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Friday, March 1, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Pot Smokers Warn of Cyanide From Pesticide

DENVER (CN) - One of the biggest legal marijuana farms in the world sprayed thousands of plants with an unapproved pesticide that breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when it's smoked, two Coloradans claim in a class action.

Brandan Flores and Brandie Larrabee sued LivWell Inc., which runs 11 marijuana stores and "one of the largest cannabis grow facilities in the world," according to the Oct. 5 lawsuit in Denver County Court.

Flores and Larrabee claim LivWell sprayed a chemical cocktail called "Eagle 20" on thousands of its marijuana plants between January and April this year.

Flores bought recreational marijuana and Larrabee bought medicinal marijuana, according to the lawsuit. They seek to represent "hundreds, if not thousands," of members in two classes: one for recreational users and one for medicinal users.

Among other things, they want LivWell ordered to warn customers that "Eagle 20 [is] a dangerous fungicide that ultimately breaks down into hydrogen cyanide, a well-known poison, when it is heated with a standard cigarette lighter."

Neither plaintiff claims that he, she or anyone else has become ill from this, but they say Colorado has not approved the chemical for use in tobacco or cannabis products.

Eagle 20 is used to fight problems typical to marijuana grown indoors: mold, viruses, mites and fungus. Its most active ingredient, Myclobutanil, inhibits the growth of fungi that threaten marijuana crops.

LivWell has recorded using Eagle 20 since early this year, but Flores and Larrabee claim the company is "likely" to have used it "for many months, if not years, earlier."

The issue made news in April, when the Colorado Department of Environmental Health put a hold on 60,000 LivWell plants when the state discovered the company was using the antifungal chemicals.

The plants were released after LivWell had them tested privately through Gobi Analytical, a cannabis testing company. But Flores and Larrabee say that did not put to rest their concern that heat can break the chemical down into hydrogen cyanide.

"(I)t is unclear whether LivWell's plants tested negative for residue or simply tested below thresholds commonly accepted for vegetation that will not be heated to a point of combustion," the complaint states.

LivWell owner John Lord told the public that his company had stopped using Eagle 20 long before the April hold, but the lawsuit calls that claim "demonstrably false."

"LivWell's own grow logs show that LivWell applied Eagle 20 to thousands of its plants throughout March of 2015," the complaint states. "His statements, and Livwell's other public statements, have given the public the false impression that LivWell's cannabis plants were safe, when in reality they had been repeatedly treated with Eagle 20 and consumers would ingest hydrogen cyanide if they smoked such cannabis."

Issues surrounding marijuana pesticides have dogged Colorado's marijuana industry since its legalization for recreation boom in 2013. Several other dispensaries have been or are being investigated for using unapproved pesticides.

Flores and Larrabee seek class certifications, an injunction against use of Eagle 20, disgorgement, restitution and damages for fraudulent concealment, breach of contract, breach of faith, breach of warranty, misrepresentation, unjust enrichment and conspiracy.

They are represented by Steven Woodrow and Robert Corry Jr., both of Denver.

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