- Pesticides Used in Agricultural Markets Are Not Always Safe for Cannabis.
Eagle20 is an infamous pesticide in the world of cannabis cultivation. The active ingredient myclobutanil converts at the point of combustion, turning into hydrogen cyanide. That means that when a consumer smokes the affected cannabis, they inhale this toxic poison. In high doses, inhaling myclobutanil can be life-threatening.
According to Curtis Landrian of cultivation company Canndescent, “The industry didn’t set out to poison people. The reason that people were using Eagle20 for cannabis is that the vineyards were using it. It’s FDA approved to use on agricultural crops. Cannabis farmers said, ‘If ag can use it, then so can we.’ Then, we learned an important distinction; ‘You don’t light your grapes on fire.”
“The issue is that no one should expect a weed farmer to understand complex chemistry. The industry needs regulation so that the scientific experts weigh in with facts. We need academia to let us know that we are on the right track.”
- The Feds Aren’t Monitoring or Testing Pesticide Use in Cannabis or Its Affect on the Environment.
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determines permissible levels of pesticide residue on food crops. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are two government bodies that monitor and test for pesticide levels in food crops. Since cannabis is federally illegal, pesticide use on cannabis is also illegal and not regulated by the US government.
With no federal guidelines governing cannabis pesticides, the states have begun issuing their own decrees for permissible pesticide use. As a result, the rules vary from state to state where cannabis cultivation is legally sanctioned.
This variance includes testing requirements. In rainy Oregon for example, labs are not required to test for molds or microbiological on every sample as part of regulatory compliance. Anyone who has spent any time in Oregon in November knows that it rains almost non-stop.
According to testing expert Alex Hoggan, owner of cannabis testing lab ChemHistory in Milwaukie, Oregon, “humidity in the air is an issue relevant to this region and the regulations have adapted to this fact.” He continues, ”This is a good example of where the regulatory bodies have responded to the industry concerns over those of the consumer.“
ChemHistory subscribes to CannaCheck, a seal of approval to assure cannabis consumers in Oregon that products are tested at the highest standards. The CannaCheck seal indicates that cannabis has been screened for 59 of the most common pesticides mandated by Oregon regulations. “We’ve invested in top-of-the-line instruments to support LC-MS/MS Triple Quad instrumentation,” asserts Alex. “This means that our equipment is extremely sensitive and precise in testing parts per billion, detecting pesticides that would otherwise go undetected.”
“We’ve come a long way,” says Mr. Hoggan. “Just a few years ago, there was limited regulation in Oregon and no enforcement. Cultivators could shop samples at different labs for the passing results, or worse, bribe labs for desired test results including THC levels or pesticide levels. Labs have unique technical needs in the cannabis industry in terms of maintaining our equipment and calibration. We need uniform standards and certifications to keep a unilaterally consistent testing result.”
- Corrupt Labs If Unchecked, Can Endanger Critically-Ill Patients.
Corrupt behavior on behalf of testing labs is not limited to a few bad seeds in Oregon. This is an issue facing many communities. Regulators across the country are working diligently to create a more level playing field that instills faith in cannabis consumers, safeguards healthy working conditions, and protects those who are ill and seeking pharmaceutical grade medicine.
While participating in a panel at the 2017 Cannabis Compliance Summit, Reggie Gaudino, Ph.D. and V.P. of Science, Genetics, and Intellectual Property at the esteemed Steep Hill Labs was resolute on the importance of clean, contaminant-free medicine. “We have a filter when we are healthy. Immuno-compromised people don’t have that filter. Can cannabis carry contaminants? Yes. We have a responsibility to make sure that the cannabis is safe for all users, not just the [adult-use] consumer.”
Related : Lab testing
- Cannabis Cultivators Can Legally Use Pesticides Approved By Regulations.
In Oregon, cultivators are permitted to use any of the 394 products published on the state’s website. They are categorized as an insecticide, miticide, fungicide, or vertebrate repellent. Some of the approved products have active ingredients that sound like chemistry projects, while others have more recognizable ingredients such as rosemary oil or neem oil.
In California, regulators at the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) are currently preparing to announce regulations in compliance with Senate Bill 94 or MAUCRSA with guidelines generally coming into effect in January 2018 or later. The bill outlines regulations for adult use and medical cannabis respectively. Authorities have not issued a list of sanctioned pesticides as of yet.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will be authorized to fold in pesticide controls as a stipulation of cultivation licenses. Once the requirements for the licenses are finalized, the Department of Pesticide Regulations (DPR) will be better able to guide County Agricultural Commissioners regarding the necessary inspections to enforce the regulations. The DPR will also suggest guidelines for permissible pesticide residue levels on processed cannabis products.
The DPR has stated that the state of California will enforce restrictions on the use of the following:
- Items outlawed by the Groundwater Protection List.
- Products not used in edible agriculture considered to be food.
- Products labeled “DANGER” or “WARNING”.
