Tags Posts tagged with "Pesticides"

Pesticides

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As the retail cannabis industry continues to evolve, state agencies are working together to guarantee the products that make it to consumers are safe. An agreement established in September between the state Liquor and Cannabis Board and the state Department of Agriculture provided funding for equipment and staff at Agriculture’s facility in Yakima, Washington to test cannabis plants for illegal pesticides. While the lab has already been doing some pesticide analysis for about a year, staff are now in the final stages of calibrating two new machines and plan to begin a wider range of analysis of retail products.

Peter Antolin, Liquor and Cannabis Board deputy director stated, “This is the first lab like this doing pesticide testing in the country. It’s more of a preventive, proactive step on our part, again, because pesticide use is something we’re concerned about.” Ignacio Marquez, regional assistant to the director for Agriculture’s Eastern/Central Washington office stated, “The agreement takes advantage of agricultural expertise already available. This falls within our mission as a state agency to look out for the health of the consumer and also to regulate the use of pesticides on ag products.”

The lab will analyze about 75 samples a month, as it takes around three days to prepare each sample, run the test, and calculate the results. Antolin said there are more than 1,700 licensed producers in the state, including around 70 in Yakima County, so not all will be tested. However, since the testing will be both complaint-driven and random, the agency aims to “put the industry on notice” that their product could be screened for pesticides at any time. Commercial labs certified by the state have done testing in the past on cannabis for factors such as potency, “but they don’t do testing of much else,” Antolin stated, “So we saw (pesticides) as a significant potential health hazard.” How much of a health hazard remains uncertain. Being that cannabis is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level, there has not been much research on the effect of pesticides if consumed with it.

It is typically the Environmental Protection Agency that conducts toxicological analysis of pesticides and their use on certain agricultural products. However, the federal agency “has no interest” in analyzing pesticides in relation to cannabis, said Mike Firman, program manager for Agriculture’s Chemical and Hop Laboratory in Yakima. He stated, “It’s quite challenging work that we tend to rely on the federal government for.” That kind of means the lab is creating its own testing protocols. Firman noted that while the process is based on pesticide testing for products such as lettuce, there are certain qualities of cannabis that make it more intricate.

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Over the last five years, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been a major topic throughout the globe; especially in the United States. GMO technologies have also grown at astonishing rates. There is currently a high demand for organic marijuana; however, we are not sure if there is an alternative. We seek to find out if current technology in gene editing; such as CRISPR-Cas9, can be a good alternative for high quality, low pesticide marijuana.

CRISPR-Cas9 is protein-RNA/DNA complex; a tool utilized by bacterium. Single-celled organisms create genetic war in order to survive. A virus can implant its genes in a host for many malicious reasons. The host uses CRISPR-Cas9, (a type of cellular machinery), to seek and destroy these invaders. This technique can also be used to implant DNA into the genome it targets. Professionals in the study of molecular biology and biochemistry (plant biologist) have modified the system; permitting it to be hyper-specific by mastering the machinery created by bacteria.

Current articles in the journal Current opinion in plant biology have talked about advances in CRISPR-Cas9. Researchers have created a system that permits the use of CRISPR-Cas9 to implant genes (from different plants) into the plant’s genome. These genes act as pesticides; however, not in the traditional form. This tool implants genes taken from other organisms that have a natural barrier to the pest we need to target.

These pest resistant genes can effectively make the plant resistant to the specific pest we target. Given all the current advances in gene editing (in plants), there is not much more that needs to be done in order to apply these principles to the cultivation and care of cannabis. Two strains of marijuana oils were removed from the shelves of recreational dispensaries in Oregon due to dangerously high concentrations of pesticides. Although these pesticides were added in order to protect the crop and create a bountiful harvest; their levels were dangerously high and could not be consumed by humans.

Supposedly GMOs are safer than harmful quantities of external pesticides, but genetic modification can not solve all the problems we face as a society. There is always some concern with changing the way nature intended things to be. Rightfully so. Concerns and skepticism are highly valued and welcomed in the scientific community. They assist us in creating products for the best interest of humankind.

