Viridis’ testing laboratory in Lansing. Credit: Company Video / Viridis Laboratories

Michigan cannabis regulators issued an enormous product recall last week on products tested by Viridis Laboratories, calling into question Viridis’ testing methods and leaving more than 400 dispensary owners in Michigan scrambling to replace impacted inventory as growers braced for oversized returns.

Viridis Laboratories CEO Greg Michaud disputed the recall, standing by their testing in a statement. “We’ve been informed that some products tested by Viridis are being recalled by the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA). While we strongly disagree with this decision and firmly stand by our test results, we are fully cooperating with the MRA and working closely with our customers to minimize interruptions and retest affected products at no cost.”

[Read a complete list of impacted dispensaries and cultivators.]

On Nov. 17, 2021, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) issued a Notification of Marijuana Product Recall for all marijuana products tested by Viridis Laboratories and Viridis North between Aug. 10 and Nov. 16 except for inhalable marijuana concentrate products such as vape carts, live resin, distillate, and any other cannabis concentrate created through residual solvent extractions. An additional bulletin issued Friday, provides additional information to assist licensees with retesting products subject to the recall and to answer questions related to the recall. 

The MRA’s ongoing investigation found unreliable results from products tested by Viridis over the last three months, causing them to issue the recall.  

Founded by a former director of the Michigan State Police laboratories, Viridis has gained a large portion of the state’s cannabis testing work. 

While Viridis says they stand by their test results, business owners complain they are suffering the brunt of the recall.

“Some of the cultivators that we purchase flower from had their product tested at Viridis Labs and as a result we’ll have to pull it from our shelves and send it back to the producer or we’ll have to have it retested at a different lab,” a dispensary owner who asked to remain anonymous told Grown In Thursday. “If it comes back fine, we’ll be able to sell it. Our response at this time is to simply ask for them to take the product back and let them deal with it.”

The dispensary owner referred to a directive issued by the MRA on Nov. 17 that operators with recalled products in their inventory, can either destroy the product and provide proof of destruction, have the product retested or send the product back to the original licensee so they can destroy it or have the product retested as a larger batch.

Cannabis sales locations that sold products listed in the bulletin are directed to display the recall notice on their sales floor in a way that’s visible to all customers, for 30 days from the date of the notice.

Losses for one dispensary owner Grown In spoke with amounts to about five pounds of cannabis at a cost of $2,000 a pound. 

“Dispensary owners are seeing huge reductions in inventory since the recall and are scrambling to find more,” said New Genetics owner Andrew Rost, who cultivates pharmaceutical grade medical cannabis for the Michigan market but does not use Viridis’ testing services.

“It is concerning and a bit weird that someone who was previously a forensics officer is now the subject of a forensic investigation,” said Rost.

There are few standard guidelines on acceptable contaminants levels as well as few valid ways to test for contaminants, says Dr. Lev Spivak-Birndorf, chief science officer with PSI Labs, another prominent cannabis testing lab in Michigan. 

Dr. Spivak-Birndoft, says one standards-setting organization, AOAC International, recently created new standards, and in August, Michigan labs were required to update their microbiological testing methodology to meet specific standards laid out by AOAC.

“Given the timing, maybe there was some issue with Viridis adhering to those update guidelines, that led to the state questioning the validity of some of the results, Dr. Spivak-Birndorf speculated.

The testing side of the cannabis industry is unusual in the way it is run, he said. “There isn’t a whole lot of distance sometimes between the regulators who are kind of keeping an eye on labs and the people who are producing the product. It’s an industry that’s been known to be fraught with inaccurate data that’s favorable to the clients. So, I think it’s great work by the Marijuana Regulatory Agency to step up on enforcement and really make sure that labs are following procedures.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the recall was due to contamination from Bifenthrin and Chlorfenapyr and from a trimmer owned by Michigan Medical Marijuana, LLC. Those reports are incorrect. We regret the error and apologize for any confusion.

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.