Marijuana attorney Rob Corry has filed a class-action lawsuit against the LivWell chain of dispensaries based on its alleged use of a pesticide called Eagle 20 "in the first quarter of 2015 and likely for many months, if not years, earlier."
The substance is described in the suit, seen in its entirety below, as a patently dangerous fungicide that releases hydrogen cyanide when burned while smoking cannabis.
After being contacted by Westword, a LivWell spokesperson declined to comment about the complaint, which had not yet been received by the company. However, LivWell owner John Lord and other representatives have previously stressed that its growers are no longer spraying cannabis with Eagle 20, and they believe no one was endangered by its previous use of the substance.
Corry, meanwhile, hints that future lawsuits may be filed against as many as ten other marijuana businesses in Colorado, with a focus on operations previously cited by the City of Denver in regard to a pesticide investigation.
In a May 18 post that's cited in Corry's lawsuit, our Thomas Mitchell reported that documents about the inquiry were originally obtained via the Colorado Open Records Act by the Cannabis Consumers Coalition; the organization's director, Larisa Bolivar is assisting the plaintiffs along with Brandan Flores. (The reports are also included here.) The Denver Department of Environmental Health subsequently put many plants from multiple growers on hold over concerns that pesticides such as Eagle 20 had been used on them.
The reasons for concern are documented in this excerpt from Mitchell's piece:
Used to fight powdery mildew on plants, Eagle 20 has become a subject of debate among cannabis growers because of its unknown long-term effects. A 2012 study by Dow AgroSciences showed that Eagle 20 contained numerous chemicals that had caused cancer in lab animals, but whose effect on humans has not been documented. The lack of conclusive science regarding pesticide and cannabis has created a gray area for regulated pot cultivation.LivWell was the first dispensary to be publicly linked to Eagle 20 use, with around 60,000 plants held back in April after health officials worried that LivWell's use of Eagle 20 could make the resulting marijuana unsafe for consumption. However, inspectors subsequently gave the all-clear.
Because marijuana is illegal on a federal level, few pesticides have been created specifically for it, and states in which cannabis has been legalized have to do their own research on what's harmful and what isn't. Neither the Environmental Protection Agency nor the U.S. Department of Agriculture lists pesticides that may be used by marijuana grows; nor do they list prohibited pesticides. While the Colorado Department of Agriculture does not have a list of pesticides banned for cannabis cultivation, there is a CDA-approved list of marijuana pesticides that regulated growing operations in the state are supposed to follow. The approved list, last updated April 30, does not contain Eagle 20.
Afterward, LivWell owner Lord released a statement that reads: "Testing of our finished product by an independent, state-licensed lab approved by the City of Denver showed that our products are safe – as we have always maintained. We have reached an agreement with the City resulting in a release of the hold order on the tested products and all similar products. More importantly, over the last two weeks, we have been 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. We are proud to be able to meaningfully contribute to the standards that will ensure public health and safety moving forward."
This response didn't satisfy the Cannabis Consumers Coalition; numerous CCC members picketed a LivWell location on South Broadway later in May. In response, Lord issued another statement about allegations that LivWell's products could be dangerous: "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.”
Now comes the complaint, filed electronically yesterday in Denver District Court. Corry describes it as "a class-action lawsuit based on common-law contract and warranty principals. In other words, the consumers that purchased pesticide-laden marijuana from LivWell were not told it was there and either would not have bought it or would have paid much less for it. The suit also documents that Eagle 20 is a neurotoxin that's even more harmful when incinerated or combined with butane, as in butane lighters.
"The company that manufactures Eagle 20 says this chemical is not for use on anything consumed by human beings," Corry continues, "but it wasn't used as intended — which is why we're not suing the manufacturer. They didn't do anything wrong. But LivWell used it improperly. They admit they used it, and our goal is to correct this moving forward. This is not a sound practice for this industry, and we need an industry we can be proud of here in Colorado."
Corry, who describes himself as "one of the fathers of Colorado's marijuana industry," typically fights on behalf of dispensaries, not against them. But he feels that his actions will make the cannabis business better rather than harming it.
"As a father myself, if your child misbehaves, you discipline that child, and that's what's happening here," he says. "LivWell has placed harmful chemicals on marijuana. It certainly doesn't enhance the quality of the cannabis. It makes it toxic.
"The government is obsessed with regulating this industry, but it won't regulate where it actually affects the consumer and the consumer's health," Corry maintains. "So we're going to use the court system to do it."
Regarding LivWell's assertions that it has discontinued any and all Eagle 20 use and now utilizes only safe substances at its grows, Corry says, "That's encouraging, but my view of LivWell's practices is, 'Trust but verify,' just like dealing with the Soviet Union over nuclear treaties. We have to inspect LivWell's practices, not just take them at their word."
Look below to see the lawsuit, followed by the aforementioned Denver Department of Environmental Health documents about the initial pesticide investigation.