Marijuana dispensaries will need to verify if genetic modifications alter any other traits of the plant. If these GMO strains do not offer the same strength and fertility that natural marijuana plants do, they may not be able to be used for breeding. Genetically modified marijuana can eliminate the need for dangerous pesticides. There are many ethical concerns when dealing with GMOs, specifically related to the patenting of genes and safe practices. One should never accept anything blindly (including GMOs); however, one should be permitted to proceed with caution.

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Recent findings by a laboratory in Berkeley stated that 84 percent of medical cannabis samples tested positive for pesticides. Steep Hill, a Northern California-based marijuana testing lab, says their findings were much higher than expected and “are cause for concern for California cannabis consumers.”

“Those in the cannabis community who feel that all cannabis is safe are not correct given this data – smoking a joint of pesticide-contaminated cannabis could potentially expose the body to lethal chemicals,” says Michaele Keller, president and CEO of Steep Hill. “As a community, we need to address this issue immediately and not wait until 2018.”

The state of California is not sure how to handle issues related to pesticides in relation to the flourishing cannabis market; meanwhile, in recent years, many growers throughout the state have decided not to use pesticides.

Steep Hill researchers discovered chemical residue belonging to my clobutanil, a key ingredient in pesticide Eagle 20, in greater than 65 percent of samples tested during a 30-day period. Eagle 20 is common amongst growers because of its effectiveness against powdery mildew and other pests. However; when it is set on fire, my clobutanil turns into hydrogen cyanide or prussic acid, a colorless and highly poisonous compound that can be deadly in high dosages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hydrogen cyanide affects organs with the highest sensitivity to low oxygen levels such as the brain, cardiovascular system and lungs. It has “a distinctive bitter almond odor” but most people cannot detect it.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture tests every plant before issuing guidelines on when it is safe to use Eagle 20 and in what dosage. Eagle 20 is considered safe for certain crops and plants, including turf grass, ornamental flowers and fruit trees. Everything from Christmas trees to cherries may be treated by eagle 20; however, there is no regulatory practice in place for California cannabis.

Pesticide-related product recalls have become more common over the past year in states where pot is legal, but Berkeley is the only California city to implement tight limitations on their use. That will change in 2018 when the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act goes into place. Passed in 2015, the bill creates a comprehensive state licensing system for the commercial cultivation, manufacture, retail sale, transport, distribution, delivery, and testing of medical marijuana. All licenses must also be approved by local governments.

The people behind Clean Green Certified, the only nationally-recognized third-party certification program, have already started testing cannabis. Founded in 2004, Clean Green certifies marijuana using sustainable, biodynamic and organic standards. Cannabis cannot be called organic since the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not legally recognize the plant, but it can be grown using alternative pesticides and clean growing practices.

In order to be certified, Clean Green tests soil, nutrients, pesticides, mold and dust treatment. Every year each grower undergoes a field test and must enact a carbon footprint reduction plan, water conservation measures, and fair labor practices.

“Because marijuana has been developed in the black market, pesticide regulators were never involved in the development of that agriculture,” says Clean Green founder Chris Van Hook, who is also an agricultural lawyer. “Growers would use whatever was easy and effective regardless of how poisonous it was.”

Van Hook compares the synthetic cultivation of marijuana to the difference between buying organic basil and a mass-produced version. The mass-produced version might have greener leaves and stay fresh longer, but what chemicals are used to create it? With pesticide treated marijuana, “What the consumer is smoking and inhaling remains unknown,” Van Hook says.

There are only two Clean Green Certified businesses in Los Angeles County: Green Healers Soldiers and Restore Collective. Restore Collective works mainly with cancer patients referred by oncologists recommending a pure form of marijuana that will not interfere with ongoing treatment or further endanger a patient’s immune system.

“We’re dealing with a lot of very ill patients,” says Jarvis Turnage from Restore Collective. “They’re undergoing chemotherapy and their immune systems are very weak. If you have even the slightest bit of anything that is synthetic. It can make a patient even more ill.”

