A regulatory void on pesticide use for legal marijuana

Although marijuana is legal, either medicinally or recreationally, in half the states, growers “don’t have a clear understanding of which pesticides and fungicides are safe to use – for workers or consumers,” says Rocky Mountain PBS I-News. The EPA, which regulates pesticides on food crops, has not tested the chemicals for use on marijuana because the plant is illegal under federal law. The resulting void “means a potential public-health hazard for the hundreds of thousands of people who smoke or consume legal marijuana, as well as those who work at the grow operations,” write Erica Berry and Katie Kuntz in a story produced in partnership with FERN.

Like all farmers, marijuana cultivators are confronted by pests and diseases that threaten their crop. The Colorado Department of Agriculture posted on its website in July a 21-page list of pesticides that might be safe to use on cannabis. “We have spent an exorbitant amount of time finding those products with a low enough toxicity to not pose a public health threat,” John Scott, the department’s pesticide program manager told I-News. He said more research is needed before anyone can guarantee that these products are safe or effective. A study published in the Journal of Toxicology in 2013 said more than 69 percent of the pesticides on a marijuana’s bud can be carried into a smoker’s lungs.

Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division plans to roll out a mandatory pesticide testing program but it has not given a timeline for when. “For now, the primary way Colorado regulators learn of pesticide misuse is through regular building-code inspections by the Denver Fire Department, and sporadic workplace inspections, which are slow to materialize in the rapidly expanding industry,” write Berry and Kuntz. “The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board, meanwhile, has inspected 381 of the state’s 709 producers and processors, issuing six violations for pesticide misuse.”