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Are you inhaling pesticides as you get high? Investigation finds excessive pesticide residue in marijuana products


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(NaturalNews) Following their recent legalization of recreational marijuana use, a handful of U.S. states are turning their attention to the business of regulating marijuana agriculture. And those regulators have made some shocking discoveries: Dangerous pesticides are being used in excess of legal limits, and growers are using pesticides that may not be appropriate for the uses the crop is intended for.

Regulators and people involved in the budding legal marijuana industry agree that a major part of the problem is that there just isn't much research on which chemicals are effective for use on marijuana crops, let alone which ones are safe to use on a plant that may be smoked, eaten or turned into a tincture, to name just a few uses.

"We have an industry that's been illegal for so many years that there's no research," said Frank Conrad, director of the marijuana testing laboratory Colorado Green Lab. "There's no guidelines. There's nothing."

Regulatory vacuum

To make matters worse, the federal government continues to define marijuana as an illicit drug, and therefore has no interest in supporting research into or regulation of chemical use in marijuana agriculture.

"There is no federal agency that will recognize this as a legitimate crop," said pesticide expert Whitney Cranshaw of Colorado State University. "Regulators just bury their heads, and as a result, pest-management information regarding this crop devolves to Internet chats and hearsay."

When Colorado and Washington asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency if any pesticides were approved for use on marijuana, the agency instructed them to follow a "special local need registration" process to get some chemicals approved. The process is likely to take years, however.

"We were taken by surprise, this whole pesticide issue," said Ashley Kilroy, Denver's director of marijuana policy.

In this regulatory vacuum, it is easy for growers to simply ignore all rules, even using pesticides that have been banned outright. Just this past spring, health inspectors for the city of Denver discovered evidence that unauthorized pesticides were being used at 11 separate marijuana growing facilities. The city quarantined tens of thousands of plants for testing. Two growers voluntarily destroyed their entire crop. Some of the plants from other growers were eventually pronounced safe and released from quarantine. Eight growers still have some of their crops in quarantine, however.

Progress is slow

The Denver case provides a clear example of what is so difficult about the question of marijuana and pesticides. One of the chemicals in use that originally alarmed health inspectors was a fungicide called Eagle 20 EW. Although approved for use on grapes and hops, the chemical is banned for use on tobacco plants because it can become dangerous when heated up. But no research has been done into what happens if the pesticide is used on marijuana, whether for smoking or for eating.

Oregon had a similar problem in June, when an investigation by the Oregonian revealed pesticide residues exceeding legal limits on marijuana products intended for consumption. Other pesticides were detected as well, but because those have not been regulated by the state their presence on the products is legal.

There may be a bright side, however. Several growers interviewed by the Associated Press said that partial legalization means that most consumers now have much more information about the source of their marijuana than ever before.

Colorado, Oregon and Washington are all now working on drafting rules to regulate the use of toxic chemicals in marijuana cultivation.

Keith Stroup of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws agreed that things have improved, but said that states are still moving too slowly.

"The idea that it's been on the black market and people are fine so therefore we don't need testing is absurd," Stroup said. "No one would want to be using a product that has molds or pesticides."



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