It may seem that the states where marijuana is legal have already passed their toughest hurdle in getting state-sanctified legalization in the first place. Yet, these same states are now grappling with the less obvious issue of harmful pesticides and a federal government unwilling to regulate the safeguards of an industry it never permitted.
UPDATE: An Improved (Though Still Imperfect) System of Regulation
While there are still many aspects of state marijuana regulation that need to be calibrated, recent lab tests show that matters of pesticide contamination in California have improved. In California, 1 in 5 test samples of cannabis failed lab inspection. While pesticide contamination is an instant failure, it’s not the only factor considered when lab testing cannabis, so probably less than 20% of the samples contained traces of unauthorized pesticides
. Of course, when health is concerned, there should be no room for error. Currently, the EPA allows up to 1,000 parts per million of contamination by certain pesticides. By this definition, Oregon state lab testing
found 6 biopesticides contaminated with more restricted pesticides in June of 2018, prompting those products to be pulled from the market. Is it a perfect system? Not by a longshot. But consumers are in a better spot than they were a few years ago when it comes to pesticide regulation in legal states.
The Slippery Issue and How it Eludes the Legal States
The federal government was expected to be placed in an awkward opposition to the pioneering states where marijuana is legal. But studies and research have proven that the regulations of the legal states themselves are often too weak to adequately patrol the pesticide problem. Labs aren’t held to specific guidelines leading to variable standards and often untrustworthy lab results. Therefore, contaminated product has easily leaked into the markets of the few initial states where marijuana is legal.
Some states offer sanctioned guides to assist growers with procedural questions, but even these guides can vary in methods and approach. Since the federal government also authorizes testing of medicinal marijuana, a lack of research is also negatively impacting states where marijuana is legal. Without a standard, authorized means of testing, it’s anyone’s guess which pesticides a marijuana user can ingest, inhale, or apply topically. It’s this diversity of uses that continues to confound growers.
The states where marijuana is legal already have their hands full with the issue of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides creeping into the market but these aren’t the only contaminants of which users need to be wary. It’s recently been reported that substandard fertilizer company Scotts Miracle-Gro purchased nutrient giant General Hydroponics.
Pesticide Problems Plaguing States Where Marijuana is Legal
Oregon-based periodical, The Oregonian, paid an independent researcher to analyze 10 cannabis concentrates purchased from local dispensaries. Most samples tested positive for pesticide contamination involving a total of 14 chemicals. Nearly half of these chemicals have been identified on a federal level as displaying “possible or probable links to cancer.”
While Oregon struggles with these findings, it seems all of the states where marijuana is legal are being faced with similar revelations. Just a few months ago, growers in Colorado who were indicated of using dangerous pesticides on their cannabis crops voluntarily quarantined several thousand marijuana plants. Eventually, they destroyed a fraction of their crop.
Upon concluding investigations in both states, unauthorized pesticides were found on marijuana crops exceeding limits in place by law. The unique challenge faced by the states where marijuana is legal is the innocent ignorance involved in the crime due to lack of information. For example, one of the pesticides in question is commonly used on edible produce. It only becomes hazardous when smoked.
The Organic Solution
It’s doubtful that the federal government will be stepping in to assist the states where marijuana is legal with these regulations anytime soon. Yet it’s still crucial that those at the front lines of this new industry prove its efficacy in the face of prohibitionists.
The Organic Cannabis Association believes that states where marijuana is legal can beat this problem by pushing for organic products. However, one of the main challenges will be verifying that marijuana products deemed organic actually meet the contaminant-free standards without a proper regulatory system in place. The Organic Cannabis Association is kickstarting a grower certification program designed to determine whether an “organic” product meets true organic standards.
Several of the growers indicated in using hazardous pesticides were claiming that their products were organic. Since states where marijuana is legal still have no feasible system in place to properly refute these claims, the only hope for regulation is consumer outcry. As awareness of pesticide abuse increases, consumer pressure may be the force that pushes strict regulation at a state level, if not eventually a federal level.