Sacramento marijuana testing lab admits to falsifying pesticide results


A marijuana testing lab in Sacramento has admitted to falsifying hundreds of pesticide testing records that were submitted to the state.

The company in question is Sequoia Analytical Labs and the firm is taking full responsibility for what happened.

“This was a gut punch completely,” said Steven Dutra, general manager for Sequoia Analytical Labs.

Dutra said he was stunned to learn that lab results from his pesticide testing machines were falsified. Dutra said the former lab director – whom he identified as Marc Foster – admitted the fraud after a surprise visit last week by state inspectors.

“When they asked the lab director where his data came from,” Dutra said. “He honestly told them, ‘I faked it.’”

The fake data from the former lab director involved 22 out of the 66 pesticides for which cannabis is typically tested. More than 700 lab results over a four-month span are now in question, Dutra said.

Sequoia immediately fired Foster and then surrendered its temporary testing license to the state Bureau of Cannabis Control. However, additional sanctions could be coming from the city of Sacramento.

“We’re going to be taking a look at suspending or possibly revoking their permit,” said Joe Devlin, Sacramento’s chief of Cannabis Enforcement.

The temporary loss of a testing lab comes at a time when consumer demand for cannabis products continues to grow. On the retail level, dispensaries such as All About Wellness are waiting for further instructions from the Bureau of Cannabis Control.

“Basically, everything is being taken care of by the state,” said Tommy Pawloski, manager at All About Wellness. “If there is a problem, the state will let us know.”

The Bureau of Cannabis Control has said nothing publicly about any possible recall of the marijuana samples in question. Sequoia Analytical Labs has offered to pay for additional testing.

“We would like to see those samples be released to another lab and tested very quickly for pesticides,” Dutra said. “Again, if there’s any product that’s harmful, we want to know right away.”

Dutra said typically, just 3 percent of all cannabis samples tested actually fail because of pesticide exposure. He said he believes that any samples still in circulation pose a very minimal risk to the public.

“Much of the product is just gone and probably already consumed,” Dutra said.

Sequoia has hired a new lab director and hopes to obtain a new license from the state to resume operations in January.

Officials from the Bureau of Cannabis Control declined to be interviewed. Consumers, retailers and distributors are waiting to see what the regulatory agency will do next.

There are just 44 cannabis pesticide testing labs in California, four of which are in Sacramento. In January, the state will require them to start testing for toxins such as heavy metals.

Devlin, Sacramento’s pot czar, said California needs more testing labs.

“The shortage of labs has really created a bottleneck in the supply chain across the state,” he said.