Colorado's marijuana recalls, and an anti-pot goof in Kansas 


click to enlarge Radio-frequency identification tags are used to track marijuana plants. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Radio-frequency identification tags are used to track marijuana plants.

Colorado's recall problem

There's a marijuana recall saga playing out in Denver that suggests our regulatory system isn't quite up to snuff yet (at least when it comes to quality control.)

It first blew up last March when the city of Denver quarantined more than 100,000 plants from six separately owned and operated grows after the fire department discovered off-label pesticide use on the plants during routine safety inspections.

The city stepped up its inspections of cultivation facilities, and the Denver Post's Cannabist blog even commissioned its own tests for pesticides on retail marijuana extracts.

In November, Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order declaring "all marijuana contaminated by off-label pesticide use [is] a risk to public health" and directed that it be destroyed.

All told, products from 13 different manufacturers were recalled in the fall (some voluntarily, some at the direction of city and/or state officials), mostly extracts and infused products made with contaminated extracts. You can find the full list inside this story at indyweed.com.

Then, on Feb. 2, despite Gov. Hickenlooper's executive order, Denver released more than 28,000 edibles back onto shelves. The products, made by EdiPure and Gaia's Garden, contain only trace levels of banned pesticides — lower than the amounts allowed on food.

The city's Department of Environmental Health is confident that the products are safe.

"They wouldn't [release the products] otherwise," Dan Rowland, spokesman for Denver's Office of Marijuana Policy, told The Cannabist. "While there may be residues still present, they're below that standard we've developed." Plus, the city attorney's office felt fine about it. "The XO [executive order] doesn't tell us, the city, anything," Rowland added.

Now, state lawmakers are looking at ways to tighten up the system — by asking the Colorado Department of Agriculture to keep a list of pesticides approved for use on cannabis and devising a statewide pesticide-free certification program.

Need better papers

Kansas is taking a hard look at its own marijuana laws, which are some of the most punitive out there.

In January, the Kansas Supreme Court struck down a decriminalization ordinance Wichita voters passed last April. With its passage, adults over 21 found in possession of small amounts of marijuana or paraphernalia would be fined no more than $50 — a far cry from the state's punishment for the same crimes of up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500.

Before Wichita voters even passed the thing, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt had warned the local law would be incompatible with state law. True to his word, he filed suit as soon as the measure passed. But in the end, the high court's argument wasn't substantive so much as procedural: It found the petition filed with the city clerk, though it had enough signatures to make the ballot, didn't include a verbatim draft of the ordinance. So voters may not have been fully aware of what they were voting for, meaning the law was improperly enacted, and shouldn't stand.

Schmidt, who is keping tabs on marijuana coming from Colorado (CannaBiz, Jan. 13), released a statement saying, "Today's decision confirms what we have said all along — the Wichita marijuana ordinance is illegal and void."

He did, however, acknowledge that a paperwork goof doesn't really mean the underlying legal question has been answered. "The legislature should make crystal clear its intent to have these law enforcement standards, policies and procedures uniform throughout the state," he continued.

"Whatever one's views on the merits of current state policy related to marijuana, I think most Kansans agree it makes little sense for the basic rules for enforcing the criminal law to differ from city to city."


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