Why Are Colorado's Pot Crops Covered In Pesticides?

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Why Are Colorado's Pot Crops Covered In Pesticides?

By May Wilkerson 12/02/15

Colorado Department of Health issued a statement saying it's a buyer beware market.

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It looks like Colorado’s legal marijuana crops are not as green as one would hope. Various recent studies found “dangerous levels” of pesticides in marijuana products, inciting panic among the state’s agricultural agencies.

At least one legal over-the-counter pot product tested positive for illegally high levels of neurotoxin imidacloprid, according to a CNN report published last week, leading to a recall of 2,362 pot products. A study from the Denver Post in September found that some of the marijuana products they tested contained up to six times the legal limit of pesticides in consumable products.

If this amount of pesticides had been detected on a food product, like avocados for example, they would’ve been immediately pulled from shelves.

But states like Colorado that recently legalized marijuana are just beginning to figure out how to deal with oversight for marijuana products. Since the plant remains federally illegal, there is no FDA regulation to step in, leaving pesticide legislation up to the states. Lack of government oversight has led to confusion over the quantity of pesticides that should be allowed.

Marijuana businesses in the state are not required to test products for pesticides before they sell them, and there is no random testing of products available for sale.

Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, said it’s a "buyer beware" market, where consumers and businesses themselves must exercise caution before selling and consuming unregulated products. But he noted that various state agencies are working to remedy the situation.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order earlier this month giving state agencies the power to pull products off the shelves and destroy them if they contain higher than the EPA-approved levels of pesticide. "When a pesticide is applied to a crop in a manner that is inconsistent with the pesticide's label, and the crop is contaminated by that pesticide, it constitutes a threat to the public safety,” the order said.

The Denver Post reported that the state is also trying to pass legislation that would prevent illegal pesticides from being used in the first place. Legislators are currently working to pass rules that would limit the pesticides that can be used on marijuana that are approved for non-specific consumption, can be used safely in greenhouses, and are not prohibited from human consumption. In the meantime, Colorado pot consumers may want to proceed with caution.

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