As legal cannabis takes the spotlight, so does the thought of regulation and processes that the legal cannabis industry will require towards becoming a sustainable and safe industry. The use of synthetic substances in order to satisfy the growing demand for cannabis is also putting people’s health at risk, and both consumers and governments have now started to demand the industry be regulated to guarantee the use of safe substances when growing cannabis. This is creating a boom for biological pesticides and organic farming inputs.
Synthetic Pesticides Health Concerns for the Cannabis Industry
In the US, since cannabis is still illegal under federal law, the EPA considers the use of pesticides on cannabis to be illegal. Without approval from the EPA, cannabis is not regulated as a food crop, which would allow setting a maximum level of pesticides. Therefore, producers use all types of substances, even those meant for plants that are not for human consumption and which are highly toxic.
- In 2009, a laboratory in Los Angeles tested three medical cannabis samples. In one of the samples, they found 1600 times the legal quantity allowed in food for a pesticide called bifenthrin.
- Knowledge about the effects of pesticides on humans is very limited. The same applies to the different effects of vaporizing (200° Celsius) or burning (400° Celsius) contaminated cannabis. It’s conceivable that vaporizing pesticides produces other toxic releases when burning.
- Cannabis smokers mostly do not use cotton filters in marijuana cigarettes or smoking devices. Therefore, they probably inhale relatively more pesticides than tobacco smokers.
- Oregon requires testing for a different set of pesticides and enforces different limits for residue levels on cannabis products.
- In 2015, authorities in Denver quarantined tens of thousands of plants from facilities suspected of using unauthorized chemicals, including the fungicide myclobutanil (Eagle 20 EQ), which is prohibited for use on cannabis and tobacco as it can be toxic when inhaled.
Governments Take Action Against Toxic Substances in Cannabis
- States like California and Colorado have set forth lists of acceptable and unacceptable methods under their own laws to grow cannabis.
- When some pesticides like myclobutanil are heated, they decompose in very dangerous toxins. Therefore, myclobutanil was recently banned in Canada, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon for the production of cannabis.
- Without cannabis being recognized as a crop, states, where cannabis is legal, have begun to create substitutes for federal organic certification. For example, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is required to create an “organic” cannabis program by 2021.
- In May 2017, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill sponsored by Republican Senator Ann Rivers that “creates a voluntary program for the certification and regulation of organic marijuana products,” which is likely to begin certifying cannabis according to organic-like standards in early 2019.
As authorities in the US and Canada are only beginning to ramp up efforts to regulate the use of pesticides in the cannabis industry, the demand for biopesticides such as neem extracts has skyrocketed since consumers want to know that they are consuming a safe product.
In the future, a big selling point for biopesticides will be that they can treat a variety of problems, while synthetic pesticides are usually designed by chemical companies to treat one specific problem. Neem extracts offer a myriad of benefits for growing crops, they help control pests, add nutrients to the soil and protect both humans and the environment.
In our next newsletter, we will go more into detail about the specific benefits that the neem tree holds for the future of the cannabis industry and a more sustainable planet.