Pubdate: Fri, 20 Nov 2015
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Contact:  2015 The Denver Post Corp
Authors: David Migoya and Ricardo Baca


Online Alerts About Pesticide-Tainted Products Are Required.

Denver health officials are requiring marijuana companies that recall 
products tainted with unapproved pesticides to use websites and 
social media accounts to alert consumers.

The move comes amid concerns that few customers are learning about 
nine recalls the city has announced affecting tens of thousands of 
items across dozens of product names.

Just three of the companies involved told their customers directly, a 
Denver Post check of their social media accounts showed.

The others appear to have relied only on news releases issued by the 
city's Department of Environmental Health.

Those news releases are so difficult for consumers to find on the 
city's website that, after an inquiry from The Post, officials said 
they plan to amend it and make it simpler.

The city's recall notices do not appear on the websites of any state 
agencies regulating marijuana.

"This is public safety. We need to be looking out for consumers'

best interests," said Larisa Bolivar of the Cannabis Consumers 
Coalition, a watchdog group. "It strikes me as irresponsible and 
greedy. When the government issues press releases, it does not reach 
everybody. A company posting about its recall on social media would 
ensure consumer confidence."

City officials say they're learning as the process evolves and the 
industry grows.

"This issue is unique to the marijuana industry, and certainly unique 
to the city as well, since the city has not issued or managed recalls 
of consumer products in the past," said Dan Rowland, spokesman for 
the mayor's office of marijuana policy. "We have gone beyond just 
issuing a news release when these recalls happen, including notifying 
the industry directly, but we are limited in scope since we don't 
have contact information for each consumer."

Several businesses involved in the recalls told The Post they have 
seen little or none of the recalled products returned from consumers 
and that much of it was likely consumed long ago.

"Consumers brought none of it back," said Larry Nassau, whose 
TruCannabis issued a recall Oct. 14 over pesticide concerns. "We had 
some calls from folks, but most times it was already consumed, or 
they just weren't particularly interested in bringing it back."

Many of the recalled products were months old and sold. What little 
they got back, Nassau said, came from what was left over on their own 
store shelves or from businesses that bought the product to resell.

Another company, EdiPure, says it has seen less than 5 percent of the 
20,000 packages of marijuana edibles it recalled in late October 
returned - all of it from store shelves, not consumers.

"Don't be too surprised," said Mark Smith, CEO of EdiPure. "All this 
happened in July."

The edict by Denver is an unusual step in recall authority, which 
typically stops with a government agency issuing a press release on 
the company's behalf.

Companies can reach consumers more easily today than before, with 
frequent-shopper cards, email and text-message blasts about specials, 
and Facebook pages trumpeting the latest sale or promotion. Tweets 
about super deals and Instagram messages about the latest acquisition 
make the information nearly instantaneous.

The city's order requires companies to keep the recall notices posted 
on websites indefinitely.

"This is all new to us, but we want to address our customers in any 
form or manner that we can," said Jason Martinez, co-owner of Lab710 
Concentrates, which was given the city's social-media order this 
week. "We contacted dispensaries the product was sent to. We've asked 
them to let customers and patients know about the recall. We also are 
going to put this on our social media and put something on our 
website linking to ... the city of Denver's press release."

Three of the eight companies that voluntarily recalled marijuana over 
pesticide concerns this year - Lab710, Mahatma and Gaia's Garden - 
have used a social media account to tell their customers.

The others - TruCannabis (Colorado Care Facility), Nature's Cure 
(Colfax Pot Shop), Green Cross (EdiPure), Sacred Seed and Denver 
Recreational - have not, The Post found.

Requiring businesses to inform consumers directly - nearly all 
recalls are voluntary - ensures a recall notice reaches the lowest 
tier of commerce.

At least two shop owners selling recalled products say they were 
never asked to let customers know about the tainted pot they purchased.

"If there's a recall, the business will communicate that with (the 
shops), and the city is also sending out a bulletin," said MMJ 
America owner Jake Salazar. "It seems like every week I'm getting an 
update on another recall. But we haven't had a company ask us to post 
recall information inside the store yet."

The other company was the one from which The Post purchased marijuana 
that later tested positive for unapproved pesticides.

Until now, it hasn't been a requirement to tell consumers about a recall.

"EdiPure sells wholesale to shops, so the recall was to the shop 
customers and they check the inventory," said Smith of EdiPure, which 
is owned by Green Cross. "We didn't direct the dispensary to (post 
signs about the recall). It's not our job to direct them. They 
probably have their own way of doing that."

Federal agencies that issue food and product recalls require only a 
press release to the public, although businesses must contact other 
companies within their supply chain. Some agencies "encourage" the 
use of social media platforms.

Companies such as those impacted by an automotive safety recall, for 
example, occasionally will flag customers directly - but it's not 
mandated that they do.

"I really like transparency, and I think it benefits everybody," said 
Cannabis Patients Alliance founder Teri Robnett. "If they work hard 
to fix the problem and let their customers know what's happening, I 
think that works in their favor. But if they continue to try and hide 
or mislead their customers, that doesn't show me that they're being 
very responsible."

But most times, consumers aren't told directly about a recall. In 
some cases recalled products can be sold to consumers for years. 
Recently, Home Depot was flagged by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety 
Commission for selling more than two dozen products that had been 
recalled as long ago as three years.

CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye recently told a Senate committee that the 
agency has an "expectation" that companies will use social media to 
let consumers know about recalls, although it's not required.

"There are no penalties for not doing it, but the potential exists 
for the chairman or other officials to make it known publicly we're 
disappointed in how a company handled a recall," CPSC spokesman Scott 
Wolfson said. Advocates say it's not enough. "If you've got a product 
recall and it presents any risk to public health and safety in any 
shape or form, the industry has an obligation to make sure that the 
patients and customers are aware of it," said Rex Powers, president 
of Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards, a nonprofit.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom