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Medical cannabis grower fined $125,000, placed on probation

An Arnold-based medical cannabis grower has been fined $125,000 and placed on 24 months probation and ordered changes within the leadership of the company.

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission entered into a consent order with ForwardGro after determining the company may have used 15 different pesticides on its marijuana crop.

“After investigation, the Commission concludes that ForwardGro LLC used unauthorized crop protection agents, failed to ensure employees used adequate personal protective equipment and failed to have appropriate security measures in place as required by the Commission’s regulations,” the commission said in a statement.

“As a result of these violations, ForwardGro LLC has agreed to pay a monetary fine of $125,000, serve a 24-month probation period, make critical changes in its leadership structure and offer refunds on any flower or pre-roll products produced by ForwardGro LLC prior to May 31, 2018,” according to the commission’s statement.

The action comes after a commission received a complaint about the use of pesticides in ForwardGro’s facilities.

“It was determined, through the Commission’s review and a company assessment, that certain crop protection agents were used at a time when they were not permitted under state regulations,” ForwardGro said in a statement issued late Tuesday. “ForwardGro is committed to its Integrated Pest Management program, which incorporates beneficial insects to maintain control of harmful insects, and using only those crop protection agents approved for use in Maryland. Maryland mandates strict testing of all medical cannabis products by an independent, state-approved lab to ensure patient safety.  From the beginning, all ForwardGro product available for sale at dispensaries and to processors has passed rigorous pesticide testing. ”

As part of the order, the company announced the current CEO and head grower would be leaving the company.

Gary Mangum, a co-founder of the company, will assume the role of CEO. Mangum had not previously been involved in the company’s day-to-day operations.

“We understand that we fell short of the expectations that we placed on ourselves related to compliance and that are set forth in state regulations,” Mangum said in the statement. “We must and will do better – for our customers, patients, industry and our employees. We are deeply committed to instituting the changes necessary to grow consistent, high-quality medical cannabis in Maryland.  We have learned from this experience and are using the lessons learned to build a stronger company for the future.”

In October, the commission quietly ordered all medical cannabis dispensaries in Maryland to stop selling and quarantine ForwardGro products but did not issue warnings to consumers.

The commission, in its statement, said its investigation determined  the company failed to properly notify employees that pesticides were being used including five of which that had previously been approved for use on the plants. Additionally, it was determined that some cannabis plants were held in unsecured areas of the building that lacked video surveillance systems as required.

As a result of the consent order, the commission has lifted its ban on the sale of ForwardGro Products. The company said the commission in its investigation determined none “were found to pose any known threat to patient safety.

The commission, in its statement, urged patients with concerns to speak to their physicians.

“The possible health impact of consuming cannabis products containing unapproved pesticide residues is unknown,” the commission said in its statement. “Short- and long-term health impacts resulting from inhalation exposure to such contaminants may exist depending on the duration, frequency, level of exposure, route of exposure, and health condition of the consumer. Consumers should contact their physician or registered provider with related questions and concerns.”

As a result, ForwardGro is offering refunds to dispensaries and processors have ForwardGro flower and pre-roll products produced before July 1, 2018 in their inventories. The company is also offering patients a refund for unopened products that are still in their original packages and were produced before July 1, 2018.

Information on the refunds can be found at  www.forwardgro.com/refund.


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