Revolutionary Clinics Fined $120,000 for Selling Contaminated Vape Cartridges
The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) has fined marijuana firm Revolutionary Clinics $120,000 for selling contaminated cannabis products.
According to the CCC, Revolutionary Clinics distributed vaporizer cartridges that contained higher-than-allowed levels of residual solvents in late 2018 and early 2019.
The Fitchburg, Massachusetts-based company — which operates three medical marijuana shops near Boston, and sells cannabis to other Massachusetts dispensaries, including adult-use stores — committed three violations, according to the CCC.
Those violations — which included wholesaling noncompliant marijuana products, a failure to provide adequate testing documentation, and a failure to accurately document the amount of source of the contaminated product — were outlined during the CCC’s monthly public meeting on Thursday.
According to the CCC, hundreds of vape cartridges distributed by Revolutionary Clinics between November 2018 and March 2019 contained between 5,500 and 9,000 parts-per-million (ppm) of ethanol. The state limit is 5,000 ppm.
Revolutionary blamed the mishap on a former employee who “failed to follow protocol” and only partially reviewed laboratory results for the contaminated product.
Indeed, according to the CCC’s Final Order and Stipulated Agreement, dated June 26, 2020, the Revolutionary Clinics lab technician who was tasked with evaluating the test results before product was allowed to be distributed “only reviewed the first two pages of laboratory results associated with the failed product.”
“The failed result for residual solvents in excess of acceptable testing levels was located on the fourth page of the certificate of analysis,” the CCC wrote.
That small oversight subsequently cost the lab technician their job, and Revolutionary Clinics $120,000. The cannabis firm will be allowed to pay the fine in five installments over the next 180 days, but it will also be subject to a four-month probationary period and cannot commit other violations.
Nevertheless, Revolutionary Clinics maintains that its customers’ health and safety was never at risk.
“Patient and consumer safety were not compromised during this time and we accepted full responsibility for our shortcomings in 2019,” the company said via a statement.
To support its position, Revolutionary Clinics provided independent testing results from a “senior toxicologist” at CTEH, which specializes in human health risk assessment.
“The amount of ethanol potentially inhaled was considered limited,” the CCC’s Andrew Carter said Thursday.
The issuance of a fine for selling contaminated cartridges comes just days after the CCC said it would allow cannabis companies to retest and sell more than 600,000 vaporizer products that have been quarantined since December amid fears they may contain vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent that was blamed for last year’s vaping crisis and outbreak of lung injuries across the country.
After conducting several tests, the CCC determined that the quarantined cartridges do not contain vitamin E acetate.
Roughly $45 million worth of vape cartridges had been quarantined, and licensees will now be allowed to sell those products provided they pass testing for heavy metals. Companies may also reclaim the oil contained in those cartridges and repurpose it into other products, or dispose of the items altogether, the CCC said.
If companies wish to retest and release the cartridges as is, or repurpose the cannabis oil, they must inform customers with an additional warning label.
“This new order seeks to strike a balance between those products that can be retested or remediated safely for sale or repurposing with proper warning to patients and consumers, and those that cannot,” CCC executive director Shawn Collins said via a news release. “As the nation continues to learn more about the broader health implications of vaping in all forms, I urge patients and consumers to understand the risks when they choose to consume any cannabis vaporizer product.”
The CCC also recently levied fines against two companies for illegally spraying crops with banned pesticides. Healthy Pharms — which does business under the “Mission” brand of dispensaries and is backed by Arizona-based multistate operator 4Front Ventures — was fined $350,000, while Garden Remedies was fined $200,000.
Additional information about the CCC’s second amended quarantine order can be found on the agency’s website.
Revolutionary Clinics’ full statement regarding its vape cartridge fine is also included below.
Revolutionary Clinics is committed to providing our patients with safe and high-quality medical marijuana.
In December 2018, staff at our cultivation facility received test results from batches of vaporizers detecting higher-than-allowed levels of ethanol. A former employee, who was tasked with reviewing the results, failed to follow protocol and did not read the entirety of the report, so it was not reported until the introduction of marijuana enforcement reporting compliance (METRC) in March 2019.
Upon this discovery, we immediately launched an internal investigation into the cause of the excess ethanol and shared with the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) along with steps taken to remedy affected vaporizers, inventory of vaporizers not remediated, new standard operating procedures for reviewing lab results and documentation of lab training attendance by staff. We then hired a third-party scientist to review the results. The scientist confirmed the ethanol levels in the batches of vaporizers were not harmful.
In September 2019, we participated in a voluntary dispute resolution conference with the CCC and subsequently provided a full account of transactions associated with reports of the excess ethanol and provided documentation that all customers had been notified of the test results.
Patient and consumer safety were not compromised during this time and we accepted full responsibility for our shortcomings in 2019, as well as the fine levied by the CCC, which is now being announced publicly.
This situation underscores the value of METRC and the role it plays to help the industry adhere to shared goals of transparency, safety, and accountability. We believe the CCC’s continued efforts to reevaluate and improve upon regulations and reporting has been a positive for operators, patients, adult-use consumers, and the general public.