Falsified California testing lab data may result in major marijuana product recall

Sacramento-based Sequoia Analytical Labs surrendered its business license after a state inspection discovered that the company’s lab director allegedly falsified cannabis product testing results for almost four months. Hundreds of marijuana products may now have to be recalled and retested.

The loss of a lab could pose a significant problem for the California cannabis industry heading into January, when more testing requirements will go into effect for toxins such as heavy metals.

Testing bottlenecks are already expected by many industry insiders, and one fewer lab could exacerbate that problem.

According to a Sequoia message posted on social media and emailed to clients, the problem came to light during an inspection by the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) on Nov. 27.

During the inspection, officials found that 22 of 66 required pesticides were not being tested for correctly because of a “faulty instrument.”

According to Sequoia’s message, “It was further discovered that the Lab Director knew about this and was secretly falsifying the results in order to issue (certificates of analysis) from July 1 to Nov. 27.”

The company was “horrified to learn about this severe breach of a very important safety regulation,” the message continued. “We have voluntarily surrendered our license … while we make the required corrections.”

The lab director has been fired and a replacement has already been hired, according to the message, and the company hopes its license will be reinstated by Jan. 1.

The BCC “should be contacting distributors so that affected products may be retested,” Sequoia also wrote.

The company is offering to retest products free of charge for any clients affected by the fraudulent results.

Steven Dutra, Sequoia’s general manager, told Marijuana Business Daily on Monday that the Bureau of Cannabis Control “is not demanding that product be pulled in and destroyed.

“The BCC wants product recalled and retested. Hopefully, they can just have a pesticide retest. We’re trying to determine that, because that’s a lot less expensive than a full panel retest,” Dutra said.

According to Dutra, 700-800 certificates of analysis appear to have been falsified by the former lab director, and those products will now have to be recalled, if possible.

“We’re probably looking, since July 1, at something in the neighborhood of 700-800 … batches of (MJ products) that didn’t have full and correct pesticide testing,” Dutra said.

He added that the lab has already notified the roughly 30-40 distributors it worked with at the time about the recalls.

However, since the results in question date back to the summer, many of those products have already been sold, Dutra said, meaning that only a fraction are even available to be recalled.

“Of those 700-800 batches, I’d be surprised if there were even 200 that had products on the shelf (still today),” Dutra said.

Still, this would by far be the biggest product recall to date in California’s regulated cannabis market.

There are currently 43 licensed cannabis testing labs in California, according to the BCC website.

A BCC spokesman declined to comment for this story.

John Schroyer can be reached at [email protected]

8 comments on “Falsified California testing lab data may result in major marijuana product recall
  1. DJF on

    Disgusting breach of both protocol and public trust on this one. How could they do this? Now all testing lab data might be suspect because of one bad apple (at least one that we know). I guess the argument could go in a different direction as well as to the need for such testing and how that might be limiting growers abilities to compete and pay for this testing, but that is a discussion for another day. It does not allow for rules to be broken and for someone to take the law into their own hands. Sad day.

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  2. Pat on

    “The BCC wants product recalled and retested. Hopefully, they can just have a pesticide retest. We’re trying to determine that, because that’s a lot less expensive than a full panel retest,” Dutra said.”

    Hmmm.. “Hopefully, they can just have a pesticide retest.” How convenient that would be! The state should take this as an opportunity ( if they truly care about public health/welfare ) to run the entire battery or full panel to determine 1 ) If anything else “slipped thru the cracks..” and 2 ) To determine if packaging/shelf-life has had a deleterious effect on whatever the product is. Wouldn’t the state CDPH want to know about that?? Much less the Ca. citizenry that’s buying the stuff?!?

    From the article, this also means that this lab ( and likely other’s ) have not been monitored/inspected by the state for an excess of 4 months. That’s a lot of “free time” to be doing your own thing. Esp. for what can be arguably considered the most important and relevant part of this industry’s regulation: Ensuring the safety of a product prior to its ingestion by a patient/customer. One whom is trusting his/her govt. to be doing right by them.

    Why hasn’t there been a software devised; or some kind of mechanism that would eliminate the human “discretionary” factor all together? Eg: All lab results of every type of panel goes to a Sacramento centralized system that deciphers all that data ensuring that it meets the standard. Takes a lot of the potential corruption and/or incompetence out of the equation for something so important. How hard is that?

