PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - The owner of two medical marijuana cultivation sites and four of the Maine's eight dispensaries are in hot water with the Department of Health and Human Services.
In early March, DHHS took more than 20 calls from Wellness Connection employees who complained about numerous health and safety violations, including the illegal use of pesticides.
"First off, there's been no research to demonstrate the impact of pesticide use in the cultivation of marijuana, because it's an illegal substance, says DHHS's Kenneth Albert.
Because of that, he says pesticides of any kind are banned from use in medical marijuana cultivation in Maine. But investigators say they discovered pesticides and fungicides and employees admitted to using them on the plants.
DHHS noted 19 violations in all, including lax security measures and the illegal sale of a potent marijuana resin called "kief" at the dispensaries.
The state considered suspending Wellness Connection's operating license, but Albert said that would have penalized the non-profit corporation's 2400 patients who depend on the plant to feel better.
"We didn't want to cut off access to medical patients who need it, but at the same time we needed to make a clear statement to the dispensaries," said Albert.
The head of Maine's Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association says the violations are a cautionary tale about large scale warehouse growing operations.
"Thats the problem when they one entity holds 4 of the 8 licenses. They become too big to fail if there's a problem," said Hillary Lister.
To keep the doors open, Wellness Connection signed a Consent Agreement in which they agreed to stop using pesticides and notify all their patients of the pesticides they may have consumed when using the plant.
Going forward Wellness Connection will have to supply weekly reports to the state to demonstrate it's compliance with that consent agreement.
Calls to Wellness Connection were not returned.