Washington: Exploding Bottles of Marijuana Soda Removed From Shops
By Steve Elliott
Legal Pomegranate marijuana-infused soda has more bang for the buck than its manufacturers and distributors realized. The drink has been removed from three Washington marijuana stores after bottles started exploding on the shelves.
Top Shelf Cannabis in Bellingham took delivery of 330 bottles of the soda on September 28; employees said they were excited to promote it to their customers, reports Matt Markovich at KOMO News. They sold 10 bottles of the soda, made by Mirth Provisions of Longview, on the first day.
But when employees opened up the following day, they found broken bottles and shards of glass throughout the store. During the night, the bottles had begun to explode. The employees said they didn't realize just how dangerous was the situation until they saw and heard bottles randomly blow up.
"It sounded like a shotgun going off," said Top Shelf Cannabis manager Zach Henifin. "You can actually feel it; it was that explosive."
Henifin donned a face shield and protective garb and placed cartons of the unexploded soda in a dumpster-sized steel box outside the store. The "pot pop" continued to explode, inside the steel container, for the next 10 days.
"It's almost like a bomb box because they randomly go off during the day," Henifin said.
Fortunately, nobody was injured by the shrapnel from exploding bottles, but the store isn't sure if the 10 customers who bought the soda had their bottles explode on them.
Top Shelf wasn't the only shop reporting the exploding bottles, according to Adam Stites, founder of Mirth Provisions. Main Street Marijuana and New Vansterdam in Vancouver also reported problems with the bottles.
"It was simply the fact that his batch had a higher yeast concentration, and one of the byproducts of yeast is excess carbon dioxide," Stites said.
According to Stites, Mirth Provisions tested the carbonated drink to be 14 PSI (pounds per square inch), with bottles designed to handle 42 PSI. "The yeast was just building up the pressure in the bottles over a seven to 10-day period," Stites said.
He said Mirth plans to offer a full refund to the three shops, but he's having a dispute with Top Shelf over who is responsible for picking up and destroying the faulty soda.
Legalization measure I-502, which is becoming notorious for being badly written, gives the Washington State Liquor Control Board strict authority over marijuana products in the state, including infused products like sparkling pomegranate soda.
According to the law, Top Shelf had to quarantine any marijuana product for 72 hours to allow LCB officers an opportunity to inspect the products for compliance. Incredibly, the law doesn't give any wiggle room allowing Top Shelf to destroy a potentially dangerous product that could cause bodily harm.
"Everything has to have 100 percent traceability, and if things are blowing up and they are no longer good, are they still going to be traced?" a frustrated Henifin asked. "What happens to us at that point?"
Henefin said an LCB enforcement officer told him state rules say the product has to be picked up by the manufacturer to be destroyed -- but Longview is three-and-a-half hours from Bellingham, and meanwhile the bottles were blowing up.
"It's basically been exploding for a week and a half all over the store," said Henefin, who said he thought the steel box was the safest spot under the circumstances.
Nine days after Top Shelf told him of the exploding bottles, Stites sent a driver to pick up the product. Henefin said the driver had loaded only a few bottles before they started to explode in his van.
He said the driver at that point abandoned the rest of the bottles, leaving Henefin and his staff stuck with hundreds of potentially exploding bottles and wondering what to do next.
Stites said his company will pick up the remaining bottles later this week. By Tuesday, most of the bottles had already exploded inside the steel dumpster.
"Sometimes when you're creating new products in a new marketplace there's a little bit of a learning curve and that's what we've experienced," Stites said.