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    • Rowshan Reordan on

      In the environmental testing industry laboratory owners have been faced with criminal charges and jail/prison time for falsifying lab results. Consumers and industry rely on laboratories to perform accurate science. This is a disgrace to the laboratory testing industry. California needs to make sure that cannabis labs are held to standards that protect consumer safety and ensure there is proper oversight of laboratories.

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  3. Jason Lewis on

    Like this is the only issue with Sequoia.. The power these labs assume under the state law is ridiculous. Bad equipment?! These guys all charge $500+ minimum for a test, 1lb-50lbs. The fact they didn’t upkeep their equipment, which of course is ridiculously expensive but is an essential cost of a lab, while crushing cultivators with their fees and by failing batches for what has long been suspected in the industry as false-positives and general lack of sanitation on THEIR part..says everything.

    Recall clean batches?! Let’s recall the thousands of pounds that have failed at Sequoia and retest those!

    Where’s the governing body for these labs? Where’s the standardization of testing methods for these tests? Where’s the enforcement of the laws in place to protect cannabis businesses from shady operators like Sequoia?

    This new market will slowly sift out clowns like these. If you’re a shady mofo and you think you can continue with your shady shit in this new regulated market..there’s a law on it’s way to show you who’s in charge now.

    I didn’t vote for this clusterf’. But I’m committed to seeing this through and improving on what is an unsustainable framework of regulations, big money and unreachable expectations. This plant belongs to the people and we need to protect it more than ever.

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    • Pat on

      Jason, it seems to me that is happening badly ( the implementation of this astounding b.s. ) is part and parcel of how things came together in the formulation of what became this state “law.” It’s corrupt as hell throughout. Many of the “old guard” criminal syndicates and their associates were allowed ( with their subsequent issuance of licenses ) to be the “show-casers” when this law was rolled out. The state really doesn’t give a crap, as they’re getting paid either way. The vast majority of these state employees are there just to get a good paycheck w/great benefits, that’s it. How many of those people do you see blowing the whistle on any of this?? Any? It’s in their purview to do so.

      The state understands very well what their role in this is. But they don’t take responsibility for their jobs in the manner that they are required to. The lab catastrophe is just the latest example of this seemingly self-imposed incompetence. The question needs to be: Who is directing that thought process within those respective Director’s offices? Someone’s doing it.

      It doesn’t matter that “there’s a law on its way to show you who’s in charge now..,” if the people in govt. charged with the responsibility of prudent/reasonable regulation as a result of any enacted law don’t do their jobs either because they’re held back from doing so or from poor leadership; it all leads to the same place: The licensees and moreover, the ca. taxpayer are getting royally screwed.

      Reply
  4. Terry L. Boedeker on

    Correct me if I am wrong but, I think that Canada just had a case of selling moldy product this summer. To me this just says that they have a very long way to go before State testing is implemented correctly. I also think that it opens up the idea of growing your own regardless of testing it is a better way to go. At least you get to determine if YOU want to use the product or not.

    Reply
    • Pat on

      Hi Terry. Amazingly enough, most people ( just as a crude example ) don’t grow their own tomatoes. Not even when the space/conditions are perfect for doing so. They’d rather go out and buy them. Yes, folks should be able to grow their own medicine, and some do in states where they permit doing so. But, I think the vast majority go out and buy it. And, there are more reasons why people don’t grow their own weed as compared to tomatoes. Why? 1 ) You don’t carry the same risks as it relates robbery/theft/injury ( Hey, look at them nace tomates! Let’s goo get sum! Doesn’t happen. ) 2 ) You can have an odor problem w/your neighbors; even if grown indoors, which can lead to neighbor law disputes. 3 ) How many are experienced enough to grow weed and understand what mold is and how to recognize it among other contaminants, esp if one is going to smoke it.

      However, a lot of the risk would go away if the Feds would just legalize it. Why? The price drops. The crime drops big time ( disappointing to many police chiefs and the like.. as the plant becomes even more legitimized ). More knowledge becomes readily available to more people as it relates safely growing and using the plant for themselves. Testing would still need to be available to anyone that wants to do so because of how weed is used. Have you ever seen someone smoking a tomato? I mean, why spend all that time/effort/money growing it, and not using it if you “think” somethings’ wrong with it. What if it looks fine to you, but you just can’t tell well enough that it’s bad, and then you smoke/ingest it? I mean, that’s where things are at now. But, then again, The feds/state health depts. don’t test tobacco products even with all of those extra carcinogenic/addictive additives knowingly put in there. For decades now. Our nations’ priorities are increasingly fu*k*d, even as we move forward in time.

      Reply

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