Canadian licensed producer Redecan suffers from a major PR blow after online reports accused the company of selling moldy cannabis and cannabis containing bugs through the Ontario Cannabis Store.
Pictures of Redecan Weed published on Reddit claimed that the product contained mold, bugs and holes from bugs. On Thursday, the company issued a voluntary withdrawal of the cannabis party as it said it received five complaints. But Redecan also said that it "visually inspected batch samples of this party … and have not found any signs of any form in these samples." In another statement, LP said, "There are no dead bugs in the RedeCan product. There are no holes that have been buried by insects." The company continued to say that the black spots in the images are not bugs, but "harmless, non volatile organic substances (protein carbohydrates) ". Later, LP's lead producer Rick Redecop told CityNews that it uses a myth called persimilis to ward off spider mites as part of its organic farming process. "At microscopic level, this may be possible on our product," said Redecop.
That's an explanation longtime BC grower Travis Lane does not buy.
"If you make a mistake then and there are physical evidence that you made a mistake, you're not lying about it," said Lane, chief executive of the BC Independent Cannabis Association, advocating craft growers, told VICE. "They remembered it does quite clear that there is a problem. "
Lane, who also runs a consulting company that specializes in organic farming, said he does not see the mold problem has a health risk as much as it is a consumer quality issue.
He said that cannabis is susceptible to mold and that it is common "when things are not done properly".
Lane said that the two types of mold that are most common to catch are powdered mold, a light powder coating that begins with leaves and rarely goes on the buds and botrytis (knot rot). Botrytis "rotates the button from the inside out" and has the potential to completely destroy the plant, Lane said, and noted that black soil counting has the same problem.
He said that two of the most important factors to prevent molds are to control the levels of moisture and air movement around the plants. But it can be much harder on a 100,000 square foot room, he said, or a greenhouse retrofitted for grass, but used previously for another crop.
"You have this big, big room and you try to regulate so many plants. One thing can happen in a part of the room and it can move," he says.
Ronan Levy, Chief Strategy Officer at Trait Biosciences, a biotechnology research company, told VICE that he believes that mold is a major issue, both from a health and safety point of view and from a business perspective.
"Of course, because you grow on mass scale, there are more plants, there are more people, there is more movement. A small problem with mold development, it spreads quickly."
Levy, who previously involved Canadian Cannabis Clinics, linking people to Canada's medical cannabis program, said he would be concerned about people who have endangered an immune system like cancer, consuming a product containing mold.
According to the Health Canada rules, there are 22 approved pesticides that LP can use. (Organigram, Hydropothecary, Aurora and Mettrum have all been found to have used banned pesticides earlier.)
Levy said that the LPs must limit the amount of pesticides on the product before it is consumed, which generally means that they are applied early. But he said that more and more manufacturers apply pesticides later in the growth process, which means there is more residue in the final product.
Property currently develops a technique that will use bacteria that occur naturally in cannabis plants to create small molecules of ribonucleic acid to block the development of mold and viruses.
"What happens is that you do not need to apply any pesticides at all to block the development of these diseases," he said and noted the technology is likely to be one or two years away from being released on the market.
Lane said to VICE LPs can currently pass Health Canada's quality assurance tests with mold on the plant. He has encouraged Health Canada to adopt a test for cannabis-specific quality control and identify all plant species specific to weeds.
VICE has reached Redecan for further comments and is waiting for company answers.
In a statement, Ontario Cannabis Store said that it takes action to address the complaints with Redecan. It offered to provide customers with repayments. OCS also urged customers with product complaints to contact Health Canada and LP discs directly.
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