The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office Drug Enforcement Unit has been busy.
Over the course of about a week, the unit reported serving a dozen search warrants in southern Humboldt County, resulting in the eradication of more than 46,000 cannabis plants and the destruction of more than 1,400 pounds of processed weed. Working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, county planning and the California State Water Board, the enforcement team also indicated it intends to hit landowners with dozens of citations for everything from illicit water diversions and grading without proper permits to building code violations and littering in a stream — citations that carry fines of up to $25,000 per day, according to a press release.
While it's easy to write off the enforcement efforts as a token — after all, Humboldt County has an estimated 10,000 farms that have taken no steps toward coming under state or county regulation — the parade of daily press releases announcing eradication efforts is clearly intended to send a message that illicit cultivation can come with some pretty hefty consequences.
Regulation, meanwhile, is proving a daunting proposition for some. The California Bureau of Cannabis Control recently released its first data set detailing laboratory testing outcomes since July 1, the deadline after which all cannabis products sold in the state must undergo pesticide testing. According to the state, one in five product batches tested under the new paradigm have failed — meaning they either need to undergo an expensive remediation process or be destroyed.
Interestingly, of the failed tests, more than two thirds flunked not because of contamination but because of inaccurate claims on product labels, most of them overstating the amount of THC. About 20 percent failed due to a positive pesticide test.
Beginning Jan. 1, all cannabis products sold in the state will also have to be tested for heavy metals and mold.
The failure rate — as well as a bottleneck at the state's 31 testing facilities — has left some dispensaries scrambling to stock products.
In related news, California's new cannabis industry has now also seen its first widespread product recall. The Los Angeles-based Lowell Herb Co. has voluntarily recalled an untold number of pre-rolled joints from 74 retailers after receiving word they'd failed a pesticide test.
The story, as reported by Marijuana Business Daily, is a nightmarish scenario that seems to belie industry concerns about the state's new high-stakes testing system and whether testing laboratories are up to the challenge.
According to the report, the company had been voluntarily testing its flowers for 18 months in advance of the state's July 1 deadline in an effort to ensure both that it was supplying a safe product and that it could be confident it would pass muster when the new regulations hit. In this particular case, it had its flowers tested by SC Labs in Santa Cruz before they were manufactured into pre-rolls and picked up by a distributor.
The distributor then had the pre-rolls tested by Anresco Laboratories in San Francisco. The lab initially indicated the joints passed, so they were sent out to retailers. But two weeks later, Anresco reportedly changed the batch's status to "fail" and contacted Lowell Herb Co., which then had the batch tested by a third laboratory, which gave it a passing grade.
Out of an abundance of caution, the company nonetheless issued a recall and plans to destroy the pre-rolls when they come back, rather than trying to remediate them into another product that would have to be tested again.
"This does present really big challenges to the industry as a whole, with different labs presenting different results," company CEO David Elias told Marijuana Business Daily.
Back in June, we ran a cover story reporting on the seemingly shady doings of Rohnert Park police's cannabis interdiction efforts, with some openly questioning whether officers were simply stealing cannabis and cash from motorists ("Highway Robbery," June 14).
Well, on July 27 the city of Rohnert Park announced that it has hired an independent auditor to investigate the allegations and a number of complaints "filed by individuals after traffic stops and asset forfeitures conducted by Rohnert Park police officers."
Thadeus Greenson is the Journal's news editor. Reach him at 442-1400, extension 321, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.