A Colorado marijuana industry watchdog has been forced to take a break during COVID-19.
One of the few local health agencies investigating and disciplining marijuana facilities in Colorado, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment has been responsible for a significant number of marijuana mold and pesticide recalls since recreational pot sales began in 2014. A year ago, along with Denver Public Health, the department even began randomly inspecting dispensaries, in order to learn more about microbial contamination in plant matter after it enters the retail space.
The results of those inspections were to be analyzed for a study set to be released in July, but the DDPHE's marijuana team and DPH epidemiologists had to take a step back and focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, with routine DDPHE marijuana facility inspections also hitting a snag.
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Regularly scheduled health and safety inspections at marijuana cultivations and production facilities paused in March as DDPHE staffers began assisting with COVID-19 response efforts, according to DDPHE spokeswoman Tammy Vigil. As a result, the publication of 2019's microbial assessment was postponed indefinitely.
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"DDPHE/DPH has decided to hold off on the baseline assessment analysis for the foreseeable future, as the pandemic response efforts remain our number-one priority. We do plan to resume work on this project at some point in the future, but that timeline is unclear," reads a DDPHE statement shared with Westword.
Vigil notes that DDPHE marijuana investigators are still responding to complaints "as necessary," and that investigation work into previous cases has continued "but is minimal."
Although Denver's marijuana inspections have largely taken a pause during the COVID-19 pandemic, recalls have continued at the state level this summer. In July, the MED and CDPHE issued a recall over banned pesticides used during marijuana cultivation for Durango dispensary Kinfolk farms. And in August, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division and the state Department of Public Health and Environment issued a joint recall for marijuana grown at Sundance Gardens, a wholesale pot producer.