Huge pot recall ordered after lab is caught falsifying reports

Nearly 850 batches — tens of thousands of pounds of flower, edibles and marijuana products — will have to be returned and either destroyed or retested. 

Investigators from the bureau of cannabis control conducted a surprise inspection of Sacramento based Sequoia Analytical Labs on November 27 and found the lab’s director Marc Foster had been falsifying reports since July. 

Not a single batch of marijuana was tested for 22 known pesticides.

Foster was subsequently fired and Steven Dutra, the general manager of Sequoia, was shocked to learn of the irregularities.

“They told us they saw an irregularity in the reports being submitted,” said Dutra. “We were told by our lab director that all these new pesticides had been set up and that all was going well with that. Of course, we found out that was not the case.

“As ownership and management, we were blindsided by this.”

As a precaution, the Bureau of Cannabis Control sent recall notices to 29 business that had product tested at Sequoia. It’s a long list of impacted licensees and products. Under California law all marijuana products consumed and sold to the public must be tested and analyzed for 66 known pesticides.

John Oram is the President and CEO of Oakland based Nug. His company manufactures and distributes cannabis products at the wholesale and resale level he was shocked by the news, adding a recall in this situation won’t be easy. 

“This is really a worst case scenario: Products made it to consumers and probably were consumed,” he said. “So I don’t know how the recalls going to happen in this case.”

Oram said his company has been able to protect themselves from news like this. “We’ve gotten ahead of the curve by planning for having a standing inventory of quality tested certified products, pre-tested and certified child resistant, fully compliant products,” said Oram.

Nug products are tested by CW Analytical and they haven’t had any issues, but Sales Director Ted Whitney says the cannabis industry is relatively new and is having growing pains as companies work to keep up to date with changing regulations.

Whitney said, “It's a bumpy road. I think everyone’s kind of feeling it out as they go. The State’s trying to do the best for consumers and producers are trying to do the best for consumer too – were hoping that those things align.”

Oram said it’s important for companies to research their business partners. “Like any business, you want to know who your partners are and only enter into agreement and contracts with like-minded business. So we’ve done that, we’ve vetted all are partners across all our production partners, all of our distribution partners and our lab partners. Were all like-minded and we have systems in place to mitigate potential consequences.”

Oram says there are a lot of good testing labs in the cannabis industry and not all are bad apples, adding this is reckoning for the industry and they should be paying close attention to this because this is real and regulations have consequences. 

“We should all attempt to comply to protect consumer safety. When the supply chain has a recall, the entire industry is affected,” he said.

Sequoia Labs ship to between 30 and 40 different distributors. They’re cooperating with the state investigation, hoping to have its operating license back in January as they search for a new lab director.