A trio of greenhouse worker’s at one of Maryland’s most prominent cannabis companies have come forward to blow the whistle on their employer’s illegal use of pesticides. According to the employees’ sworn affidavits, ForwardGro persistently used pesticides in the company’s greenhouse.
Greenhouse Employees Blow The Whistle On Pesticide Use
Three of ForwardGro’s ex-employees will likely go down as unsung heroes. But their coming forward over pesticide use will benefit every medical marijuana patient in Maryland.
Brothers Evan and Brendan Norris, and Brad MacDonald, all worked at ForwardGro’s greenhouse facility in Lothian.
Beginning in June 2017, MacDonald says supervisors instructed him to spray and douse the plants with different pesticides and other chemicals.
But going further, supervisors also told MacDonald and other employees not to tell Maryland compliance officers about anything they were doing.
Employees typically report on the cultivation process to compliance officers and other regulators. But according to the three affidavits, ForwardGro told employees to lie to regulators and keep mum about any and all cultivation activities.
And that’s when MacDonald, along with Evan Norris, came forward and expressed their concerns to the Maryland compliance chief.
ForwardGro Denies They Used Pesticides Illegally
ForwardGro is taking its former employees’ whistleblowing and the ensuing investigation an attack on their business.
Furthermore, the company insists that every batch is tested at an independent testing lab and that every product has passed.
ForwardGro says it’s fully cooperating with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission’s investigation. But the company is refusing to comment further until the investigation is finished.
Maryland Dispensaries Sever Ties With Grower Alleged To Have Used Pesticides
A co-owner of the Ash+Ember dispensary, Ashley Colen, has pulled products from ForwardGro off her shelves. She says some of her customers experienced burning eyes and throats after consuming cannabis grown at ForwardGro’s greenhouse.
Colen isn’t just a dispensary owner. She’s also president of the Maryland Ethical Cannabis Association. She says her concern is always patient safety, and never profit.
And Colen is ensuring that the Bureau of Enforcement and Compliance works the Medical Marijuana Commission to fully investigate ForwardGro’s cultivation practices.
There seems to be, however, some uncertainty about the specific types of pesticides growers sprayed on plants.
There is a possibility those pesticides were acceptable under the state’s interim rules. Those rules will stay in effect until September.
Concerns over products containing pesticides has led some states to push for public lab testing facilities.
Patient advocates and medical marijuana professionals warn that privately-owned testing labs are at risk of “lab shopping.”
“Lab shopping” refers to the way wealthy and connected cannabis companies can offer financial incentives for labs that will push non-compliant products to market.
In the Maryland case, observers are pointing out that one of ForwardGro’s owners, Gary Magnum, has close political ties with the governor’s office.
The Norris’ and MacDonald’s affidavits say that cannabis greenhouse employees told Magnum about the possible illegal pesticide use on multiple occasions.