The Problem With Pesticides in the Pot Industry

By May Wilkerson 07/08/15

Your weed might not be as non-toxic as you think.

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The marijuana business is not as “green” as you might hope. Many commercial marijuana growers spray their crops with chemicals to protect them from bugs and mold, NPR reports. Due to lack of government oversight, however, some of these chemicals may be dangerous.

Pest control ensures a good “yield,” which is essential for new marijuana businesses attempting to stay afloat in a burgeoning, competitive industry.

"We have people who that's their only job is to look for any infections or anything that could cause potential damage to the crop," said Nick Dice, who owns a medical marijuana dispensary, Medical MJ Supply, in Fort Collins, Colo. He estimates his grow room at being worth up to $180,000 and said the company has taken a “hard line” on cleanliness to keep the plants healthy. In the past, this involved routinely spraying crops with “mild chemicals” to kill bugs and eliminate mold.

In general, the federal government determines which pesticides are safe for farmers to use. But since marijuana remains illegal at a federal level, pot growers receive little oversight, according to Colorado State University entomologist, Whitney Cranshaw.

"In the absence of any direction, the subject of pesticide use on the crop has just devolved to just whatever people think is working or they think is appropriate," he said. "Sometimes they've used some things that are inappropriate, sometimes unsafe.”

These unregulated chemicals could ultimately be harmful to the product, as well as the consumer, according to Brett Eaton, from Denver-based consulting group, American Cannabis Company. "Anybody can get their hands on harmful chemicals, and they can just spray away all the way up until the last day of harvest," he said.

Earlier this year, Denver officials confiscated thousands of pot plants that were deemed harmful. With rising safety concerns, state agriculture officials recently released a list of pesticides considered “appropriate” for use on marijuana crops. But Colorado law does not require marijuana growers to test their products for traces of chemicals before selling them.

"Other agricultural industries already have policy in place for the safe use of spraying certain pesticides and fungicides,” said Eaton. "This being a new industry, it hasn't been addressed yet."

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.