Last spring, Illinois dispensary workers and consumers noticed there was mold in a popular brand of pre-rolled marijuana joints. State regulators determined that numerous batches were potentially contaminated. The Chicago Sun Times “watchdog” section broke the story on December 10, 2021.
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) is the licensing agency for Illinois marijuana dispensaries and their employees. The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (Act) provides for the controlled legalization of adult-use cannabis in Illinois. Pursuant to the Act, IDFPR is charged with implementing and administrating multiple aspects of the program, including the licensing and oversight of dispensing organizations, dispensary agents, and agent education providers.
Despite its statutorily mandated oversight responsibilities, IDFPR never told the public about the mold infestation. Instead, IDFPR opted to send an email to dispensary operators which discretely instructed them to quarantine a cannabis flower product made by a certain producer. Dispensaries were left with a quagmire of compliance and liability issues which were compounded by IDFPR’s inaction and lack of guidance.
Regarding its decision to not disclose the cannabis contamination, IDFPR issued a limited statement attempting to assure the public that it takes allegations regarding products seriously and investigates complaints relating to cannabis products. IDFPR’s limited response indicates that it isn’t too concerned about the contamination and is more than willing to pass on its oversight responsibilities to applicable licensees.
This instance of mold contamination creates many questions not just for consumers and their safety, but for dispensary licensees and their employees. If IDFPR is not willing to fulfill its obligation to inform the public about quality control breaches, then the responsibility inevitably falls upon the licensees. This means a whole new world of internal compliance measures for dispensaries including internal quality controls and product quarantine procedures.
Perhaps the most important measure dispensaries must take is updated customer record-keeping informing buyers of future product issues and recalls. However, the Act as written doesn’t make customer tracing easy. In fact, the Act prohibits dispensaries from requiring purchasers (without consent) to provide personal information other than government-issued identification to determine the purchaser’s age. Recall policies should be tailored to reach purchasers likely to have obtained cannabis at the dispensary and to directly reach purchasers who have consented to providing their information to the dispensary.
Failing to consult an attorney experienced in IDFPR matters before issuing such a recall could be dire for dispensaries, employees, and customers. Dispensaries and their associated licensees should also consult attorneys to aid in formulating internal compliance measures to safeguard from formal discipline when similar situations arise. Williams & Nickl has represented thousands of licensed professionals and their licensed business entities who face issues with IDFPR. If you find yourself in such a situation, Williams & Nickl can provide the help you need.