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CCC Imposes Fines On Three Mass Cannabis Businesses

Some industry stakeholders have criticized the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission for its excessive compliance and strict enforcement.

In other cases, notably related to testing for product potency and mold, some parties have asked for increased direction and oversight.

In its part, the CCC occasionally responds to calls from all sides, but mostly works on its own schedule. And today, the agency published Final Order and Stipulated Agreement documents pertaining to three licensees, with each one carrying a hefty fine, and some of the initiating complaints dating as far back as 2021.

As the commission laid out in an agreement with Holistic Industries: “Between September and November of 2021, the Commission received complaints regarding potential mold contamination at Holistic’s Monson facility, including complaints from employees that potentially contaminated product was ‘pushed through anyway.’ The Commission further received a letter from the Monson Board of Health requesting an inspection of the facility due to mold complaints.”

“In the course of investigation, Holistic cooperated with investigators and produced records.” Facts the “Commission alleges,” but “which Holistic neither admits nor denies,” include: “That a mold issue of some kind was known to exist at the facility since at least November 2020, which was verified to be remediated entirely on May 3, 2022; That mold was present on certain tables used to process marijuana: That mold was present in certain growing rooms of the facility; That mold was present in other locations throughout the Monson facility, including office spaces, drains, HVAC systems, and structural elements.”

Furthermore, the CCC alleges, “A former Holistic employee determined after reviewing Holistic’s testing experience that polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing would likely result in Marijuana passing testing, whereas Plate Assay testing would likely result in Marijuana failing testing; That Holistic knowingly requested PCR testing in multiple instances to help ensure product would get to market; That the request of PCR testing was used to ensure the maximum volume of product would reach the market given the circumstances present at the Holistic Facility; That Holistic knew that at least some of the product from its facility that was sold to the public smelled and tasted like mold, despite having passed PCR testing; That numerous consumer and patient complaints were levied to Holistic in this period complaining that the product smelled and tasted like mold; That Holistic provided samples of Marijuana that had passed testing to employees for their consumption and to test for, at least in part, moldy flavor; That Holistic remediated some batches of Marijuana after some employees tested the same for moldy flavor; That Holistic began remediation efforts in or around April of 2021; That Holistic completed remediation at a significant cost to Holistic; and That Holistic did not cease production while it remediated the facility.”

Stipulated remedies in the case include a mandate for the respondent to “Engage a third-party Independent Testing Laboratory (ITL) acceptable to both the Commission and the Respondent, to perform all required microbial testing for Marijuana flower” for six months from the date of the order, along with a $200,000 fine.

Another order and agreement, this one with the Barre-based High Hawk Farm, notes inspections back in 2021 that revealed “seedlings were located in the same building as other vegetating Marijuana plants,” “trash bins … containing various cultivation material including sticky traps which had insects attached,” and “failure to use best cultivation practices to limit pesticide contamination following the detection of Bifenthrin at a concentration of 296.1 ppb in the unharvested plant,” among other things.

The company accepted “responsibility for the Bifenthrin detected and found on Marijuana at its facility,” and agreed to pay a monetary fine of $10,000.

A third agreement, with the Boston-based Olde World Remedies (which operates a dispensary with that name in Lynn), details a scenario back in September 2021 where an inventory manager noticed a missing preroll. Management discovered that a sales associate had slipped it to his father during a transaction for other merchandise, but neglected to report it to the CCC per the company’s own Standard Operating Procedure to “notify the [Commission] and the appropriate law enforcement authorities within 24 hours.”

Working on a tip, agency investigators visited the dispensary and asked “if there had been any inventory issues, instances of diversion, or theft [that management] wanted to disclose.” There wasn’t, so investigators pressed harder. Eventually, those involved conceded that they “had been present and had informed him of the issue,” but said “they did not know the incident would be classified as diversion.”

The stipulated findings note that the “Respondent failed to track the distribution of Marijuana and Marijuana Products in [the seed-to-sale tracking system] Metrc,” “failed to notify Law Enforcement Authorities and the Commission of the discovery of an inventory discrepancy within 24 hours and did not submit an incident report to the Commission within ten calendar days,” “failed to follow its Diversion, Inventory, and Notifications SOPs,” and “misled Commission investigators during an investigation and made a false record entry in Metrc.”

As part of the stipulated remedy, Olde World Remedies agreed “to pay a monetary fine in the amount of $60,000.” All over a sanction stemming from a single wayward preroll.