We’ve been hearing for months about the amounts of unapproved pesticides found on marijuana plants in Colorado, but the story isn’t quite what you think. All plants grown for human consumption have some sort of pesticide on them. Yes, there are several that are bad for you, like DDT and Agent Orange (both of which haven’t been used in decades). The issue that’s been blowing up around marijuana in Colorado is actually all about the label.
What pesticides are acceptable for marijuana?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in charge of deciding what pesticide can be used on what crop. After they’ve made that decision they print it on the pesticide label. Chemicals that are acceptable for corn, will say corn on the label of the bottle. For beans, the label must say beans, and so on. The problem is that marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, which means the word “marijuana” can’t be printed on any pesticide label anywhere. When a cannabis grow house treats their crop with any pesticide they’re technically breaking EPA and CDA (Colorado Department of Agriculture) laws, even if that pesticide isn’t harmful.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture recently came to a compromise. Hops, which are used to produce beer among other things, are close enough to the anatomy of the marijuana plants. They agreed that pesticides approved for use on hops can be used on marijuana. So, if the label says “hops,” it’s okay for marijuana. The CDA is still deciding what to do about pesticides in Colorado.
Why does marijuana need pesticides? Isn’t a weed?
Marijuana is a “weed,” but that doesn’t make it immune from insects and mold. Most marijuana companies try to be as organic as possible, but pesticides are still necessary. Marijuana is grown inside in most cases across Colorado, specifically during winter months. When growing marijuana on a low-scale level, it’s probably okay to go without treating the plants. Once you get cannabis plants in the hundreds, they need to be treated with pesticides. Mold and mildew accumulate quickly depending on airflow, plant pruning, and proximity to light.
The effect of breathing in mold and mildew coming off of hundreds of plants is extremely bad for employees. In some cases, bud trimmers have quit their jobs because of chronic bronchitis. This is one reason pesticides are necessary, because employee health is important in any business. Pesticides prevent the build up of mold and mildew, and allow for a healthier harvest of marijuana, without putting employees in hazardous conditions.
How is it regulated?
The CDA is already involved with marijuana pesticide regulations, but the marijuana industry has formed their own Pesticide Working Group (PWG). The PWG meets to discuss what chemicals are being used, and how to be as natural and organic as possible. Some of the pesticides currently being used are mainly made of Baking Soda. Baking Soda isn’t harmful to consume whatsoever.
Every batch of harvested marijuana must be tested for levels of THC, CBD, and pesticides. Plants are treated with pesticides during certain stages of growth. When companies treat the crop too late in a stage, the levels can become too high for sale. This comes down to growing practices, not pesticides.
Why are dispensaries purging plants seized by the CDA?
Marijuana companies are not throwing away their crop because it’s bad. They’re throwing it away because, after sitting in a lab for so long under scrutiny of the CDA, the plants have lost potency. For some companies, it’s more feasible to get rid of the crop and start with a new batch.
The use of marijuana pesticides has been a huge obstacle for the cannabis industry, but agriculture as a whole had the same issue just a few decades ago. Pesticides are a necessary part of growing any type of crop. Yes, there are organic practices, but that comes at the cost of employee and consumer health. Breathing, and smoking, mold and mildew are much worse for your health than approved pesticides. When it comes to marijuana and pesticides, it’s all semantics.
Northern Lights Cannabis Co. is a medical and recreational dispensary in Denver. We offer daily specials for medical marijuana patients, and with our loyalty program returning recreational customers can get additional discounts. Stop in, and see us at 2045 Sheridan Boulevard in Edgewater, Colorado. We’re open until 10pm Sunday through Thursday, and midnight on Friday and Saturday.