Pesticide Contamination

In the last few years, there have been major changes regarding pesticide use and contaminated products in the cannabis industry. Due to the unique nature of cannabis consumption, there is indeed a public health risk posed by cannabis pesticide contaminated products in the marketplace. However, in some small amounts, certain pesticides ingested orally are not a huge public health risk.

For instance, the allowed amount of myclobutanil on apple crops is .02ppm. Apples are meant to be washed before consumption getting rid of most pesticide residue before consumption which brings the toxin levels within safe limits for your organs to process.

Unfortunately, many of the edible items in the cannabis industry are testing much higher than the allowed ppm on many other edible crops. In addition to these unsafe toxin levels in edibles, alarmingly high levels of toxic pesticides have been measured in concentrates meant for dabbing.  I have personally found concentrates that measured at 56% myclobutanil. This can be particularly dangerous because people are inhaling vapors from these concentrates and the myclobutanil is on a direct path straight to the lungs and bloodstream; without any other organs to filter the toxins out. Often, these products consist of more pesticide than THC or other cannabinoids.

While there isn’t a lot of data on safe levels of inhaled pesticides such as myclobutanil, studies have shown when myclobutanil is combusted, one of the chemical byproducts is hydrogen cyanide. This was one of the main reasons CDA (Colorado Department of Agriculture) and DEH (Denver Environmental Health) decided to start protecting the public from contaminated products. Because there are no long-term studies regarding inhaling combusted pesticides, these governing bodies fear an increased risk of cancer within the nations concentrate user population in 20 years.

As a result, the CDA began regulating what pesticides are allowed for use on cannabis crops. They have a list posted on their website that is being updated to add more pesticides available for use every week in addition to conducting random sampling in OPC’s across Colorado.

The MED (Marijuana Enforcement Division) has also made edits to their regulations that will likely be added soon requiring pesticide contaminate testing of flower and trim. In the beginning of cannabis regulation, use of pesticides such as myclobutanil, imidacloprid, spiromesifen, etoxazole, and avermectin was not uncommon. By the end of my regulatory career, the cause of a hot test result, wasn’t always that businesses were intentionally using banned pesticides, but rather other extraneous reasons why their plant or products tested hot.

On such example I came across was a certain grower was using a pesticide that wasn’t sanctioned by the owner of the facility. In many of these cases, growers were paid on yield. Therefore, growers would often do anything in their power to save their crops from things like spider mites or powdery mildew.

Another such example was when a new company moved into a previously owned grow. Where previous owners were using a particular cannabis pesticide that they weren’t supposed to, its residual effects could still contaminate the entire facility.

Myclobutanil for one, is a pesticide that is very hard to get rid of. I have had owners sell entire grows due to the fact they couldn’t eliminate the myclobutanil contamination. I have seen myclobutanil still present in a strain after 4 cloning and growing cycles, and have seen it show up on all kinds of equipment such as vents and fans. In these cases, the entire grow will test clean except for the inside of the vents and the plants. I always recommend a business conduct testing of a grow facility before buying it, you never know what its past is. If you have any questions feel free to reach out using the contact form below.

There are so many ways for contamination to occur, it’s good to be aware of what might be going on at all times and to regularly test your plants to catch any discrepancies before a recall order or disposal is required.

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