Restore Collective has nurses that see these patients in their houses and provide counseling. Their client base is older, and many have never tried marijuana before. Patients feel safer knowing they are consuming cannabis that has been carefully screened by Clean Green’s strict guidelines.

“Even before you harvest, they come out and actually evaluate your soil, your process and rate it,” Turnage says. “They are very, very strict.”

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Laboratories in Oregon claim that their marijuana supply undergoes more testing than food, in addition to being safer than most food products for consumers. This month, a bunch of labs have received their accreditation to start testing and working with cannabis. Within the United States, Oregon has the most rigorous standards regarding marijuana. A laboratory worker, Molly Lyons, points out “Residual solvents, terpenes, and pesticides over there”, referring to all the different machines and products they use to test the large number of cannabis samples on a daily basis.

One of the first accredited marijuana labs, GreenHaus Analytical Labs, tests a large number of samples from each harvest of marijuana along with the contents of that marijuana such as the oil to make sure they are up to standard. From there, the oil can also be tested for levels of pesticides, mold, and THC content. GreenHaus also tests the edibles that have been made with the marijuana to make sure that each edible does not go over the 15mg THC limit enforced by the state. In the event that a product fails to pass two tests, it cannot be sold to the public and the money invested in growing the cannabis used to make the product is lost.

“If you can’t sell your product, that’s a big motivator to find a new product that is safe and possibly organic so you can pass your test and have your product on the shelf,” Lyons said. “I could only wish our food was tested to the highest standards as cannabis.”

Lyons also states that the restrictions set in place by the state offer consumers peace of mind and allows them to know that the products they are consuming are of the highest quality.

“There’s a lot of people who have never consumed cannabis and now that it’s legal, they want to try it for all different reasons, and they need to know what they’re consuming,” Lyons said.

The test that gets failed most frequently is the test for pesticides, failing around 25-30% of all samples.

“When we first started testing for the full panel of pesticides, customers were upset about those fails. I think it helped push them in the right direction before stricter laws came to be.”

Lyons also claims that Oregon’s high level of rainfall and long rainy seasons increases the likelihood of finding mold in marijuana grown outdoors. The difference being that if you were growing tomatoes, you would spray something on it to prevent mold, however marijuana growers are shifting to growing organic and choose not to use pesticides, leading to a safer product for consumers.

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More than two years after Washington state initiated the sale of legal marijuana, they have been planning to test marijuana for banned pesticides on more regular basis. The increased screening is expected to start early next year and will test and review marijuana where regulators have reason to assume illegal pesticides have been used.

“Testing for pesticides is a complex and costly process,” Rick Garza, the board’s director, stated “Labs need specialized equipment and highly-trained staff to carry out the tests. This agreement will satisfy those obstacles. It will send a strong message to any producer applying illegal pesticides that they will be caught and face significant penalties, including possible cancellation of the license.”

Washington has demanded to test for mold and other contaminants since Washington State allowed the sale of recreational marijuana back in 2014. But like Colorado and Oregon, the other two states with recreational marijuana sales, it has struggled to figure out how the best ways to regulate and test for pesticides.

The three states have lists of pesticides that are presumed OK to cultivate marijuana with, but so far no state of the 3 is administering regular tests for banned pesticides, which has increased public health concerns even though there’s little or no evidence of people becoming sick because of pesticides in legal marijuana products.

In Oregon and Colorado, certified laboratories will test for pesticides along with other contaminations, however, the labs are still being accredited to handle those tests. In Washington, private, accredited labs administer tests for mold, bacteria, insects and potency – but not pesticides.

After the first legal, recreational marijuana grows were licensed in early 2014, the state has conducted close to 50 investigations of pesticide misuse, stated Justin Nordhorn, chief of enforcement with the Liquor and Cannabis Board. By contrast, the new equipment will allow the state to screen 75 samples per month for more than 100 unapproved pesticides, with results coming back in 15 to 30 days.

“This should be a real game-changer for the industry in terms of public safety,” said Agriculture Department spokesman Hector Castro. “They’re on notice that we’re going to be on the lookout for this.”

