A marijuana testing lab in Sacramento has admitted to falsifying hundreds of pesticide testing records that were submitted to the state.
The company in question is Sequoia Analytical Labs and the firm is taking full responsibility for what happened.
“This was a gut punch completely,” said Steven Dutra, general manager for Sequoia Analytical Labs.
A cannabis testing lab in Sacramento has lost its license to operate after management admitted the facility had falsified test results during an inspection by state regulators. Sequoia Analytical Labs has admitted that its lab director had been falsifying results for 22 of 66 required pesticide tests and has said that it will take full responsibility for the fiasco, according to media reports.
Steven Dutra, the general manager of Sequoia Analytical, said that regulators determined that lab equipment was faulty during a surprise inspection from the California Bureau of Cannabis Control last week. Dutra said that the lab director, who he identified as Marc Foster, knew that laboratory equipment was not operating properly.
“When they asked the lab director where his data came from, he honestly told them, ‘I faked it,’” Dutra said.
Dutra said he was stunned to learn that lab results from his pesticide testing machines were falsified. Dutra said the former lab director – whom he identified as Marc Foster – admitted the fraud after a surprise visit last week by state inspectors.
The fake data from the former lab director involved 22 out of the 66 pesticides for which cannabis is typically tested. More than 700 lab results over a four-month span are now in question, Dutra said.
Sequoia immediately fired Foster and then surrendered its temporary testing license to the state Bureau of Cannabis Control. However, additional sanctions could be coming from the city of Sacramento.
“We’re going to be taking a look at suspending or possibly revoking their permit,” said Joe Devlin, Sacramento’s chief of Cannabis Enforcement.
The temporary loss of a testing lab comes at a time when consumer demand for cannabis products continues to grow. On the retail level, dispensaries such as All About Wellness are waiting for further instructions from the Bureau of Cannabis Control.
“Basically, everything is being taken care of by the state,” said Tommy Pawloski, manager at All About Wellness. “If there is a problem, the state will let us know.”
The Bureau of Cannabis Control has said nothing publicly about any possible recall of the marijuana samples in question. Sequoia Analytical Labs has offered to pay for additional testing.
“We would like to see those samples be released to another lab and tested very quickly for pesticides,” Dutra said. “Again, if there’s any product that’s harmful, we want to know right away.”
Dutra said typically, just 3 percent of all cannabis samples tested actually fail because of pesticide exposure. He said he believes that any samples still in circulation pose a very minimal risk to the public.
“Much of the product is just gone and probably already consumed,” Dutra said.
Sequoia has hired a new lab director and hopes to obtain a new license from the state to resume operations in January.
Officials from the Bureau of Cannabis Control declined to be interviewed. Consumers, retailers and distributors are waiting to see what the regulatory agency will do next.
There are just 44 cannabis pesticide testing labs in California, four of which are in Sacramento. In January, the state will require them to start testing for toxins such as heavy metals.
Sequoia Analytical may also face action from local regulators, according to Joe Devlin, the head of cannabis policy and enforcement for Sacramento.
Sequoia Analytical was one of only four cannabis testing labs in Sacramento and 44 statewide. Devlin said the loss of the lab could have an impact on retail inventories of legal cannabis.
“The shortage of labs has really created a bottleneck in the supply chain across the state,” he said.
In a letter to clients that was shared on Facebook by a third party, Sequoia Analytical reported that changes were already underway to address the situation.
“Management and ownership were horrified to learn about this severe breach of a very important safety regulation. We have voluntarily surrendered our license to do [certificate of analysis] testing to the BCC while we make the required corrections. We are already hard at work making the needed changes to the instrument and revamping procedures so that we may get our license reinstated January 1,” the post read.