In Washington’s Marijuana Industry, Pesticide Use Remains Hazy

Since legalizing cannabis for recreational uses, both Colorado and Washington have instituted guidelines for the use of pesticides in production and cultivation, though these chemicals — generic enough for food — are not federally approved for the drug. However, while Washington commits to following-up on complaints of pesticide use, random state inspections to keep pesticide levels in check are still in the planning stages.

“The (state) tests for potency, but they do not go, ‘Oh, by the way, we want to make sure these live up to standards for human consumption,’” says Robert Whelan, an ECONorthwest economist. Washington’s lack of regulations on pesticide use is particularly concerning for edibles, he says. “It’s the Wild West… We’re supposed to trust (growers) to do the right thing… but God knows what you get.”

The Washington State Liquor Control Board enforces the state’s cannabis laws, and checks crops for moisture and mold levels. “But we’re not required to do pesticide testing,” says Brian Smith, the Liquor Control Board communications director. “To test for pesticides you actually have to have specific protocols to test for the specific types of pesticides,” says Smith. “Buying the equipment is upwards of $300,000 to $400,000… and there are so many pesticides out there you’d only be testing for only the most commonly used.”

“What you have now is a list of acceptable pesticides that’s maintained by Washington State University,” says Smith. “Every one of those pesticides are okay to use for marijuana….One of the problems is that there’s nothing federally that allows for research and testing and all these things. So this market is being established with all these kinds of protocols without any real research behind it as to what we use and what can be used.”