As a basic rule of thumb, it is advisable to avoid pesticides where possible. Healthy plants that are nurtured have strong immune systems and can weather basic concerns. That said, cannabis cultivation is a very expensive enterprise that is not scalable. Cultivators will need some protection in the event that there is a threat to their crops. When considering pesticide use, one should ask, “Is it safe for agriculture, is it safe when ignited, and will it support sustainable farming methods?” The answer to all of these questions should be an undeniable “yes”.
California cultivators can reference a list of active ingredients issued by the DPR that are “exempt from residue tolerance requirements and either exempt from registration requirements or registered for a use broad enough to include use on cannabis.”
- Lab Testing May Not Be Enough; Know Your Growers.
It is worth noting that when regulators issue an approved list of pesticides, some sneaky cultivators may seek out products to use on cannabis that doesn’t show up on lab results. Jeffrey Raber is a Ph.D. scientist and founder of the Werc Shop, a service organization that scientifically supports contract manufacturing and laboratory testing, licensees. “With pesticides, it’s good for regulators to err on the side of caution,” states Raber. “This can be a cat and mouse game where regulators say ‘Don’t use this’ and it’s akin to the situation with performance-enhancing drugs where deviants will seek out what could be dangerous solutions to avoid detection.”
Consumers can further the industry and add an additional layer of protection by supporting companies with a strong ethos who are truly inspired by a love for this healing plant, not the promise of quick profits.
- Pesticide Drift Can Affect Neighboring Organic Farms.
Alicia Rose of HerbaBuena, a cannabis medicine producer and delivery service collective based in California wine country, is a strong advocate for “beyond organic,” sustainable cannabis cultivation methodologies. She explains that even conscious cultivators face difficulties in bringing a clean product to market due to pesticides already present in the environment.
“Everything HerbaBuena makes utilizes Demeter certified Biodynamic cannabis or holistically sun-grown cannabis farmed without the use of chemicals or pesticides of any kind.
When it comes to testing for contamination – such as bacteria or pesticide contamination – cannabis is the only industry being tested for contaminants to parts per billion. And while we all agree that both our cannabis and our food should be carefully scrutinized for purity, the challenge is that we live in a world where our air, soil, and water are already contaminated by the long-standing use of petrochemicals and other noxious chemical substances.
Even when a farm isn’t using these chemicals, agricultural drift and groundwater contamination are rampant and can contaminate organic crops. There are numerous cases where farmers using sustainable, organic and even Biodynamic practices are failing pesticide tests, not because they applied these chemicals, but because the chemical has drifted from neighboring farms.”
As an industry and as consumers, we need to advocate for best practices that protect the environment. By raising awareness and implementing conscious enforcement strategies, we have a chance to enjoy clean water and pesticide-free crops for generations to come.
- Dispensaries May Not Require Lab Testing of Product.
Depending on the location, dispensaries may not be required to mandate lab results before selling cannabis product. In Oregon for example, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) did move to require lab testing and sunsetted the sales of untested products back in March of 2017.
In California, few dispensaries currently request lab results. In the past year, a number of news outlets have published some very cautionary exposés indicating that California grown cannabis sold in Los Angeles exhibits a frightening level of pesticides. While media outlets do often profit from instilling fear in consumers, until we have more rigorous enforcement standards in place, we should all proceed with caution.
- Cannabis Extract May Have Concentrated Levels of Noxious Pesticide.
When manufacturers use extraction methodologies such as CO2 for example, if pesticides are present in the flower, the end result contains a concentrated and more lethal level of pesticide. If the extract is then used to make edible goods, those products also contain pesticide. And if the extract is inhaled via vaporizer or dabbing, the user could be in grave danger. In the very least, one might actually mistake the psychoactive effects of the pesticides for THC. To eliminate concern, the flower must be tested prior to extraction and the final extracted product must be tested again.
- There Are Alternatives to Toxic Chemicals: Organacides.
In their marketing materials, Big Time Gardens proclaims ”Why to use green cleaner in flower when you can use Big Time Exterminator, and it won’t damage your extracts?” Big Time specializes in natural enzymatic pesticides that dissolve the exoskeleton of pests. Their Exterminator product ia 25b exempt and is said to work on various species of mites, aphids, molds, and mildew and is non-toxic.
Austin Sherman, a sales rep with Big Time explains, “The Exterminator product references a type of biomimicry. Pests molt their exoskeleton and then secrete an enzyme to release the now-excess baggage. Big Time utilizes this enzyme known as chitinase for their organacide formula.”
Austin, who once drank Exterminator to prove it’s safe, says the product is okay for plants, people, and pets. The only downside he says “repetitive contact with bare skin will dry your skin out. Big Time Exterminator should be administered by applicators wearing proper protective equipment including long sleeves, pants, gloves, and safety glasses.” Organacides such at this can be used in conjunction with other natural solutions.
- The Best Approach Is An Integrated Pest Management System.
Lady Bugs, ground cover, probiotic compost teas, and earthworms, are all part of what can be a symbiotic ecosystem for cannabis gardens that may improve plant health and prevent pests from taking over. Cultivators can keep an eye on plants by turning over leaves and examining their plants for any signs of pests before they become a problem. With care and attention, this approach can work for larger industrial scale operations as well.
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