A Sacramento, California cannabis testing laboratory is facing permanent shutdown after admitting to faking pesticide results. The company, Sequoia Analytical Labs, is one of four Sacramento testing facilities, and one of just 44 across all of California. Sequoia’s general manager is taking full responsibility for the fake lab results. The lab director responsible for the falsified data has lost his job and Sequoia has surrendered its temporary testing license. But the city of Sacramento is looking into imposing additional sanctions.
Lab Director Tells State Inspectors He Faked Over 700 Test Results
Steven Dutra described learning about the false data coming out of his lab as a “gut punch completely.” It took state inspectors one surprise visit to catch the fraud. Dutra says Sequoia’s now-former lab director, Marc Foster, straight up confessed to inspectors who caught him off guard. Inspectors simply asked Foster where the data came from. And Foster replied, honestly, “I faked it.”
Foster told inspectors he faked data on 22 of the 66 pesticides California’s cannabis regulations limit. But we don’t know which pesticides at this time. We do know, however, that Foster faked results for 700 tests over a four month period. Each test analyzed a sample of a 50 pound batch of cannabis. So that means Sequoia’s lab director cleared more than 35,000 pounds of weed using false pesticide results.
Recall Unlikely as Contaminated Products Have Likely Already Been Consumed
Sequoia Analytical ships out cannabis products to more than 30 different distributors who supply dozens of retailers. The problem is that retailers and dispensary owners have no idea what company tests their products. Before state-wide adult-use legalization, retailers often had direct relationships with testing labs. Under new regulations, however, it’s up to distributors, not retailers, to make sure all products have passed lab tests. So retailers have to wait and see what the Bureau of Cannabis Control will tell them.
So far, the Bureau of Cannabis Control has not issued any public statement regarding a possible recall of the improperly tested cannabis. Sacramento’s chief of Cannabis Enforcement, however, did say the city is looking at suspending and possibly revoking Sequoia’s permit. To avoid that possibility, Dutra is doing everything possible to help regulators address the issue. Dutra wants to pay to re-test the samples at another lab, just to make sure there’s nothing wrong with them. But tracking down contaminated products would be tough. And there’s no guarantee, since the false data covers five months, that consumers haven’t already purchased and used most of the cannabis with false test results.
As for the risk this all poses to consumers, Dutra says chances of consuming contaminated products are minimal. Even though 20 percent of California cannabis products failed lab tests after strict new regulations went into effect on July 1, the majority failed due to inaccurate packaging. Comparatively, roughly 3-4 percent of products tested since July have failed due to pesticide contamination.
California Desperate for More Licensed Testing Labs
Sequoia Analytics is out of operation for now. But Dutra hopes to regain the company’s testing license in January. Sequoia is currently looking for a new lab director. Unfortunately, while false data poses health risks to consumers, the loss of a testing lab will also be felt. California needs more licensed testing labs, especially given new requirements. Currently, the scarcity of licensed labs has led to numerous supply chain bottlenecks, preventing in-demand products from reaching dispensary shelves.