Oregon considers regulation of pesticides in marijuana industry – OregonLive.com
States with regulated marijuana markets should require agriculture agencies and universities to develop data-driven recommendations for pesticide use in cannabis cultivation and should educate marijuana growers about how to manage pests that threaten their crops.
Those are among the recommendations made by two Oregon scientists who wrote
a paper examining pesticide use in the marijuana industry. The paper was authored by Rodger Voelker, a chemist at a marijuana lab in Eugene, and Mowgli Holmes, a microbiologist who runs a Portland company trying to untangle the genetic makeup of marijuana strains.
The Oregonian/OregonLive hired Voelker earlier this year to perform a pesticide analysis of 10 marijuana concentrates; nearly all were contaminated. Our investigation found lax state rules, inconsistent lab practices and inaccurate tests results led to pesticide-laced marijuana landing on medical marijuana dispensary shelves.
With Oregon preparing to regulate the recreational marijuana market, multiple state agencies, including Gov. Kate Brown’s office, are trying to figure out the state’s approach to pesticide use.
Chris Pair, a spokesman for Brown, on Wednesday said officials are working to “to better understand the issues surrounding pesticide use and marijuana cultivation.”
“This ongoing and collaborative conversation is essential to identifying priorities and determining how to address the many concerns raised,” he said.
Voelker and Holmes say Oregon should provide “clear guidance” to marijuana labs on which pesticides to look for and should set limits on how much residual pesticide should be allowed. The scientists also recommend that cannabis growers be allowed to use only pesticides permitted in organic agriculture or those that pose “minimum risk” to human health.
Oregon already requires that medical marijuana sold in dispensaries undergo testing for pesticides, though the state does not currently oversee labs that carry out those tests.
As the state prepares for the recreational market, labs will be subject to licensing and certification. By law, the liquor control commission and the Oregon Health Authority share responsibilities for marijuana testing. The health authority is charged with setting pesticide standards and certifying labs and the liquor control commission will license labs.
The Department of Agriculture, too, is expected to play a significant role in setting policy related to pesticides and pot. A spokesman for agency said agriculture officials have not yet developed recommendations.
“We are still in the process of looking at how other states are handling it,” said Bruce Pokarney, a department spokesman.
The liquor control commission’s subcommittee on marijuana labs is expected to take up pesticides at its Aug. 5 meeting. Jesse Sweet, a policy analyst for the commission, called pesticides a priority for regulators.
“It’s still a work-in-progress,” said Sweet. “I think we realize the complexity of the issue and we are still developing a workable approach that is going to be a manageable burden for the industry but still ensure consumers are safe.”
Colorado and Washington — the first states in the country with legal recreational markets —established guidelines for pesticide use in cannabis production.
Washington marijuana growers can use some products approved for organic agriculture and others that pose minimum risk to human health. Colorado growers can use pesticides with labels that allow broad agricultural uses, but they can’t use pesticides explicitly banned on crops people consume.
Both states depend largely on state inspections, instead of lab tests, to keep growers’ pesticide use in check.
When it comes to pesticides, the label on the container is the law. Labels, some of them pages long, detail how and when the pesticide may be used and the types of crops the product may be used on. Pesticides allowed on kale or bananas, for instance, might not be allowed on strawberries and spinach.
No pesticides include marijuana on their labels.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in May sent a letter to Colorado agricultural officials outlining a possible way to get federal permission to use some pesticides on cannabis. The process was originally designed to allow states to use pesticides on crops that aren’t listed on product labels. Colorado, for instance, received a go-ahead to use a particular pesticide on alfalfa, even though the crop wasn’t on the label.
It’s an option that supported by Oregonians for Food and Shelter, an industry group funded by timber companies, aerial sprayers and herbicide manufacturers such as Monsanto and DuPont.
The organization’s policy director, Scott Dahlman, attended this week’s lab subcommittee meeting. Dahlman said his group wants marijuana growers held to the same standards as producers of other crops, like wheat.
Ultimately, he said, the option offered by the EPA is the only legal way for growers to use pesticides.
“At the end of the day, ” he said, “we can’t have a system wherein marijuana growers are held to a different standard than all other growers and are held to whatever standard they want.”
— Noelle Crombie