Oregon Pot Industry Still Struggling With Pesticide Contamination

By Keri Blakinger 06/21/17

Earlier this year, the state issued its first weed recall after testing found traces of pesticides in some samples of greenery.

Female scientist in a hemp field checking plants and flowers

Even with some of the toughest testing laws in the land, Oregon is still plagued by pesticide-polluted pot.

To come to that hazy realization, one enterprising newsroom purchased a “small” sample of the green stuff to have tested. The Oregonian’s independent testing showed that seven of the 10 marijuana products examined passed state standards, but three failed. On a retest, only one failed. 

Although it was less than a year ago that the state implemented a testing system so rigorous it sparked sizable industry backlash, the new results show there may still be some problems in the budding business field. 

As marijuana is still illegal under federal law, individual states spearhead their own patchwork of regulatory efforts. 

Two years ago, the need for increased oversight became apparent after an Oregonian investigation found widespread contamination. At that point, the newsroom’s test results were far less encouraging: eight of the samples examined came back positive for pesticides. 

Eventually, the state stepped up regulatory efforts, requiring that marijuana products be tested for 59 different pesticides before hitting shelves. But so far it’s proving to be a patently imperfect system.

Earlier this year, the state issued its first weed recall after testing found traces of pesticides in some samples of greenery. Back in March, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission announced that a product dubbed Blue Magoo had failed tests for the chrysanthemum-derived pesticide pyrethrin. 

The rules surrounding weed regulation have become something of a flashpoint in the Beaver State over the past year, according to The Oregonian. When the state debated whether to relax its regulatory framework, somewhere around 9,000 comments came pouring in—most of them supporting a tough testing scheme. 

Currently, Oregon requires products be screened by a set of state-licensed cannabis testing labs. The western state stands out for that approach, though; other pot-friendly places like Colorado and Washington use agriculture labs for their weed testing.

And although Oregon's testing system’s perceived expense and inconsistency has sparked concern within the industry, some experts say it’s no surprise that pot users want top-of-the-line testing in place. 

“In some ways,” said former Colorado pot policy coordinator Andrew Freedman, “this is why they were asking for a regulated system. People are looking to the government to figure this out.”

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.