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Colorado yields to marijuana industry pressure on pesticides

It turns out it’s still optional to test Colorado’s medical marijuana for harmful substances, but that is set to change next year. Depending on their condition, medical marijuana consumers are more likely to have a reduced immune system, making them even more sensitive to contaminants.

State regulators have known since 2012 that marijuana was grown with potentially dangerous pesticides, but pressure from the industry and lack of guidance from federal authorities delayed their efforts to enact regulations, and they ultimately landed on a less restrictive approach than originally envisioned.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates pesticides, offered the state little advice about what to do because marijuana is an illegal crop under federal law.

The marijuana industry “was the biggest obstacle we had” in devising any effective pesticide regulation, said former Colorado agriculture commissioner John Salazar.

“We were caught between a rock and a hard spot,” he said. “Anything we wanted to allow simply was not enough for that industry.”  “We tried to work with the EPA, to figure out what to do, but we got nothing,” Salazar said.

With little federal guidance and no science to know which pesticides might be safe for consumers, the department made pesticide inspections a low priority, records show.

Two separate bills have been introduced for marijuana testing, Colorado Senate Bill 15-260, on September 16th, it was signed into law. The bill will require that medical marijuana and medical marijuana-infused products be tested for potency and purity. To achieve that end, testing facilities will be certified specifically for medicinal cannabis.

Colorado House Bill 13-1317, which Governor Hickenlooper signed in May 2013, instructs the Marijuana Enforcement Division to “establish a marijuana and marijuana products independent testing and certification program, within an implementation time frame established by the department.”

The Denver Post reported in depth on the industry pressure on pesticide testing, “I think everyone thought marijuana growers were a bunch of organic growers who would never use pesticides on pot, but that’s definitely not the case,” said Mowgli Holmes, a molecular geneticist at Phylos Bioscience and board member of the Cannabis Safety Institute in Oregon. “A lot of this pesticide use is new and driven by commercial pressures.”

When large numbers of cannabis plants are grown indoors and in close proximity, they are vulnerable to mites and powdery mildews, which can destroy a crop quickly.


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