AMCO investigates Houston cultivator for pesticide use

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office are continuing to investigate allegations against a Houston cannabis cultivation center for use of Eagle 20, a fungicidal pesticide. As investigators look further into the claims, cultivators and other members of the Alaska Cannabis Industry are watching.

Channel 2 reached out to AMCO on Tuesday, November 5, but was unable to get an update on the investigation while it’s ongoing.

We also reached out to the owner of the cultivation center in question, Calm N Collective. Ronald Bass could not be contacted on Tuesday, but he did make a statement to Channel 2 over the weekend.

Bass claims it was a disgruntled employee who made the allegations.

“This employee knew he was in the process of being fired and took steps to damage the company on his way out,” Bass’s statement reads, “We take patient health very seriously and fully support the temporary recall while we get to the bottom of the issue.”

Channel 2 reporters didn't get a comment from AMCO on the effects Eagle 20 has on the human body. The recall notice issued says that it’s a stable chemical at room temperature. However, when it’s set on fire it turns into hydrogen cyanide, which the Center for Disease Control says is deadly.

Since the recall notice went out on November 1, all products coming from the cultivator have been put on administrative hold by AMCO. All product has been taken off dispensary shelves and placed in quarantine.

Additionally, every retailer in the state got a copy of that notice.

Richard Huffman is the cultivation superintendent at Cannabaska in Anchorage. Huffman does not know whether or not Calm N Collective growers used Eagle 20.

But he said it is very well known among the AK cannabis community that Eagle 20 is not to be used when growing cannabis.

“They should know better,” he said, “I think we should have high enough standards in the industry that that’s not allowed or people know we can’t do that. It’s just not safe.”

Huffman said to the best of his knowledge, Eagle 20 isn’t banned outright because it’s still used on ornamental plants that are not meant for human consumption. Depending on when it’s applied and how much can determine how harmful it can be.

“Certain pesticides are systemic, meaning they get absorbed and stay inside the plant for a number of days,” Huffman said. “We have to wait on the metabolism rate of the plant to process it out. Usually it’s anywhere from 21 to 30 plus days depending on the application rates.”

Still, Huffman said no cannabis cultivator should ever use Eagle 20 because it’s not safe.

According to Huffman, there is a culture in the Alaska cannabis industry where retailers will stop doing business with cultivators who use the pesticide. He said once people in the industry know that someone has grown and tried to sell product with Eagle 20 on it, they are pretty much ‘doomed.’

“It pushes us to strive harder to make sure that we can say we’re the gold standard in quality or cleanliness,” he said, “Take your time, take care of the plants, and take care of the people because that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

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