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On Monday, Oregon put out a list of two hundred and fifty pesticides that marijuana farmers are going to be allowed to use. This list is the first times that Oregon’s agriculture officials have given them guidance in terms of which chemicals in the cannabis industry will be useful in getting rid of mites, mold, mildew, and other issues. The most important officials specifically stated that the list is somewhere to begin for cultivators, who are still required to follow pesticide labels.

Assistant director of the agency, Lauren Henderson, stated that regulators went through over 12,000 pesticides listed with the state to see which had labels large enough to add in marijuana. In the end, the agency lists two hundred and fifty pesticides. This list will be gone over quarterly, according to Henderson. Brent Kenyon, a producer and dispensary owner in Oregon, stated that albeit he wished that marijuana growers were spoken to during the process, he is happy with the advice from the state.

“Anytime the state is reaching out and trying to find some guidance instead of ignoring it is a good thing,” he stated.

Most states usually count on the federal government to make policies on pesticides. The federal government typically announces thousands of pesticides that may be used on farms as well as how much of the pesticides can be used on crops such as apples, carrots, and more after they have already been grown. The government derives these limits from how much people consume the foods in a lifetime.

When regarding pesticides, the label on the packaging is crucial. Some labels are extremely long and tell how and when the pesticides can be used as well as the products that the chemicals may be used on. For instance, pesticides allowed on bananas cannot be used on strawberries. The only issue is that the federal government refuses to release information on pesticides and marijuana because it is still illegal under federal law.

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In Colorado, the previous sixteen weeks have seen fifteen recalls of items infused with marijuana due to pesticides, including the biggest recall a week ago. The state is one of a few that now allow testing of recreational cannabis for pollutants. Be that as it may, in Arizona, the results of medical marijuana merchants and cultivators never have been authoritatively examined. On the off chance that the state endorses recreational use in November, that is going to change — with a presumable increase in marijuana prices.

Buds, concentrates such as shatter, as well as edibles, could contain moderately large amounts of pesticides and different pollutants, and Colorado’s 85,000 or more qualified patients would never know. The 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act requires no such testing on the grounds that its drafters were concerned it may drive up the expense of the drug.

Washington, similar to Arizona, had no testing for its medicinal cannabis program, and no testing is required in its voter-endorsed 2012 recreational law. Be that as it may, with the dispatch of grown-up use cannabis stores and enthusiasm, people tend to stay away from pesticides. Washington began a system in October that honors clean-testing dispensaries with an “enhanced seal of approval” to show clients.

Arizona medicinal cannabis laws demand that dispensaries tell the state about the pesticides it uses on products it develops or offers, however, that is it. There’s no subsequent meet-up the data or implementation. Oregon, in the meantime, has one of the strictest contaminant programs in the nation and will start testing this year for 59 unique pesticides. The move is relied upon to drive up costs primarily in the short-term.

Chair of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona, J.P. Holyoak, states that a testing mandate was added into the initiative because “consumer safety is paramount.”

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Merrill Lynch, the investment branch of Bank of America and a powerhouse in the areas of financial and investment advising, has circulated a detailed overview of the marijuana industry.
The report is close to 50 pages long and has intensive research into a variety of different financial metrics and business predictions having to do with the marijuana industry.
However it has not yet been published publicly, Chris Goldstein of Philly420 has identified a leaked version of the document.

In reference to Goldstein, the document goes over a variety of marijuana-related products, markets, and fields. It also addresses the current legal status of marijuana, since this plays an obviously central role in the overall profitability of marijuana as a legal product. Eventually, the report settles into a long exploration of the investment possibilities of what Merrill Lynch advisors termed the “Life Science Tools” sector of the marijuana industry.

This sector has to do with the lab testing required by states where cannabis is allowed legally.
These test screen for a multiple different safety factors and marijuana must initially be analyzed and approved by these labs prior to being sold in marijuana shops. As worries over the dangers of pesticides have become a trending topic this year, many states have started creating stricter laws to regulate the types of pesticides that can be used on marijuana crops.

