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Daily News Blog

09
Dec

Oregon to Consider Stop-Gap Measure to Test for Pesticides on Marijuana

(Beyond Pesticides December 9, 2015) Last week, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) signaled its willingness to address a gap in the regulation  of pesticides in  marijuana production caused by a lag in the start date of the state’s revised testing program. After new regulations were adopted  last month to increase the amount of pesticide residue testing on cannabis required by the state, concerns were raised about the delayed  June 2016 start date. The  committee that advises OHA on medical marijuana pressured the agency to expedite the rules.

While a final decision is pending, the    stop-gap testing rules would target the most commonly used pesticides in marijuana production and go into effect as early as January. Advocates are urging states to ban registered pesticides, since they are not labeled for use on marijuana and not evaluated for exposure associated with inhalation, ingestion, and dermal absorption, as well as potential environmental contamination. 70,000-plus medical marijuana users, as well as recreational users, within the state will be affected by the regulations.

In November, the state of Oregon updated its rules governing pesticide use to require the mandatory testing of nearly  60 pesticide compounds  that are of particular concern.CannabisWEB Under the new rules, all growers will be required to undergo this testing, and failure will result in the untested batch being destroyed. This is a change from prior rules which allowed laboratories to determine on their own what pesticides to include in a screening. This change was deemed necessary in light of  The Oregonian  findings  that some labs had stopped testing for a common pesticide that is included in the new rules because failed samples hurt its business.

Mowgli Holmes, Ph.D., a scientist and founder of Phylos Bioscience, a Portland-based company that performs genetic research on cannabis, serves as a member of the advisory panel to OHA and is one of the biggest advocates for addressing the in-between time created by Oregon’s new regulations. Dr.Holmes has been evaluating the potential dangers associated with the unregulated use of pesticides on marijuana, and in June produced a white paper on the subject entitled “Pesticide Use on Cannabis,” which cites Beyond Pesticides’ report on “Pesticide Use in Marijuana Production.” Last week, Dr. Holmes pushed the health authority to ditch its current requirement that marijuana be tested for four broad classes of chemicals and instead require testing for 10 or 12 of the most commonly used pesticides. He believes  that focusing on these dozen or so “bad actors” would push growers of medical marijuana to “wean themselves” quickly from their longstanding practices of pesticide use, as any sample that tested positive for one of the compounds on the list would be “denied clearance for commercial sale,” according to Dr. Holmes’ proposal.

Oregon’s existing rules for pesticide analysis are broad and fail to target the chemicals that chemical-intensive cannabis producers commonly use to control mites, mold and mildew. Currently a cottage industry of marijuana labs, operating without government oversight, can pick and choose which pesticides to include in their routine screenings, often omitting tests for the most commonly used pesticides. This ensures that growers submitting their products for testing can “pass” inspections and place their crop on the market while still being able to claim that the product has been tested for pesticide residue. To address  this issue, Dr. Holmes suggests that every transfer of marijuana from grower to dispensary should be accompanied by a certificate produced by the testing lab. He proposes that the  certificate includes the names of the pesticides tested, and whether the pesticide was detected and at what level. All of the information would then be available to the state agency that is accrediting marijuana labs.

However, because Oregon Health Authority presently lacks direct enforcement authority over laboratories to ensure reliable testing results, Dr. Holmes concedes that enforcement would likely remain a problem in the proposed transitional testing system, as labs within the state will not fully be accredited until next summer under the new rules. The variation in laboratories standards raises additional problems.

For months, government officials in states that have legalized marijuana have not resolved  with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies issues regarding the  regulation of pesticides in marijuana production. Quarantines on pesticide-laced cannabis  in Denver, Colorado,  a warning letter and testimony delivered by Beyond Pesticides, and  a recent lawsuit against a major Colorado grower  may have encouraged  Governor John Hickenlooper to issue an executive order directing state agencies to address public safety concerns related to pesticide-contaminated cannabis.   Additionally agencies within  Colorado and Washington State  have created and published a list of allowed pesticides on cannabis that have come under scrutiny for their inclusion of pesticides whose use would violate existing federal law, according to safety advocates.

The Organic Approach

While recent moves in Colorado, Oregon, and  previously in California  represent steps in the right direction, they also contain significant pitfalls and loopholes that allow contaminated cannabis to market where it threatens public health. Beyond Pesticides continues to encourage states to take a stronger approach to regulating this budding industry, so that it blazes an agricultural path that protects its most sensitive at-risk users. Three elements must be passed and enforced in order to do so. They are:
1. A prohibition on the use of federally registered pesticides on cannabis;
2. Allowance of pesticides exempt from federal registration, but not those that are only exempt from tolerances and;
3. Requirements for an organic system plan that focuses on sustainable practices and only 25b products as a last resort.

Beyond Pesticides maintains that implementing these three requirements will ensure the sustainable growth of a new agricultural industry, and lead to the protection of public health. For more information and background this important issue, see Beyond Pesticides’ report  Pesticide Use in Marijuana Production: Safety Issues and Sustainable Options.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: The Oregonian

 

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