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Calif. Pot Co. Accused Of 'Lab Shopping' To Skirt Safety Rules

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 A California marijuana cultivator has been accused of selling cannabis products with unacceptable levels of contaminants, getting around state requirements by seeking out laboratories that turned a "blind eye" to its crops' impurities, according to a proposed class action.

The complaint names nearly two dozen West Coast Cure and Phire-branded products that were allegedly tainted with pesticides and fungicides, often several times above the state's allowable legal limit, the proposed class action filed in Orange County Superior Court claims.

Shield Management Group LLC, the company that owns the brands, allegedly sought out cannabis testing facilities that would intentionally manipulate the results so the crop would not be thrown out, a scheme that's become widespread in the industry, the June 15 lawsuit claims.

"Sadly, now that the practice of lab shopping, and by extension burying safety fails, has become widespread, there is no end in sight, and no place for honest brokers in the marketplace, absent external intervention," the complaint said. "Neither consumers nor even dispensaries could be expected to know which products on the shelf disguise contamination, and which do not (consumers and dispensaries are not laboratories, after all). But the consequence of this fact poses an existential threat for the health of consumers in California."

The suit seeks to represent a class of California consumers who bought the West Coast Cure and Phire products, seeking damages under a number of state business laws and other claims such as breach of express warranty, negligent misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation and unjust enrichment.

According to the complaint, at least 21 West Coast Cure and two Phire products are tainted with chemicals or fungus that the state identifies as contaminates, according to independent testing.

All but one of the 23 products listed in the complaint contained Chlorfenapyr, which the state's Department of Cannabis Control classifies as a Category I pesticide, meaning it is not safe for human consumption, the suit said. If it is detected at any level during laboratory testing, the cannabis batch is considered to have failed the pesticide test.

Many of the products contained Category II contaminates, which are acceptable to have at certain levels. One such product, a THC-infused vape pen called Apple Burst, contained 231 times the allowable legal limit of fungicide Trifloxystrobin, the suit said.

Shield Management sought to conceal "failing grades" it knew its cannabis would receive by seeking out laboratories that would certify their crop was unadulterated, according to the suit.



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