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Daily News Blog

24
Feb

Colorado Legislature Considers Pesticide-Free Marijuana Bill

(Beyond Pesticides February 24, 2016) Last Friday, Colorado’s House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee heard a proposal to create a contaminant-free certification system for marijuana sold within the state. This program, intended to resemble the federal National Organic Program, was offered as a legislative response to protect consumers after the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) failed to implement meaningful regulations to keep marijuana users within the state safe from the harms associated with unregulated pesticides use on cannabis crops. If the proposal moves forward, Colorado will becomes the first state to establish and regulate an organic label in its marijuana  industry, paving the way for other states with legalized marijuana industries to follow suit. Massachusetts and New Hampshire require that cultivation practices are consistent with USDA national organic standards.

gavel“Consumers have a right to know what they’re putting in their body,” said Colorado Rep. Jonathan Singer, co-sponsor of HB16-1079, which requires that CDA set up an independent program to certify that cannabis sold in the state is pesticide-free. Companies that  meet the standard would then be able to use special labeling to alert consumers that their products are entirely pesticide-free. The program will  also attempt to address concerns over the use of the word “organic” in marijuana production, a practice that has been  investigated  by the Colorado Attorney General in the absence of federal regulation.

Consumer confusion over organic marijuana emerged as an area of concern in Colorado in 2015 and shows no signs of slowing down. Beginning in May of 2015, City of Denver health authorities seized thousands of marijuana plants from growers suspected of using off-limits chemicals on their plants and required companies to issue dozens of recalls over the course of the year. Recently, as a result of an executive order issued by Governor Hickenlooper that declares pesticide-laden marijuana a “public safety risk,” the state Marijuana Enforcement Division has also begun to seize plants that test positive for illegal pesticides. Invoking their authority for the first time, Colorado marijuana regulators announced that they had put a large number of plants and products on hold from two cultivation facilities in Colorado Springs over concerns they were treated with unapproved pesticides.

Officials said the inspectors had identified the presence of myclobutanil on plants from each location. Myclobutanil is a powerful fungicide that, when heated, converts to a potentially hazardous form of hydrogen cyanide. Myclobutanil is also the subject of a lawsuit brought by two Colorado consumers against the state’s largest marijuana grower challenging the use of illegal pesticides in marijuana they later consumed, one of them being a medical card holder with a brain tumor. The lawsuit, was dismissed earlier this month when Denver District Judge Eric Eliff sided with the industry, saying that the consumers behind the case were not actually harmed, dealing a large blow to the plight of consumers trying to protect themselves from the potential harm associated with consuming cannabis treated with illegal pesticides.

While in theory developing an organic label for the marijuana may protect consumers by offering them a way to tell if the marijuana they purchase was treated with pesticides, in execution such a program may not be so simple. Organic standards are currently regulated federally, and marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, making it so the entire program would have to be regulated and enforced by the state. As written, the legislative measure does not specify what growers would have to do to get the certification or how much it would cost them. It, instead, directs the state’s agricultural department to get a third party to draft the regulations, a likely high-cost undertaking for the state. Finally, the bill doesn’t specify which pesticides would be off-limits for organic growers, opening the door for an organic program that does not mirror the standards of the federally administered organic label, further misleading consumers. On the flip side, however, any program that informs consumers about the pesticide content in the marijuana they purchase is an improvement to Colorado’s current regulatory system.

For more information on what the states on doing in the face of a hands-off federal policy to assess the dangers of pesticides used in the production of cannabis, read 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: USA Today

 

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