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Mass. regulators fine Revolutionary Clinics $120,000 for selling tainted marijuana vapes

A Fitchburg marijuana company, Revolutionary Clinics, will pay Massachusetts $120,000 to settle charges it sold vaporizers containing excessive levels of ethanol to six other dispensaries, several of which then sold dozens of the tainted devices to consumers.

The Cannabis Control Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve the fine and impose a four-month probation for the company over various violations related to the wholesale vape transactions, which occurred from December 2018 to early 2019.

Revolutionary Clinics, which operates medical dispensaries in Cambridge and Somerville in addition to a cultivation and processing facility in Fitchburg, said the problem occurred when a former employee failed to read the full set of results from required laboratory tests on the affected vapes. (The worker was subsequently fired, and the lab involved now includes failing results on the first page of its reports, according to a commission report on the investigation.)

While ethanol is sometimes used to extract concentrate from marijuana flowers for use in vapes, commission officials said the chemical in this case was left over from a solution Revolutionary Clinics used to clean its processing equipment.

Ethanol can cause lung irritation and damage when inhaled in significant quantities. But the company said in a statement that an outside scientist it hired determined the levels of ethanol present in the vapes, while above state limits, posed no health risk to patients or consumers of recreational marijuana. The company also said it had extensively revised its procedures to prevent similar problems in the future.

“Revolutionary Clinics is committed to providing our patients with safe and high-quality medical marijuana,” the company said. “Patient and consumer safety were not compromised during this time, and we accepted full responsibility for our shortcomings.”

Andrew Carter, the commission’s associate enforcement counsel, said Thursday that the vape cartridges at issue contained 5,500 to 9,000 parts per million of ethanol, while the state limit is 5,000 parts per million.

Revolutionary Clinics first shipped the vapes to a wholesale customer in December 2018, but the contamination was detected by the cannabis commission in March 2019. That’s when the flunking lab results were uploaded to the state’s then-new “seed-to-sale” software system, which tracks each regulated cannabis product and which plants were used in its manufacture.

According to the commission report, Revolutionary Clinics at first said the vapes had been sold to just two other licensed cannabis operators, Pharmacannis and Patriot Care. In reality, the devices had also been shipped to Hope Heal Health, Good Chemistry, Triple M, and Mass Wellspring — a fact the company failed to disclose until a meeting with investigators in September.

Ultimately, the other retailers were not formally notified of the problem until mid-October, when the commission asked Revolutionary Clinics to do so.

A spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions about why the commission did not make such notifications itself or attempt to recover the tainted products upon learning of the problem in March. However, the investigative report suggests the transition to the new tracking system in 2019 created confusion about which batches of products were affected.

At the meeting Thursday, Commissioner Britte McBride criticized Revolutionary Clinics for violating its “affirmative duty” to notify the commission and other licensees of the failing test results, saying “there should have been action taken.”