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Class action lawsuit filed against N.B. marijuana producer over pesticides

Lawsuit filed against N.B. marijuana producer

MONCTON, N.B. — Medical marijuana users have filed a class-action lawsuit against a New Brunswick producer after unapproved pesticides were found in its products.

Wagners Law filed a statement of claim with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court against Moncton-based Organigram Inc. and its parent company, Organigram Holdings Inc.

The Halifax-based law firm alleges roughly 2,000 people purchased cannabis products containing myclobutanil and bifenazate from the company last year.

It said both chemicals are considered toxic and do not have federal authorization for use on medical cannabis — and users are worried about the health effects.

Organigram issued a voluntary recall of five lots of product in December and 69 lots in January before the company's organic certification was suspended.

The Health Canada recall said dried marijuana and cannabis oil tested positive for low levels of myclobutanil and bifenazate.

Organigram did not return a request for comment Monday.

But the company said in a Feb. 27 press release that its internal investigation into the pesticides was inconclusive, with no evidence "leading to the source of the contamination discovered."

"We built Organigram with a goal of becoming one of the world’s best organic medical marijuana growers and suppliers. We know we have disappointed you and, quite frankly, we have deeply disappointed ourselves," the company said in a Feb. 28 press release.

The company said although its investigation was inconclusive, it has implemented new measures to prevent future issues, including testing every product lot for pesticides before being sold.

The statement of claim alleges Organigram breached its contract with customers to provide a certified organic product free from unauthorized pesticides. It also alleges the company was negligent in the design, development, testing, manufacturing, distribution, sale and marketing of its products.

Lawyer Ray Wagner said Organigram originally offered a refund to customers, but later reversed its position and offered credit for future purchases. The company has estimated the value of credits to be more than $2 million.

Wagner said receiving credits for the products is not enough, especially since there are customers who do not intend to purchase Organigram products again.

"We want the return of the funds that people paid for the product," said Wagner in an interview Monday. "The product was not as it was billed. It was billed as an organic product... and we want our money refunded."

Wagner said the proposed representative plaintiff — writer Dawn Rae Downton — consumed the cannabis for eight months for her inflammatory arthritis before learning she was being exposed to unapproved pesticides.

She suffered health problems including nausea and vomiting — symptoms that improved one month after she stopped using the product, according to the lawsuit.

Health Canada said there are 13 approved pest control products for use on marijuana. It said last month it was conducting random testing of cannabis products produced by licensed producers in response to recent recalls.

Last year, Mettrum Health Corp. recalled medical cannabis products that were exposed to a foliar plant spray.

The proposed class-action against Organigram, filed Friday, has not yet been certified.

Organigram announced earlier this month that Greg Engel would be taking over the role of CEO on March 13. Current CEO Denis Arsenault will move up to a newly created executive chairman position.

— By Aly Thomson in Halifax.

The Canadian Press