A marijuana consumer group protested outside a LivWell location on South Broadway over the weekend, claiming the dispensary chain uses potentially harmful pesticides and doesn't care about consumer health. But LivWell says those accusations are simply untrue.
Up to a dozen members of the Cannabis Consumers Coalition demonstrated outside the pot shop Saturday afternoon, carrying signs that read "Weed not Greed!" and "No Pesticides on My Flower." 9News had reported in April that approximately 60,000 of LivWell's plants were put on hold by the city because its grow used Eagle 20 – a petroleum-based fungicide that isn't approved for cannabis by Denver or by Colorado Department of Agriculture. After LivWell protested and a test was conducted, the city agreed that a portion of LivWell's plants were safe for consumption, but some remained quarantined. LivWell owner John Lord says he's working with Denver officials to clarify which pesticides can be used on cannabis grown in the city.
But the protesters said they don't believe anyone should consume plants treated with Eagle 20 or other potentially harmful chemicals. "We're out here because John Lord had mentioned he was working with city officials, and we're concerned he's trying to push Eagle 20 to be approved in marijuana grows," explained Larisa Bolivar, director of the Cannabis Consumer Coalition. "We're concerned about cumulative effects it can have on the body, and it's not fair to consumers for him to push something that isn't even approved for tobacco."
City Communications Advisor Daniel Rowland says that while Denver officials have discussed consumer safety with LivWell, they've also talked with every other grow with plants on hold, as well as advocate groups. "We're meeting and communicating with all stakeholders in this process. We'll talk to pretty much anyone when it comes to public health," Rowland says. "We've met with the Cannabis Consumers Coalition and are open to talking about their concerns."
Last month, Lord told Westword that LivWell was "working hand-in-hand with the Denver Department of Environmental Health to design and implement what we hope will be an industry standard testing regime to ensure safe cannabis products." In response to Saturday's protest, Lord said this of the Cannabis Coalition's claims:
"These accusations are thoroughly inaccurate and highly misinformed. Had any one of these eight people reached out to us directly to have this discussion, we would have welcomed the opportunity – and we still do. We currently do not use any compound in our grow that is of concern to the City of Denver, nor are we trying to inappropriately manipulate or influence which compounds they approve for use. We, along with multiple other grows, are openly working with the City and the State to ensure that both the compounds used and the end product delivered to consumers are safe. This includes an open discussion about what food-safe compounds can be used to prevent harmful molds and other naturally occurring contaminants from being in any end product.”
Although Bolivar did not reach out to LivWell before the protest, she says she's open to having a conversation with the company. "It's kind of ironic – protesting a legal pot shop — after all the work Colorado had to do for Amendment 64," she said on Saturday. "But customers should know what they're buying."
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Westword reported last month that at least ten commercial growing operations were disciplined by the city after they were found using unapproved pesticides. Eagle 20 seems to be the most controversial: Eight of the ten grows investigated by the city had plants put on hold because of Eagle 20. But while the pesticide is not specifically recommended for use on marijuana, few pesticides actually are — because of the federal prohibition on cannabis, not many chemical companies invest time and effort in creating pesticides for cannabis.
Although the protesters told customers heading to LivWell to think again, no one turned away. One pedestrian who was walking by even defended the dispensary. "An eighth for only $15.75?" he shouted over the protesters. "Are you kidding me? That stuff is great!"
According to Bolivar, the LivWell location was chosen for the site of her group's first protest spot because of its market presence (there are nine LivWell stores), but she says her group will hold demonstrations at other dispensaries with plants on hold.
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