had a number of its plants quarantined by city officials because of pesticide concerns and later released.

THE LATEST: Colorado Department of Agriculture has investigations underway on pesticide misuse by two Denver marijuana businesses

Tuesday’s recall was ordered by the Denver Department of Environmental Health and the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division following a story by The Post that revealed lab tests detected three unapproved pesticides in a pair of Mahatma products.

The tests commissioned by The Post found levels of myclobutanil and imidacloprid in Mahatma’s Black Label Grapefruit Diesel wax that were six times the maximum amount allowed by the federal government on any food product. The pesticides also were found in Mahatma’s Black Label Alpha Blue shatter but at lower levels. Measurable amounts of avermectin were found in both.

Only Mahatma products showing an origin number of 403-00114 on their labels are subject to the recall. It was unclear how many products with that origin number were sold.

Mouser said he is preparing to handle returned products.

“Hold placards were placed on locked storage units for when recalled product comes back into Mahatma,” he told The Post in an email. “Once product reaches us on this recall, we will be sending out for testing, and once results are back and show passed, then the product will be released from city of Denver’s hold. If product does not pass, we will be quarantining and contacting the MED for further instruction.”

Tuesday’s actions are part of “a supply-chain investigation,” according to Dan Rowland, spokesman for Denver’s office of marijuana policy, adding that additional recalls are possible.

Inspectors visited Mahatma’s facilities and pored through records and products. An owner at Treatments, which also operates Altitude The Dispensary shops in Denver, said he expects agency inspectors to visit his facility on Wednesday.

Pesticides typically are applied while a plant is growing, not after it has been harvested, dried and sold.

The Post’s investigation found Mahatma had inadvertently mislabeled its products to indicate the concentrates came from plants it had grown. The pesticides were not included in the product labels’ lists of ingredients.

State law requires labels to reflect any pesticide or herbicide or contaminant that was used at any stage of a marijuana product’s processing. Though the law also requires cannabis businesses to test for pesticides, that provision has not been enforced.

Mouser previously said the business’s labels are only as accurate as the information provided to them.

“We’re going by what our clients give us, as far as an ingredients list,” he told The Post. “We go over ingredients lists … and we check that list against the approved pesticides list. If we find something that isn’t on the list, we notify the processing client.”

The pesticides found in The Post’s tests are among hundreds the Colorado Department of Agriculture has not approved for use on marijuana because product labels restrict their use to certain plants and crops or to specific locations such as open fields and residential gardens.

Because marijuana is illegal under federal law, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will not certify any pesticide for use on cannabis nor allow any testing. As a result, there are no safety limits established for their use specific to cannabis or their ingestion by consumers.

However, the products are allowed on other consumable items such as strawberries, tomatoes and grapes, though the level of pesticide residues allowed on each varies.

The Post found pesticide levels as much as six times the highest amount allowed on an edible food product, and as high as 1,800 times the level Denver officials allowed to be on released plants it had quarantined earlier this year over pesticide concerns.

Enforcement of the state’s list of allowable pesticides is sporadic at best, with most city and state officials responding to complaints rather than inspecting each facility.

Colorado had about five years of medical marijuana cultivation and sales before the state in 2013 began compiling a list of which pesticides could be used on the plants. Officials admit that reflects an imperfect system.

Colorado’s marijuana czar, Andrew Freedman, said the state is dealing with the problem as best it can.

“Many growers are new to regulated pesticide use. Beyond that, like banking, the pesticide regulatory system is heavily built on federal involvement,” said Freedman, director of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office of marijuana coordination. “I know that’s not a completely satisfying answer, and honestly I wish we had these challenges solved by day one. But we’re working toward an enforceable solution that also protects consumers from other contaminants, such as molds.”

David Migoya: 303-954-1506, dmigoya@denverpost.com or twitter.com/davidmigoya
Ricardo Baca: 303-954-1394, rbaca@denverpost.com or twitter.com/bruvs


This story was first published on DenverPost.com