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What, Us Worry? 

Are we concerned enough about pesticides in our MMJ products?

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Another marijuana recall for pesticides adds new questions for some. Is my dispensary using pesticides? Should the state order testing? Would unnecessary testing raise prices? Is the Arizona MMJ industry already doing the right things? Are some pesticides needed?

On March 23 Colorado issued the 14th marijuana recall in five weeks. The recalls came after an investigation reported by The Denver Post on Sept. 7. The Post had commissioned independent tests on marijuana concentrates. The test were done as follow-up to see if dispensaries had complied with the new state guidelines put in place March 2015, six months prior.

The tests showed high levels of banned pesticides and led to the Denver Department of Environmental Health investigation and recalls. According to the Post’s March 28 article, Myclobutanil and Etoxazole are the two pesticides found in the latest recall. They are two of the five most common state-banned marijuana pesticides found in the Colorado recalls.  Abamectin and the avermectin chemical family, Etoxazole and Spiromesifen are the others. Myclobutanil is a Fungicide and the active ingredient in Eagle 20. Myclobutanil is used on many crops, like grapes. A danger in using it on marijuana crops is that when heated it may release toxic fumes. The EPA does not allow Myclobutanil on tobacco crops. The Colorado Department of Agriculture has information on the pesticides they currently allow to be used on marijuana.

An increase in demand leads to pressure to increase production. All businesses want to increase profits and minimize costs. The marijuana industry is no exception.  

In 2012, Colorado state regulators recognized that the marijuana industry was using potentially dangerous pesticides on their crops. Former Colorado agriculture commissioner John Salazar talked about the trouble he had trying to devise an effective pesticide regulation. The marijuana industry “was the biggest obstacle we had,” he told the Cannabist in October 2015 article.

“We were caught between a rock and a hard spot,” Salazar said. “Anything we wanted to allow simply was not enough for that industry.” Pesticides are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. With marijuana still federally illegal the EPA offers little support.

“We tried to work with the EPA, to figure out what to do, but we got nothing,” Salazar told the Cannabist. 

“The EPA has not authorized the use of any pesticide specifically on marijuana,” epa.gov states. “EPA has yet to receive any applications for pesticide use on marijuana and, therefore, we have not evaluated the safety of any pesticide on marijuana.”

With marijuana being federally illegal there appears to be no hurry for pesticides manufacturers to design products for marijuana.

We need more testing of marijuana. But how much money and resources, if any, should be spent testing for pesticides? And who controls the tests? The problem reached Colorado’s state capital. Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order on November 12 deeming “all marijuana contaminated by an Off-Label Pesticide a risk to public health.”

If recreational marijuana becomes legal there will be a huge increase in demand. Hopefully Arizona and the marijuana industry as a whole will learn from these recalls.

The dispensaries I talked with took the dangers of pesticides seriously. Nikki Lea, Director of Operations with Total Accountability Patient Care, was quick to share her knowledge.

“I have a long list of pesticides that I actually refuse to purchase,” Lea said. “There are a lot of organic grow supplements that are non-harmful, but honestly my best products are straight organic.”

My advice about this and all questions is always to talk with the employees of your dispensaries. The budtenders have been helpful. I have yet to experience a dispensary that wouldn’t answer my questions and did not want to educate.

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