Cannabis is safe — -the pesticides it may be coated with? Not so much. A recent report from Steep Hill Labs found that “about 84 percent of medical cannabis samples tested by the lab over a 30-day period tested positive for pesticide residues.” This is an alarming find for many ganja enthusiasts, namely organic food loyalists who pride themselves on the consumption and support of organic & sustainable farms and suppliers.
When it comes to cannabis, the use of pesticides to control a variety of bugs, mold and mildew isn’t a new phenomenon, but the massive increase of consumers within the United States is.
While there isn’t a wealth of data regarding the side effects of pesticide exposure via cannabis, decades of agricultural research has provided a sound resource. The data suggests that pesticide residue can enter the blood stream regardless of how cannabis is consumed but it’s important to note that:
Concentrated cannabis contains concentrated levels of pesticides and smoking pesticide-laced marijuana carries heavy risks for consumers.
To the latter point, an article by Ganjapreneur explains that “Myclobutinal is listed as a ‘general use pesticide’ and is typically sprayed on grapes, strawberries and almonds, however when the chemical is heated it converts into Hydrogen Cyanide — a Schedule 3 substance under the Chemical Weapons Convention.” Myclobutinal is just one of many chemicals used on the marijuana plant. Happily, canna-scientists are on the case. Stringent testing has resulted in recalls-a plenty.
In fact, Oregon just issued a second health alert for marijuana contaminated with pesticides or pesticide ingredients in November of 2016. Check Extract’s unsettling fact list on tainted marijuana for more details.
As the research suggests, most, but not all, pot farmers use pesticides and only a portion of those use chemicals outlawed by federal agencies. While we celebrate the growing acceptance of cannabis in our society, increased supply + increased demand = mass farming and a whole host of issues that open the door to unbridled pesticide use.
A producer that aims to stay in business can’t afford to lose whole harvests to over-eating pests nor have their customers falling from mold exposure. Without a proper regulating body on the scene, farmers are often left to their own devices, and we, the consumer, to their sense of ethics regarding pesticide use.
Unlike the federal standards on agriculture put forth by the USDA, marijuana — a bona fide agricultural crop — is a lot tougher to safeguard. Even under the greenest practices, the organic label cannot legally be applied to cannabis because of its illegal federal status. “This leaves state and local governments to try and regulate pesticide use independently, leading to a potentially dangerous lack of consistency in the chemicals used in marijuana growing,” says Karing Kind, organic producers from Boulder, CO.
On the bright side, cannabis professionals of all kinds are working tirelessly to create programs that aim to regulate the use of pesticides and abolish the use of illegal chemicals. Additionally, emerging screening methods have been proven to detect a vast array of pesticides & contaminants in marijuana which agencies can implement to establish improved industry standards.
Clean Green Certified and Certified Kind are leading authorizing bodies — kind of like ganja’s own unofficial USDA. Their standards are rigorous, but nonobligatory (which means a grower can opt to pay for certification under the firm’s unique set of specifications — or opt out). Producers such as True Living Organics, Denver Bud Company, and Honest Marijuana proudly promote pesticide-free products and/or practices. Auntie Delores & Raw Collective are mainstays in the organic edibles arena.
The topic of pesticide use in cannabis shows that the struggle for access to safe medical and recreation cannabis takes place on every level, from the courthouse to the cellular. In the absence of state-mandated regulation, the onus falls upon we, the consumers.
It is our right to make informed decisions about what we choose to put in or on our bodies. If it’s pesticide-free ganja you seek, research your local dispensaries. Ask your bud tender for organic/veganic products, if they’ve been screened, and by whom. Support suppliers with healthy & sustainable practices. The benefits are manyfold: Consuming cleaner products protects your physical health, encourages safer growing practices and raises the quality of industry standards — and it protects Mother Earth, too.