According to a Dec. 18 Associated Press article, ForwardGro, the first company to be licensed as a medical marijuana grower in Maryland, has been fined for using banned crop-protection pesticides.
Cannabis cultivators and product manufacturers across the country are facing similar issues with increased testing and scrutiny from state regulators over pesticide concerns, according to industry business journal Marijuana Business Daily.
News outlets reported the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission on Dec. 18 ordered ForwardGro to pay $125,000, destroy products produced before May 31, 2018, and issue refunds on certain products. The company has been placed on two years’ probation.
ForwardGro products were removed from Maryland dispensaries with little explanation in October, while under investigation by the commission. The commission’s hold on sales of ForwardGro products have since been lifted.
A comprehensive article was published in The Baltimore Sun about the commission’s investigation, and ForwardGro’s fine and probationary period.
Exclusive: Gary Mangum on ForwardGro’s Future
Greenhouse Grower visited ForwardGro in Sept. 2017 and profiled the operation in Aug. 2018. We were able to speak with ForwardGro Co-Owner and Acting CEO Gary Mangum on Dec. 20 about the fine, probation, and the company’s take on what happened.
“First and foremost, there is nothing I can say to excuse the position we are in. This should not have happened, period,” Mangum says. “Now, however, we are effectively a new business. We have new leadership, new cultivation techniques, new cultivators, and we embrace a culture of compliance where we embed compliance into our everyday workflow across the business. It’s a new day for ForwardGro and we are proud to be part of the Maryland medical cannabis industry.”
As part of the stipulations of a consent order placed on the company forcing change of leadership, ForwardGro CEO Michael McCarthy resigned in November, and must divest his ownership interest within 30 days, as the AP reported. Mangum, who to this point has been uninvolved in the company’s day-to-day business, has taken over as the company’s acting CEO.
“My job moving forward is to make sure our compliance and operations practices are just as robust as our medical and patient advocacy focus have been,” Mangum says. “We’re confident that our customer service was strong and will be stronger as we progress.”
Another major change stipulated as part of the consent order is that ForwardGro has to hire a new head grower, who must be approved by the commission.
“We have initiated a search for a head grower,” Mangum says. “This search has already been underway, but was difficult to conduct during an active investigation. My hope is to find a grower with a traditional greenhouse background, who also has experience with medical cannabis. I do have massive respect for people who can make this very specialized crop perform as desired. I deeply appreciate and am proud of our cultivation team that we have in place.”
While he assures full cooperation and compliance with the commission, Mangum emphasizes that ForwardGro product has not failed any test for pesticides thus far. He says ForwardGro has provided full transparency about all product test results to date, and will maintain this going forward.
“Maryland has a rigorous testing program. It’s considered among the nation’s best, and that’s how we want it,” Mangum says. “As we have stated with confidence, we have never had a product fail for pesticide. Further, the test results from all product produced by ForwardGro purchased through dispensaries can be found on our website by date and lot number. This may be a first in Maryland, and we are committed to the disclosure long term. Additionally, product is tested twice when processed by others into various routes of administration – first, from the independent lab we work with before being allowed to sell to a processor, and again by the processors outside independent lab prior to their ability to sell to dispensaries. Maryland does not allow any product to be sold that fails for pesticides.”
Check back to GreenhouseGrower.com for continued coverage.