The Question of Growing Cannabis & Pesticide Use
By: Larissa Gomes
Cannabis is an agricultural product, we grow it just as we would any other plant. It is therefore susceptible to pests and disease such as mites of fungus. The problem is famers are not allowed to use specifically labeled pesticides to protect their crops because it is still a federally illegal substance and there are discrepancies between state and federal drug laws. The result? A dangerously high use of pesticide chemicals that were intended for other uses being sprayed on cannabis plants. This should make us incredibly weary. We could be ingesting toxic pesticides along with our edibles and our smokable products.
The Environmental Protection Agency is tasked with registering the labels that are used to determine where and how pesticide products can be used in order to establish which ones pose the lowest health risks. These are considered legal contracts and so all pesticides must be approved at the federal level. Cannabis, however, has no pesticide label as it has a schedule 1 drug status, so it effectively remains in an indeterminate state when it comes to what could be effective labels.
An advisory group called the Cannabis Safety Institute published a white paper that concluded that cannabis products (mostly edibles, concentrates and candies) contained higher ratios of pesticides than what is normally allowed. The ratio of pesticides versus normal use is outrageous. For instance, carbaryl is a chemical used on fruits and vegetables and its tolerance on blueberries is 3 parts per million, a sample of a cannabis concentrate tested showed it was 415 parts per million. Similarly, myclobutanil (when burned turns into hydrogen cyanide or prussic acid) used as a fungicide was found in up to 392 parts per million in concentrates when the level allowed in our food is 0.1 to 10 parts per million. Worse, some of the residue found is not even allowed on food crops at all.
The health risks this issue of misuse causes are manifold and there are no regulatory practices for cannabis in California. The good news is that in 2018, the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act will go into place and provide a state licensing system that needs the approval of the local government. It will cover everything from cultivation, manufacture, retail, distribution and most importantly medical testing of cannabis.
Clean Green Certified is a certification program that uses organic and sustainable standards. They promote starting off with clean growing practices and using alternative pesticides. Each operator or grower must enter a yearly field test that includes the soil, mold and dust, pesticides and nutrients. Water conservation must also be observed in order to be certified. Green Soldiers Healers and Restore Collective are in California and are the only Clean Green businesses in this sate to date. They help cancer patients in pain with the use of a pure form of cannabis that has been carefully screened for pesticides.
We are going to have to become aware of these certification labels and make sure we only buy cannabis that has been thoroughly tested for pesticide toxicology and has used sustainable methods.