The first known lawsuit highlighting this issue is underway in Colorado, and attracting a great deal of media attention as safety and compliance become focal points for the cannabis industry looking ahead. The Denver Department of Environmental Health was already forced to issue recalls for multiple crops of cannabis in September after learning of unauthorized pesticide contamination through laboratory testing.
Guidelines on pesticide use are about as unclear as most other regulatory nuances of the cannabis industry, prompting “Wild West” comparisons for cultivators. Federal narcotics scheduling does not allow for research on the cannabis plant, including approvals of new pesticides by the Environmental Protection Agency. As a result, many growers resort to mismatched, impotent, or homemade chemicals to treat their cannabis plants.
Though the Colorado Department of Agriculture released a 21-page report over the summer, documenting which mainstream pesticides might be acceptable to use in cannabis production, clearly a list of “suggestions” is not enough. The state is slowly inspecting its 1000 retail sites and issuing violations as needed.
The state of Washington also developed a list of state-allowed pesticides, but that doesn’t mean they’re EPA or Agg Department-approved. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has been inspecting and issuing its own violations to growers using unapproved chemicals or processes.
In a consumer poll by High There!, nearly 53 percent of the app’s users said the most important issue for the cannabis industry right now is the use of pesticides and fungicides. Lawsuits will likely continue to mount as long as tainted plant material continues to make its way into finished consumer products on dispensary shelves.
The use of unapproved pesticides and fungicides leads to a few problems.
First, cultivators who choose to forego pesticides completely face crop loss and damage from spider mites, molds, and bacteria, rendering crops useless or even dangerous.
Second, some substances can pass through the plant and end up in the finished product, where they are then taken into the body when the flower is smoked or ingested. While some are known to be dangerous to human health, the health effects of many of these pesticides are completely unknown, especially in terms of individuals with cancer or other autoimmune diseases who may be particularly sensitive. The effects of pesticides on the consumer, and best practices for safety, cannot be researched without proper regulation.
Third, the federal block on new pesticide product approvals sets back cannabis industry entrepreneurs who have the ability to bring such products to market. The efficacy and safety of pesticides and fungicides for the cannabis plant will only improve in a competitive, regulated market.
As cannabis growers and retailers continue to be prosecuted for pesticide use, the need grows rapidly for a pesticide that is safe and effective. We spoke with Matthew Mills, COO for Med-X, Inc. about their involvement in the industry with their recently approved Nature-Cide All-Purpose insecticide, by the Department of Agriculture in Colorado for use in cannabis cultivation.
Mills states that “the Nature-Cide All-Purpose insecticide came into this status after rigorous cultivation testing in their laboratory. Since the testing and registration with EPA state offices, the Nature-Cide line has also been embraced by hospitality, pest control and all types of agricultural cultivation settings.”