We all know that legal weed, for both recreational and medicinal use, is on the rise, but if you ask the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the green rush might as well be non grata. Case in point? This: the EPA refuses to regulate pesticides on weed crops—and with the legalization of weed in more than twenty states, it’s proving to be a problem that’s growing exponentially.
The Problem With Pesticides and Cannabis
“I don’t want some farmer with no one looking over their shoulder spraying away all kinds of pesticides that they don’t really understand, that they are not really trained to use,” said Josh Wurzer, the president of cannabis-testing company SC Labs, on the issue. “I choose to get cannabis from people I know aren’t using pesticides.”
Because of this, Wurzer highlighted how crucial it is for him to be selective when acquiring cannabis, for which he has a medical license. In short: he needs to know that it’s grown without insecticides, he relayed to reporters at Bloomberg, simply because the EPA refuses to regulate pesticides on weed.
“I choose to get cannabis from people I know aren’t using pesticides,” he added.
Wurzer is more or less an expert on the subject: his firm is in the business of testing for “health-threatening chemicals” in plants—well, cannabis plants, specifically. According to data collected by SC Labs, at least three or four samples out of every ten contain the presence of pesticides. And for an industry currently valued at $6 billion—one that is projected to meet $50 billion by the year 2026—the ramifications of not instituting any sort of agricultural regulation could be astronomically devastating.
What’s more infuriating is the research the EPA has conducted on the subject but refuses to implement. According to Bloomberg, the EPA recently blocked an effort by the mainstream brand gardening staple Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. to register pesticides specifically for cannabis cultivation as recently as June.
How Dangerous Are Pesticides in Your Weed?
Even if you’re only familiar with pesticides on a cursory level—and come on, we all know about DDT thanks in part to Rachel Carson and Joni Mitchell—it doesn’t take much to realize that smoking chemicals made to kill insects and other tiny organisms isn’t good for your health. But what exactly are the risks?
“Those in the cannabis community who feel that all cannabis is safe are not correct given this data. Smoking a joint of pesticide-contaminated cannabis could potentially expose the body to lethal chemicals,” Jmichaele Keller, the president and CEO of the cannabis-testing lab Steep Hill, told LA Weekly this past October. “As a community, we need to address this issue immediately and not wait until 2018.”
Not even pesticides marketed as “organic” are safe. Late last year, a testing facility in Oregon discovered a toxic compound called abamectin in the product Guardian Mite Spray, a pesticide that touts itself as a natural. safe pesticide. Abamectin, which was not included in the spray’s ingredient list, is banned in weed cultivation and production nationwide and can have some nasty effects on consumers with compromised immune systems.
If you want a specific example of how harmful these pesticides can be, look no further than this recent expose by, again, LA Weekly about another deadly ingredient named Eagle 20:
“…researchers found chemical residue belonging to myclobutanil, a key ingredient in pesticide Eagle 20, in more than 65 percent of samples tested during a 30-day period. Eagle 20 is commonly used by growers due to its effectiveness against powdery mildew and other pests. But when it’s burned, myclobutanil turns into hydrogen cyanide or prussic acid, a colorless and extremely poisonous compound that can be lethal in high doses. Hydrogen cyanide affects organs most sensitive to low oxygen levels, including the brain, cardiovascular system and lungs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has ‘a distinctive bitter almond odor. but most people can’t detect it.”
Sounds like something you’d absolutely want to put in your body, amirite?
Final Hit: EPA Refuses To Regulate Pesticides On Weed
But why are these pesticides used in the first place?
“Because marijuana has been developed in the black market, pesticide regulators were never involved in the development of that agriculture,” says Clean Green founder Chris Van Hook, who is also an agricultural lawyer. “Growers would use whatever was easy and effective regardless of how poisonous it was.”
Fortunately, state agencies are beginning to pick up the slack. Even if the EPA refuses to regulate pesticides on weed, states like California are placing regulations, which will be implemented as soon as January of next year.
“It’s really a good thing for the general cannabis consumers that California is regulating now,” Wurzer said. “People can assume that someone is actually looking out for them.”