The Cannabis Industry's Dirty Secret: Pesticides

The Cannabis Industry's Dirty Secret: Pesticides

Anyone who has experience with plants knows that they can be susceptible to the elements and cannabis is no exception. Despite the best effort of cultivators, specific measures should be taken to protect their investments which may include the use of pest mitigation technology. For some, this means chemical pesticides that are sprayed on crops – a controversial practice that is beginning to face bans from state cannabis regulatory boards due to their potentially harmful effects on consumers and the environment.

Testing standards vary across the board; out of the 30 states that have legalized marijuana for medical and/or adult-use, only a handful require testing for the presence of pesticides or other pathogens.

The use of pesticides in the cultivation of cannabis is not new and includes the widespread use of both chemical fungicides and insecticides. According to The Cannabist, some of the most commonly used pesticides in marijuana include:

Myclobutanil (fungicide)
Considered “slightly hazardous” by the World Health Organization (“WHO”), a “Bad Actor” by the Pesticide Action Network (“PAN”) and its label warns of nervous system problems and toxic fumes.
Imidacloprid (insecticide)
Considered “moderately hazardous” by the WHO, and the National Pesticide Information Center says it’s moderately toxic if ingested or inhaled.
Abamectin (insecticide)
PAN lists it as a “Bad Actor,” and product labels say it’s “harmful if inhaled.”

The lack of oversight on the use of chemical pesticides has divided the legal cannabis market, with many producers taking advantage of consumer ignorance in favor of increased profit margins. There have been strides however within the marijuana community to create benchmarks for eco-friendly and sustainable practices.

Clean Green, founded in 2004, bills itself as the “closest thing you can get to organic in cannabis.” The group certifies licensed cannabis producers, processors, and retailers using natural and organically-based practices through rigorous requirements, which includes facility inspections.

Brett Johnson, a longtime cannabis consumer, was so shocked at the use of pesticide sprays after touring a grow operation that he decided to found a company that sells all-natural mold and pest mitigation products. Named SpectrumGro, the business focuses on air, water, and light – all that one should need to grow perfect pot.

“How can you take something and turn it into a medicine if it's already dirty?” Johnson said via email. “When I saw that kid in the hazmat suit spraying those plants, a lightbulb in my head clicked.”

Efforts to enforce strict testing standards is causing headaches for some cannabis business owners, particularly in California where the state saw $350 million worth of product destroyed last week due to the implementation of new regulations.

Retailers asked for more time to have products tested or sold, arguing that a backlog at testing facilities made their efforts impossible by the state-sanctioned deadline. The state Bureau of Cannabis Control maintained that the 6-month grace period given had been more than enough time to get with the program.

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David Kani

David Kani is a Newport Beach, California based business lawyer with a focus on cannabis companies, their investors, employees and cannabis-related litigation.
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