Willow Blog

Residual Pesticides in Cannabis

Residual Pesticides in Cannabis

One of the most persistent problems with cannabis cultivation is residual pesticides. When pesticides are used for agricultural purposes, to ensure safety, they are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and overseen by both state and local governments. 

However, because marijuana is still a schedule I drug under federal law, the EPA has yet to approve a pesticide for use on marijuana plants. Further, the agency has not provided any indication of the level of residues on cannabis products—if any—that could be considered safe.

It’s easy to understand the various challenges associated with cannabis testing, and not just for cultivators. Consumers are often left with no real transparency into whether what they are buying is safe or not. Buyers may feel some consolation that any pesticide regulations are better than none—and that in even the least-rigorous regimes, cannabis users likely have access to cleaner pot today than ever before. However, is it clean enough? And what is truly safe?

No Great Pre-Existing Examples

You may have heard about the “Dirty Dozen” when it comes to your produce. It’s a list of fruits and vegetables that are usually grown using lots of pesticides and other chemicals. So, if you want to avoid consuming pesticides, the recommended guideline is to choose organic produce, which are grown without the use of pesticides. Unfortunately, when it comes to cannabis, this kind of transparency isn’t always an option. 

In other industries, pesticide toxicity is measured on the amount ingested, not inhaled, which is the most common way to consume cannabis. In lieu of health-based numbers, states like California turned to data that has helped them set thresholds based on the minimum amount of pesticide that could be used to keep pests off cannabis.

In theory, the cannabis industry should be able to look to the tobacco industry for guidance, but there’s not much helpful data to pull from there either. Filters, which some studies have shown absorb a significant amount of pesticides in tobacco smoke, are typically not used when smoking marijuana. Due to the other inherent risks associated with tobacco use, pesticide exposure in tobacco smokers has not thoroughly been addressed.

Pesticides Carried Through Extraction Process

The idea that residual pesticides can be carried through the extraction process is newer and just beginning to gain traction. Some individuals believe that these pesticides are even more dangerous as a result of existing in higher concentrations than when they are used on a crop. As extraction and cannabis testing technology improves, we’ll learn more about what happens to pesticides during extraction, and this information will help regulators refine approved-pesticide lists. Until that happens, we recommend the safest approach, which is to use as few pesticides as possible.  

Approved Pesticides and Testing Thresholds

Depending on the state in which you grow, some residual pesticides are approved while others are not. Regardless of where you grow, the goal is to be mindful of your particular state’s laws, and then ensure that you are always compliant with those regulations. Remember, ignorance is not a defense, so when in doubt, check with your local regulators. Failing to do so could be costly and have far reaching consequences. 

How to Address Residual Pesticides

If you are having issues with residual pesticides, no matter how minor or major the problem seems to be, contact a Willow Industries representative for assistance. By incorporating cannabis remediation technologies like WillowPure into your routine, you will save both your crop and top-line revenue. Learn more now!

Willow Industries - July 22, 2019