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State shuts down medical marijuana operator over pesticide use

(Associated Press)

Triple M, a medical marijuana operator with dispensaries in Mashpee and Plymouth, has been ordered to close by state health regulators for using pesticides on plants on its Plymouth cultivation facility.

The state Department of Public Health (DPH) on Thursday ordered Triple M to immediately stop selling medical marijuana products and quarantine its inventory, after inspectors determined that marijuana cultivated by the company “could pose an immediate or serious threat to the public’s health, safety, or welfare.”

“The Department of Public Health has issued a cease and desist and quarantine order to [Triple M] while we look into concerns about the use of pesticides at its cultivation facility in Plymouth,” a spokeswoman for the agency said in a statement. “The dispensary is required to suspend the sale of all medical marijuana products until further notice.”

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The spokeswoman added that the case had been referred to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, which oversees the use of pesticides in the regulated cannabis industry.

Triple M is the second medical marijuana operator to be shuttered by the state this year over pesticides; the bust follows a similar action in September against Good Chemistry, which operates a growing and processing facility in Bellingham and a dispensary in Worcester.

Triple M, like Good Chemistry, said it had only used natural compounds such as pyrethrins, a class of insect-repelling chemicals derived from chrysanthemum flowers.

“The natural pesticides that Triple M used have been approved in all 50 States for growing produce as well as for use on cannabis in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, and Ohio,” the firm said in a statement. “Triple M only used the pesticides during the early stages of cultivation, never on the flower buds and ceased using the pesticides on plants in September 2018.”

The company added that it was “fully cooperating” with DPH and would implement any changes requested by the agency.

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“Triple M has and will continue to place its patient’s safety first and apologizes for any inconvenience this review may cause,” the company’s statement said. “From inception, Triple M has operated in a manner that maintains strict compliance with all requirements and will work with the DPH to ensure compliance in the future.”

Good Chemistry was allowed to reopen after destroying affected crops and revising its growing procedures. That company had blasted the state over the bust, saying it disclosed its intention to use the natural pesticides in its application and that regulators were overreacting.

Separately, DPH issued a cease-and-desist order earlier this week to Apothca, which operates dispensaries in Arlington and Lynn, ordering the medical marijuana firm to stop selling certain products infused with CBD.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a minimally psychoactive compound that can be derived from marijuana or hemp. Frequently used to treat seizure disorders and other ailments, CBD is widely available in pill and gummy form at health stores and even gas station counters — but because licensed medical dispensaries can only sell products from the state-regulated supply chain, DPH regulators ordered Apothca to stop selling CBD supplements it had obtained elsewhere.

Valerio Romano, an attorney for Apothca, said the products were sourced from legally grown hemp and tested for purity by laboratories in Massachusetts, but said the firm had nonetheless stopped selling them.

“It’s a valuable, quality medicine that patients rely on,” Romano said. “There’s really an issue of inconsistent enforcement by [DPH].”

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CBD’s legal status is murky; derivatives of marijuana are technically illegal under federal law, but enforcement against CBD has been minimal, since it is relatively harmless and because hemp can be legally cultivated in some states under federal research programs.

Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant that contains very little THC, the main psychoactive compound responsible for pot’s distinctive “high,” and was historically used in ropemaking and other industries.


Dan Adams can be reached at daniel.adams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Adams86.