Alex Levine, co-CEO of Green Dragon, was taken aback to see his company named in an advisory from the state last week listing strains of potentially contaminated marijuana and the dispensaries that sold them.
“We were just absolutely shocked,” he said Monday, explaining that while Green Dragon had received 28 grams of the strain in question, it was only for judges of the Nov. 21 Colorado High Times Cannabis Cup competition.
“We were the official intake partner for the High Times Cannabis Cup competition. It never was sold to consumers. If we’re buying weed to sell, we’re buying 10, 50, 100 pounds of the product,” Levine continued. “It was one ounce. It’s like a joke.”
And as soon as his team was alerted that there was an issue with the product, it in turn let High Times officials know, and Snowball — the strain to be entered in the competition — was eliminated.
“In our case, we never sold it to the public. We told High Times the second we heard about this, and they told the judges, and they immediately disqualified them from the competition,” Levine said. “I don’t have words; it’s just a really crazy story.”
The advisory, sent out jointly by the Colorado Department of Revenue and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Friday, warned that due to a software glitch in the seed-to-sale tracking system that contracts with the state, a few strains of medical and retail marijuana that tested positive for unsafe microbial levels made it to dispensaries’ shelves.
According to laws regulating medical and retail marijuana, most products are tested for acceptable or unacceptable levels of microbials and mycotoxins — toxic compounds naturally found in fungi that can present in cannabis. E. coli, salmonella, yeast and mold are among the most commonly tested microbials.
“Due to a technical error that was the result of a software update, several harvest batches or packages of finished marijuana displayed an incorrect testing status in the inventory tracking system,” the statement reads.
Essentially, batches that tested as potentially contaminated were instead labeled as safe for public consumption.
“The affected marijuana that was transferred to a store and sold prior to the correction of the error is included in this advisory,” the statement notes. Green Dragon, which operates in Aspen and Glenwood Springs, and Doctor’s Garden, which has locations in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, appeared on the list following the state’s official statement.
But that’s not completely accurate or fair in Green Dragon’s case, Levine emphasized, because Snowball was never sold to the public.
“It’s hard enough as it is,” Levine said of the marijuana industry and its myriad regulatory burdens. “Then this kind of press, which is not really accurate. Yes, was this product on site in one of our stores? Sure. Was it for a competition only? Did we follow everything correctly and do everything properly? Yes, we did. It was legal; it was in the system.”
On that note, Levine sympathizes with the growers and dispensaries that did in fact sell contaminated product — after all, he noted, it was the compliance system that mislabeled harvests as having passed required safety tests not the licensed businesses that received them.
“Doctor’s Garden, they followed everything just like we did. It’s hard to fault them for that, especially if it’s the state’s mess up. The product showed up as good. That’s really all we can do. We can’t go much further than that,” he said. “Then [the test results] switched, which does not happen. It was just kind of bizarre.”
Doctor’s Garden was not yet ready to release a statement on the matter, other than to acknowledge the company also promptly course corrected as soon as it was alerted of the issue.
That said, there was a period of time between Oct. 21 and Nov. 14 in which Doctor’s Garden did sell Snowball, harvest number SB-F2-101619. Anyone who purchased that strain should dispose of it immediately and seek medical attention for adverse health effects, Colorado Department of Revenue marijuana communications specialist Shannon Gray said Friday.
As for Green Dragon, the High Times Cannabis Cup did provide some reason for celebration.
“We got second place for the sun-grown category,” Levine said. “That was cool for a tangerine haze.”