Marijuana-grow mold study prompts mislabeled Denver Post letter to the editor with real points

This week, the Denver Post published a letter criticizing a recent study on mold in indoor marijuana grows from what appeared to be an employee of the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division. Turns out he wasn't -- and as a result, the MMED asked the Post to publish a correction, which appeared today. But despite that, the letter makes some very good points.

The article that prompted the letter covered a press conference featuring officials at the Colorado Drug Investigators Association and doctors at National Jewish Health whose study showed extremely high levels of mold exist in dirty indoor grows. Though none of the thirty grows were tied to legal medical cannabis center operations, officials still made the connection between the two. We called the study clown science, as it doesn't accurately reflect clean, legal patient or commercial grows. And we weren't alone. Here's the letter that appeared in the Post yesterday:

This story noted that police and firefighters were being exposed to harmful mold in non-medical marijuana grows. As a badged employee of the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, I have witnessed firsthand the meticulous measures taken by growers at state-licensed facilities to ensure mold-free, clean environments.

If Amendment 64 gets a fair chance and passes this November, you can expect that same level of quality, cleanliness and, above all, regulation to in time take over every aspect of the now illegal marijuana system in the state. It seems like a simple choice to stop throwing brave men and women into the moldy wood chipper in the name of the war on drugs, or we could do something different, something bold.

Christopher Hughes, Thornton

Only thing is, Christopher Hughes doesn't work for MMED; no one named Christopher Hughes is a current employee, nor has anyone with that name ever been on the staff. MMED spokeswoman Julie Postlethwait said the department had since asked the Post for a retraction, noting that the MMED does not take positions on political issues such as the one created by the recent mold study. And today, the paper printed the following:

Because of an editor's error, a letter-writer's affiliation with the state's medical-marijuana industry was misrepresented in the letters to the editor on Page 15A on Monday. Christopher Hughes is licensed to work in the industry but is not employed by the Colorado Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division.

By the way, the MMED doesn't inspect for mold right now. Postlethwait said that sanitary requirements for dispensaries will be a future priority for the the agency, but she added that the MMED inspectors are focusing on issues such as plant count and the number of security cameras in a dispensary, not mold and mildew.

But that doesn't mean the letter was completely off-base. Postlethwait also noted that none of the 213 centers currently licensed by the state would have been approved if they did not meet local zoning requirements -- many of which include health requirements such as mold remediation and prevention. In Denver, for example, optional premise cultivation licensees have to meet the approval of Denver Fire and the office of Environmental Health.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Amendment 64's lead in poll won't lead to complacency, campaign says" and "Marijuana grows: Bad-as-meth-labs study based on clown science?"

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William Breathes
Contact: William Breathes