One of the many perks of buying legal weed is that it comes with health regulations. And though producers might find these regulations annoying, they’re ultimately intended to protect the general public from consuming toxic substances. However, not all producers follow the same criteria when growing. As a result, there are many harmful pesticides found in cannabis products after lab testing.
Pesticides In Cannabis
Just like with the food industry, Cannabis crops are liable to fall under the fatal influence of fungi, bugs, viruses and other pests, which is where pesticides come in handy. But, as one would assume if a substance is able to kill some kind of life form (however small it may be), it’s no surprise that it could also become hazardous for humans.
This is why states like California and Colorado are handing out lists that regulate which are the pesticides that have slim to no negative effects in consumers, and trying to get producers to stick to the list. However, the lack of federal legislation concerning authorized pesticides, followed by the absence of proper research on how these pesticides can affect human health, has led to producers using pesticides which can be harmful to consumers.
It’s important to point out that, even though some of these “toxic” pesticides can cause no perceivable effect on healthy consumers, the fact that marijuana is today a medical plant, calls for special attention of patients who are immunosuppressed (such as AIDS or cancer patients) that can be especially vulnerable to some of these pesticides’ negative effects.
Since 2015, many Colorado-based growers were forced to quarantine their plants after it became public that they were treating them with Eagle 20 and other Myclobutanil-based pesticides.
Myclobutanil is a well-known fungicide, widely spread in the agricultural industry for its efficiency in preventing diseases to fruits and vegetables, such as apples, grapes, almonds and spinach; and it’s generally considered to be safe for human consumption in the context of food production.
However, it had not been taken into consideration that when combusted, myclobutanil turns into hydrogen cyanide, a compound which is not immediately toxic, yet it’s known to produce serious neurological, respiratory, cardiovascular, and thyroid complications, after chronic inhalation. This is the main reason Myclobutanil use is not authorized in the tobacco industry and shouldn’t be used for Cannabis either.
Avid and Lucid
There’s a good reason why these Abamectin-based insecticides are most commonly used in ornamental plants, not meant for human consumption. However, the “harmful if inhaled” sign on the tags didn’t prevent it from being one of the most commonly traced pesticides found on Colorado official recalls in the past three years.
High exposure to this insecticide can result in vomiting, convulsions, tremors, and even coma.
This Bifenazate-based insecticide is most-commonly used in treating mite pests on non-food agricultural products, which is why its toxic consideration hadn’t been under alert until it became detected in tested plants recalled by Canadian authorities.
Mustang, Athena and Talstar
These insecticides are mainly used to fight the red imported fire-ant and other insects like mites. However, they’ve been found in cannabis products as well. Their main component is Bifenthrin, which, when inhaled, can cause nose, throat, and lung irritation and, in large quantities, nausea, abdominal pain and vomiting. It has even been classified by the EPA as a possible human carcinogen.
Confidor and Gaucho
Some state’s health departments gave out lists of which are the authorized pesticides to be used under state law. Washington’s health department went one step further and published a list of which are the pesticides not to be used under any circumstances.
Imidacloprid, the active ingredient present in Gaucho and Confidor insecticides is one of the firsts among this list. It’s commonly used as a broad-spectrum insecticide in crops, managing termites and flea invasions. However, short-term exposure to the product can produce eye irritation, dizziness, breathlessness, confusion, and vomiting.
Pyrethrins can be the trickiest pesticides on this list, because, even though they pose a threat to human health in traceable amounts, they’re actually organic compounds. What’s worse: the similarities between the chemical characteristics of these compounds to those of cannabinoids, make them particularly hard to detect in lab studies, thus fogging the actual amount pyrethrins found on an analyzed subject.
Frequent intake, especially through inhalation, can cause nervous system damage in humans, which is actually not surprising considering it’s used to fight insect pests by affecting their nervous system. What’s more, exposure to its crudest form, pyrethrum, can cause respiratory failure, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, paralysis, and even death.
TetraSan 5, Eschaton and Zeal
Perhaps containing the mildest toxic pesticide on this list, Etoxazole-based insecticides are still not recommended for human consumption, after studies showed the compound can cause liver overgrowth in rats.
It is intended to fight spider mites in ornamental plants, but its use in inhalable and edible goods is not regulated, nor recommended.
As the industry consolidates and state regulation strengthens, there will be less and less space for amateur or misinformed growers causing a threat to consumers through the use of toxic pesticides. However, the main breakthrough will be when product labels are allowed to portray organic certifications, which won’t be achieved until cannabis is legal by federal law.