In a recent study from Berkeley’s Steep Hill Labs, 84 percent of sampled Bay Area cannabis buds contained pesticides. If California decided to adopt the stringent laboratory and quality control testing requirements set in place by the State of Oregon, the majority of samples would fail. This is a cause for concern in the newly recreational state, which still needs to go through the process of licensing and creating appropriate safety standards, and safe cannabis, for the new agricultural market.
Is your cannabis safe?
In an effort to get a scope of the consumer quality of Californian cannabis, Steep Hill Labs, a leading cannabis testing laboratory, collected some samples from dispensaries in the Bay Area. As mentioned above, the vast majority of the samples tested positive for unsafe levels of residual pesticides.
Steep Hill isn’t the only concerned canna-business. The Association of Commercial Cannabis Companies estimates that about half of all cannabis contains unsafe levels of pesticides. Back in December of 2016, the institution issued a warning about cannabis in North America due to pesticide contamination.
Similarly, the State of Oregon released their first “health alerts” about pesticide-contaminated cannabis in the winter of 2016.
This is a big red flag for Californian cannabis and for the industry as a whole. In their tests, Steep Hill found that 62.3 percent of the samples tested positive for myclobutanil, a fungicide that is considered safe to use on grapes, but it was never designed to withstand heat.
When heated, such as by a lighter, torch, or vaporizer, myclobutanil releases hydrogen cyanide, which is extremely toxic to humans.
The samples Steep Hill tested were from medical cannabis dispensaries, which means that patients with potentially very serious and life-threatening diseases are potentially being exposed to pesticides that may cause more harm to their health than benefit.
Working out the kinks in regulation
As the Steep Hill Labs data suggest, the cannabis industry has itself a pesticide problem. While states like Washington, Oregon, and Colorado all have standard safety guidelines for the herb as a mass consumer product, regulation in the cannabis industry is an extremely new phenomenon.
Cannabis was an underground market that has finally worked its way out into the open. Now, lawmakers and industry leaders in California and other medical and recreational states face the great challenge of creating an appropriate regulatory framework for the herb.
Right now, testing seems to be a major pain point for legislators and canna-business owners both.
Oregon is the state with the strictest cannabis testing standards. In fact, at one point, the State’s testing requirements for cannabis were stricter than they were for food.
Though the state has recently lightened testing requirements temporarily, after a huge backup at testing labs left dispensaries short on stock, making sure cannabis products are safe and contaminant-free can be quite the process.
Like other agricultural crops, states place limits on the levels of residual pesticides, solvents, molds, and other possible contaminants present in a batch sample. However, there is room for error in all of these tests. For example, while a batch of cannabis flower may pass a pesticide test based on state regulations.
However, an extract like butane hash oil (BHO) made from that same batch can fail pesticide tests because trace amounts of residual pesticides become hyper-concentrated within the shatter or wax.
This makes it particularly difficult for extractors to find and source cannabis products that don’t contain these pesticides to begin with.
How to make sure you have safe cannabis
The cannabis industry and state lawmakers have some serious work ahead of them in terms of creating safe and manageable testing practices. However, there are a few easy ways to ensure that you’re getting cannabis products that are as safe as possible. Here are a few general rules of thumb:
- Buy organic/veganic whenever possible
- Buy laboratory-tested cannabis whenever possible
- Don’t use pesticides, fungicides, miticides, or herbicides when growing at home
- If you self-cultivate, properly flush your cannabis before harvest
- Try not to buy from people who do not grow in a clean environment
Seeking more information on how to make your cannabis safe? Check out the full article here.