The CEO and founder of Massachusetts cannabis testing company MCR Labs is accusing the state’s Cannabis Control Board of harassing and intimidating employees, disregarding safety protocols, and compromising their facility’s testing integrity during an unannounced inspection last week.
Michael Kahn issued a letter to the state’s Cannabis Control Commission complaining that a team of eight CCC agents came to the company’s Framingham flagship location on March 21 without an apparent purpose and accosted workers.
A CCC spokesperson told Law360 that the commission reserves authority to perform unannounced visits and said these activities are typical and essential for overseeing the state’s regulated cannabis marketplace. The spokesperson added that the agency “has several open enforcement matters regarding MCR Labs” and performed an unannounced visit of another testing lab one week prior to the MCR inspection.
The Kahn letter suggested that the inspectors mentioned a Medicinal Genomics product recall, which MCR said it had already addressed via email to the CCC, but the agency did not provide a specific reason for their visit beyond that.
“The Medicinal Genomics matter was quickly settled and seemed a pretext for the CCC team’s presence,” the letter said.
Alleged Bad Behavior
According to the letter, “Upon arrival, the investigators refused to comply with our laboratory safety and security protocol, which requires all visitors to sign into our Visitor Log. They claimed exemption due to their affiliation with the CCC, but this is a safety violation as we need a full accounting of persons onsite in case of emergency.
“During one of our routine sample deliveries, our drivers were accosted in the parking lot by the CCC team. They were shouted at and forced to open sample cases for inspection outside of our premises, which violates our safety protocols and sets an improper example. Such conduct is inappropriate for professionals in an investigative role. To quote one of the involved MCR employees: ‘I started to take the Pelicans out to bring them inside but was told to stop as they wanted to see all paperwork regarding the pickups which I handed to them; they then made me open several Pelicans and started handling the samples without gloves.'”
The letter went on to accuse the CCC investigators of being rude, disorganized, unprofessional, and in some cases verbally and physically threatening. “One incident captured on our security footage involved an MCR employee who reported having her personal space inappropriately violated by one investigator who physically touched her, while another stood over her. To quote her written complaint of the incident: ‘I didn’t appreciate having people hovering over me and physically touching me while demanding I do certain tasks for them. The boundaries were clearly crossed and it left me incredibly uneasy.'”
Kahn said he was critical of the commission’s approach to regulating independent testing laboratories during a presentation at NECANN on March 10. He complained of label inaccuracies and lab fraud.
Lab shopping, in which cannabis companies look for a lab that will tweak THC levels or overlook contaminant results, appears to be a concern in the state’s industry.
During a recent Massachusetts hearing, the video of which was posted on Twitter by Grant Smith Ellis, Commissioner Kimberly Roy noted the CCC is engaged in the use of a “secret” secret shopper program to audit testing labs.
In response, Chair Shannon O’Brien asked, “…we don’t secret shop for testing, do we?”
Roy responded, “We do,” in a tone indicating an affirmative response. However Commissioner Bruce Stebbins then said, “We do?” in a tone indicating he was not under that impression.
The CCC spokesperson released a statement saying, “Additionally, the commission categorically disputes the characterization of our investigators, both in following agency protocols and their professionalism. However, given the serious nature of the allegations, the commission intends to immediately open an inquiry into the matter and anticipates and looks forward to the licensee’s full cooperation with the review.”
Several states have grappled with lab shopping. Some labs are known to have a heavy thumb on the THC scale, while others can overlook contaminant results.
However, there are no lab ratings or inspections in most states. The labs are trusted by regulators to perform their duties according to the written laws, but there are limited or no policies in place to make sure that is happening. Some states have considered launching state-run labs, it none have yet taken that course.