Pubdate: Thu, 06 Aug 2015
Source: Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
Copyright: 2015 The Oregonian
Author: Molly Harbarger
Note: Oregon Department of Agriculture letter


The Oregon Department of Agriculture is warning marijuana growers to 
stop using illegal pesticides, while the state scrambles to put 
together a list of acceptable chemicals.

The federal government puts pesticides through tests that determine 
in what context a chemical may be used in agriculture and how much 
may be used. Those accepted uses are then listed on the label of the pesticide.

However, because cannabis is an illegal substance according to 
federal laws, there are no approved pesticides to use in marijuana 
cultivation. So, while many growers use pesticides, the application 
is technically against the law.

"It is important to note, pesticide applications that do not follow 
the pesticide product label pose risks to public health and safety 
and are a violation of state and federal law. THE LABEL IS THE LAW," 
says a letter being sent to every permitted marijuana grower in Oregon.

Pesticide residues can often be found on cannabis products that claim 
to be pesticide-free. The Oregonian/OregonLive tested several 
marijuana products and found that almost all of them tested positive 
for pesticide traces.

A state task force of people involved in the industry, the Oregon 
Liquor Control Commission, ODA and the Oregon Health Authority met 
Wednesday to figure out how to regulate pesticide use and testing.

They are still debating which pesticides should be allowed for use on 
marijuana and how to test for those chemicals without bogging down 
growers and processors in fees. Because the legal recreational 
industry is so new -- possession and growing of marijuana for adults 
21 and over became legal July 1 -- recreational marijuana businesses 
are adjusting to the regulations that now govern what was largely a 
black market industry for years.

Lab technicians who test products before they go to store shelves 
said that most marijuana leaves, flowers, concentrates and extracts 
are turning up with some pesticides on them, whether the grower 
applied them or were contaminated from other sources.

Lisa Hanson, deputy director at ODA, said that her staff, along with 
OLCC and the health department are putting together a list of 
advisory pesticides, but in the meantime, growers may be in the safe 
zone using chemicals that Environmental Protection Agency -- which 
oversees pesticide permitting -- that have very low toxicity, such as 
garlic oil.

Washington has approved many of those types of chemicals, which are 
commonly used in organic agriculture or have 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.

Eventually, cannabis cultivators will be subject to the same worker 
safety, public health and environmental protection standards as any 
other farmer.

"It's becoming another agricultural crop," Hanson said. "And those 
same expectations for safe and legal use will apply."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom