Pubdate: Thu, 23 Jul 2015
Source: Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
Copyright: 2015 The Oregonian
Author: Noelle Crombie


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.

Federal pesticide policy complicates how states approach the issue.

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."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom