Pubdate: Thu, 29 Oct 2015
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Column: Weed Between the Lines
Copyright: 2015 Boulder Weekly
Author: Erica Berry, of Food & Environment Reporting Network and 
Katie Kuntz of Rocky Mountain PBS I-News


Boulder Weekly brings you this report in partnership with Rocky 
Mountain PBS I-News. Learn more at

According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Toxicology, up 
to 69.5 percent of the pesticides on a marijuana bud can transfer 
into the smoker's lungs. Jeffrey Raber, who directed the study and 
owns a cannabis-testing lab in California, said the risks to 
consumers and workers are clear.

"It's easy to understand that these compounds are toxic. We've 
studied that ad nauseum," he said. "That's why regulations exist for 
every other item we consume."

Colorado law requires pesticide testing for cannabis products, but 
nearly two years into recreational legalization, the state has not 
begun testing.

"The MED (The Marijuana Enforcement Division), along with the 
Department of Agriculture and other state departments, are working 
very hard on this issue to come up with a process that our licensees 
can be compliant with," said Thomas Moore, a spokesman for the agency.

State laws in Colorado also require cannabis cultivators to comply 
with the Federal Worker Protection Standard to protect employees from 
acute and chronic pesticide exposure, but the guidelines are complex 
and enforcement has been slow to materialize.

According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture's (CDA) John 
Scott, his agency has inspected nearly 100 of the 1,000-plus licensed 
grow facilities in operation. The Washington Liquor and Cannabis 
Board, meanwhile, has inspected 381 of the state's 709 producers and 
processors, issuing six violations for pesticide misuse. For now, the 
primary way Colorado regulators learn of pesticide misuse is through 
regular building-code inspections by the Denver Fire Department.

Last spring, citing safety concerns about improper pesticide use, the 
City of Denver quarantined tens of thousands of cannabis plants at 11 
of the city's grow facilities. Then, in early September, a spot-check 
investigation and private testing by The Denver Post found illegal 
levels of pesticide residue were still present on products being sold 
to consumers, prompting a recall by state and city inspectors.

"We initiated an investigation the very next day after that article 
came out," Scott said, explaining how seriously the CDA takes 
allegations of pesticide misuse. The Denver Department of 
Environmental Health reports receiving several complaints from workers.

"That's one of the conversations that came up when all of this 
started: What is going on in these facilities? Are the people that 
are working there being put in harm's way without even knowing what's 
going on?" said Dan Rowland, a spokesman for the City and County of Denver.

In mid-May, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a letter 
to the Colorado agriculture department indicating that states could 
apply for EPA testing on certain chemicals used on cannabis. Jim 
Jones, the EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical 
Safety and Pollution Prevention, said that though the crop remains an 
illegal Schedule 1 drug, his office is willing to conduct the 
necessary toxicology tests to determine safe usage of some pesticides 
on cannabis. He said states must submit applications for pesticides 
already regulated for both food and tobacco use. More than four 
months after the EPA sent its letter, no state has applied.

This article was produced in collaboration with the Food & 
Environment Reporting Network, an independent, nonprofit news 
organization producing investigative reporting on food, agriculture, 
and environmental health. To read the full report in depth, go to 
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom