Pubdate: Wed, 07 Oct 2015
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2015 The Seattle Times Company
Author: Bob Young


Not Mandatory

However Growers Who Comply Can Show 'Seal of Approval'

Washington state announced new rules for pesticide testing in pot as 
the first product liability lawsuit was filed against the pot 
industry in Colorado over pesticide use.

New emergency rules, which took effect this week in Washington, do 
not make testing for pesticides mandatory. Instead, they create a 
system that aims to give legal pot merchants and consumers who want 
it some assurance that their pot does not contain residue of 
unapproved pesticides.

Under the rules, growers and processors can elect to get an "enhanced 
seal of approval," according to a state Department of Health (DOH) 
official, if they comply with new standards for labeling, safe 
handling, employee training and pesticide screening. Their products 
could then carry a logo saying as much.

"I know patients are concerned, so this is a way of trying to put 
some fears at rest and say here is a product that's been tested for 
pesticides," said Kristi Weeks, DOH policy counsel.

The state's recreational-pot rules require testing for mold, microbes 
and other foreign matter. But they do not mandate pesticide testing 
because it can be expensive and complex and none of the state's 
certified labs has that capacity.

But state regulators think more labs will invest the $300,000 to 
$500,000 in equipment to test for specific pesticides.

Washington's pot industry has largely policed itself when it comes to 
pesticides, although the state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) has 
fined growers for using unauthorized pesticides, fertilizers and 
"other crop production aids" that have been found through 
inspections, some based on complaints.

A few growers and processors have noted the pesticides they use on 
their product labels, but most do not.

The new rules flow from state law that will bring medical marijuana 
into legal pot shops next July.

With interest rising about pesticides in pot, public-health officials 
in King County distributed a guide Monday titled "What Marijuana 
Users Should Know" about pesticides.

Pesticides are used routinely in agriculture and aren't necessarily 
harmful, the guide explained. "There have been no cases of human 
illness identified due to pesticides in marijuana," the guide explained.

But there's concern among pot users, particularly medical-marijuana 
patients, that research on pesticides has focused on oral ingestion 
of food rather than inhalation of pot. Marijuana-specific research is 
lacking because of the federal ban on all pot.

The lawsuit in Colorado was filed by two consumers who do not allege 
they've been sickened, but say they would not have inhaled pot they 
bought from the state's largest grower, LivWell, had they known it 
was treated with a potentially dangerous pesticide, Eagle 20.

Eagle 20 is not on Colorado's use of approved pesticides, nor is it 
on Washington's 25-page list of approved pesticides.

According to The Denver Post, the lawsuit filed in Denver District 
Court alleges the fungicide myclobutanil in Eagle 20 turns to cyanide 
when heated and consumers ingest the gas when smoking pot treated 
with the pesticide.

Testing done by The Oregonian newspaper revealed that some 
medical-marijuana products in Oregon were laced with pesticide residue.

It was just coincidence, Weeks said, that Washington's emergency 
rules took effect the same day the Colorado suit was filed.

The logo designating enhanced compliance, including pesticide 
screening, will be developed later this month, Weeks said. Growers 
and processors can attain that status as soon as they and 
state-certified labs are ready, she said.

Weeks said labs can't test for all unapproved pesticides, so they'll 
be initially asked to look for unapproved pesticides that are most 
likely to be abused, she said. Over time, the state will expand the 
list of chemicals.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom