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Healthy Pharms Sales Suspended, Store Closed After Pesticides Found in Marijuana

Hemp products on display at The Hempest in Cambridge.
Hemp products on display at The Hempest in Cambridge. By Derek G. Xiao
By Franklin R. Civantos, Crimson Staff Writer

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health suspended marijuana sales at Healthy Pharms Inc., a registered nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary with a location in Harvard Square, after a pesticide was discovered in a store sample in February.

The department suspended sales on Feb. 23. Three days later, department officials released a statement attributing the suspension to “a failed lab test report that indicated the presence of the pesticide bifenthrin in a sample batch of product.”

Healthy Pharms has closed both its Harvard Square and Georgetown locations until further notice, according to a statement posted on its website.

Bifenthrin is a man-made insecticide farmers sometimes use to weed out fire ants and other crop-killing insects. Given its high toxicity to insects—but not to humans—many companies use bifenthrin in food products.

No marijuana was directly sprayed with the pesticide, according to Healthy Pharms's statement. Rather, employees sprayed a solution containing bifenthrin on an area without plants.

“This inadvertently contaminated a sprayer that we only use to sanitize hard surfaces between batches of plants,” the statement reads. “When we re-planted a flower room, the harvest of cannabis from that room was tainted.”

Complying with state regulations, the company self-reported the discovery to the Department of Public Health, according to the statement. Though Healthy Pharms found traces of this pesticide in certain samples, none of the affected batches of medical marijuana were packaged or distributed to consumers, the statement reads.

Healthy Pharms is a newcomer to Harvard Square. The firm, based in Georgetown, Mass, was the first of “five or six” medical marijuana dispensaries permitted to set up shop under modified zoning regulations set by the Cambridge City Council in Feb. 2017. Healthy Pharms opened for business at its 98 Winthrop St. location. on Dec. 30.

A Healthy Pharms spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

The suspension comes a few months after some Cambridge residents and store owners alleged Healthy Pharms would likely have a negative affect on Harvard Square. One local businessman, Crimson Galeria owner Raj K. Dhanda, even filed a lawsuit in Sept. 2017 seeking to block the dispensary from opening its Cambridge location. His lawsuit is still ongoing.

Dhanda declined to comment directly on the suspension of Healthy Pharms’s license Saturday. But he said the event has not affected his lawsuit.

“There is nothing in our situation that has changed,” he said.

—Franklin R. Civantos can be reached at

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