State places ‘administrative hold’ on Anne Arundel cannabis grower’s products

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Maryland regulators have asked the state’s 70-plus cannabis dispensaries and all 14 of its processors to hold off on moving or selling products from Anne Arundel County-based grower ForwardGro until they’ve wrapped up an investigation.

The cultivator announced the state’s “administrative hold” on its cannabis this morning, and also sent out a statement to client dispensaries and processors.

“Our mission is to help patients, and patient safety continues to be our top priority,” the statement began. “The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC) has put an administrative hold on our products pending MMCC investigation. The MMCC has notified licensed dispensaries and processors not to transfer our product and that additional instructions will be forthcoming in the future.”

“We will fully comply with any such instructions,” ForwardGro said. The company is still trying to figure out why the state has placed a hold on its cannabis, as regulators have not put out a public statement or offered any explanation.

Asked for comment, Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission Executive Director Joy Strand sent along a statement late Tuesday saying the hold is a “precautionary measure” tied to a state regulation.

The specific code she referenced, COMAR 10.62.33.06A, concerns cannabis businesses. It says, “In the event that an inspector has reasonable suspicion of an operational failure or of conditions that create a likelihood of diversion, contamination, or a risk to the public health,” the inspector may suspend operations for the business, seal off entry or “quarantine some or all medical cannabis.”

Strand said the hold is on “all products of an individual licensed grower”–ForwardGro–“as well as processed products containing the licensed grower’s material. While on administrative hold, licensees are to refrain from the transfer or sale of those products.”

ForwardGro’s statement said all of its cannabis has “been tested by a state-registered independent lab.”

As first reported by The Sun in July, the state this summer launched an investigation into ForwardGro’s alleged use of pesticides to grow its cannabis, which is illegal under Maryland law. Three ex-employees made the allegations in a letter sent to state lawmakers via the Maryland Ethical Cannabis Association, which represents businesses opposed to using said pesticides in marijuana growing.

ForwardGro denied the allegations at the time, similarly noting that it had tested all of its batches.

Chesapeake Alternatives, one of the state’s 14 businesses licensed to process growers’ cannabis for retail consumption (and also the operator of three dispensaries in Bethesda, Silver Spring and Joppa under its partner company name, GTI), sent out a memo to client dispensaries yesterday informing them of the the hold on ForwardGro-grown weed products. The message also laid out the process by which Maryland’s cannabis is tested for pesticides and other contaminants, a requirement before any of it is made available for patients to buy.

“Chesapeake Alternatives has never accepted any cannabis that has shown any trace of pesticides, and has never distributed a product that has shown any trace of pesticides or other contaminants,” the memo said.

As for the reason behind the administrative hold on ForwardGro’s weed and weed products: “At this time we have no further information about the nature of this announcement, timing or next steps,” Chesapeake Alternatives said.

Baltimore Fishbowl has reached out to ForwardGro for additional comment.

Asked whether the state’s probe pertains to alleged pesticide use, Strand said, “the commission cannot comment on any investigation.”

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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