Complying with these new and stricter regulations is likely to become an increasingly important—and increasingly costly—factor of the overall marijuana industry. For Merrill Lynch, this stands for a potentially profitable place for cannabis investors to focus their money, which is why their analysts concluded that the company is “bullish on the cannabis testing market.”

The report also pointed out a number of “major players” involved in manufacturing the equipment need to conduct cannabis lab tests. These include: “Agilent Technologies, a $4 billion dollar company based in Santa Clara, California; Waters Corporation a $2 billion dollar company based in Massachusetts; and Thermo Fisher Scientific a $17 billion dollar company that keeps two offices in Philadelphia.”
The report also “estimates that the market for this equipment could grow to between $50 million and $100 million by 2020.”

The burgeoning marijuana industry has already gained the attention of a wide range of investors with deep pockets. A report like this, coming from an investment powerhouse like Merrill Lynch, could be a sign of even bigger business opportunities in the future—especially as marijuana becomes legal in more states throughout the united states.

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Governor John Hickenlooper issued an executive order demanding that state agencies remove any marijuana grown with unapproved pesticides from commerce and destroy them because they are a threat to public safety. This order is Hickenlooper’s first remark on a month-old dispute over what pesticides are used to grow marijuana. Also, it seems to be a more belligerent approach to the six recalls by health officials in Denver have called on thousands of contaminated products.

The order, which is effective as soon as possible, is the result of a collaboration with officials from many other state agencies (the departments of agriculture, revenue, and public health). The order also “provides much-needed clarity on the use of pesticides” and how different agencies should handle them, according to an announcement.

“When a pesticide is applied to a crop in a manner that is inconsistent with the pesticide’s label, and the crop is contaminated by that pesticide, it constitutes a threat to the public safety,” the order states.

According to the order, agencies should use all possible authority to stop the threat, “including, but not limited to, placing contaminated marijuana on administrative hold and destroying contaminated marijuana pursuant to existing law.” Unfortunate for some, industry spokespersons were unable to be reached for comment on Thursday. The order followed Denver Post stories that illustrate how dangerous pesticides used on marijuana can be.

The Post also pointed out how state laws that halted the use of certain pesticides weren’t imposed and that testing requirements for pesticides were being put aside. The state is currently in the middle of rule-making which will limit the pesticides that can be used on cannabis “only to those whose labels allow for unspecified crops; that can be used in greenhouses; and that are not prohibited from human consumption.” In addition, pesticides allowed in tobacco growing would also be allowed.

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Product recalls have been called for by two Colorado edible companies on their own products. The first company is Edipure, recalling 20,000 packages of these products: Peanut Brittle, Raspberry Jellies, Sour Gummi Bears, Rainbow Belts and sundry licorice delivered to forty retail stores. The second company is Gaia’s Garden, recalling 8,000 packages of 21 products, some of which have already been shelved at 176 retail stores. Consumers who have already bought these products have been told to either throw out the products or return them to stores.

Both of the companies purchased the cannabis they used to make the edible from TruCannabis, a company who had called for a recall earlier in October because of concerns over pesticide uses. There have not been any scientific studies to figure out how safe the pesticides used on food crops are, so the Colorado Department of Agriculture introduced a rule stating that it does not recommend “the use of any pesticide not specifically tested, labeled and assigned a set tolerance for use on marijuana because the health effects on consumers are unknown.”

The legal cannabis industry has been negatively portrayed because of scandals and product liability lawsuits because of the use of fungicide myclobutanil in Eagle 20, and the use of insecticides imidacloprid and the miticide abamectin in Avid. Before that, though, these pesticides were considered to be environmentally friendly. The Environmental Protection Agency has not helped out in guiding a safe administration of pesticides to marijuana because cannabis is still federally illegal. Because of that, Colorado has been forced to impose their own regulations with no reliable data on pesticides with cannabis flowers, extracts, or edibles.

You will not see an organic label on ay cannabis products because “organic” is a federally regulated term which cannot be legally applied to cannabis products. Even then, there are still producers who try to look after the health of both consumers and the environment such as Honest Marijuana, Colorado Harvest Company and Maggie’s Farm – which has been Clean Green certifie.

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