In the aftermath of what one pithy PR executive dubbed “Pestgate”—the recent revelations that illegal pesticides were found on plants at BMF Washington and New Leaf Enterprises, two of Washington’s largest growers—the state’s cannabis industry has been scrambling to deal with the fallout.
There is currently no unified protocol for how to handle communicating information about pesticide violations to the public, or how to conduct a recall if necessary. “This is an emerging issue,” said Brian Smith, director of communications for the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, on February 16. “We’re actively working on pesticide protocols today.”
Many in the industry said they were blindsided by the revelations, first reported in The Stranger, about prohibited pesticides being used in the local market. Dustin Barrington, an assistant manager at Hashtag, a recreational weed store on Stone Way, said he read the Stranger piece and then, the next day, “walked into a crisis.”
Many retailers decided to carry out what was essentially a DIY recall.
As Hilary Bricken, editor of Canna Law Blog, noted, though the state “issued a stop sales order against both companies, that order was not announced to the public and it came to light only through a public records request.” She noted that while it’s good the state discovered these pesticide practices, “What about the marijuana and/or marijuana products that made their way to consumers? What should those consumers do? What redress do they have? What about other companies that purchased this cannabis? What redress do they have?”
Ian Eisenberg, owner of Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop, said he wasn’t waiting for a go ahead from the WSLCB. Uncle Ike’s was one of the first stores to pull products. “[WSLCB regulators are] the experts and they know legally what has to be done, but we’re gonna err on the side of protecting our customers,” he said. He claimed he didn’t know what amount is really poisonous, “but I wouldn’t want any in my cookies.”
Tim Moxey, co-owner of botanicaSEATTLE, a processing company that had used some of New Leaf’s extracts, concurred. “It’s important that collectively we do this right and that we build trust in an industry that previously didn’t have standards or transparency,” he said.