All agricultural products are closely regulated no matter where you visit in the U.S. This is to ensure you consume fruits and vegetables that are grown with care and are safe to consume. For this reason, pesticide use is strictly controlled.
Similarly, pesticide use on cannabis is strictly controlled. You don’t want to inhale a joint or eat an edible that was sprayed with potentially harmful chemicals just like you don’t want to eat a tomato that was coated in those same pesticides. Ideally, everything you consume should safe, including your cannabis.
That’s why your Vancouver, Washington dispensary, including us at Mary Jane’s House of Grass, develops close relationships with its distributors. Not only do we want to guarantee you with the best cannabis that provides the high you are looking for, we want to assure our customers that no matter what they purchase, it was grown with care.
While we have established diligent standards on our own, states including Washington, California, and Oregon have also introduced laws to mitigate any harmful reactions and regulate cannabis through testing to confirm its safe for consumption.
However, just as all industries evolve, so does the cannabis industry, which is why Oregon is rethinking its current pesticide laws.
Just like tomatoes, the Oregon Department of Agriculture lists cannabis as an agricultural crop in terms of pesticide regulation, so the guidelines are similar, but evolving. With that in mind, the most recent iteration of approved pesticides was updated on April 26, 2017. While the list is not a recommendation or endorsement, it does distinguish between prohibited and condoned pesticides.
In addition to the changing pesticide list, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is also considering revisions to the cannabis testing rules. While some believe the change is spurred by high testing prices and long waits for results, it seems that high contamination is the main culprit advancing change, according to an article in the Oregon Cannabis Connection.
As it turns out, 10% of flower and upwards of 26% of cannabis concentrates fail the pesticide contamination test in Oregon, according to the OHA. However, failure rates were even higher in most labs when it comes to concentrates. The estimates are closer to 50 to 70%, but could have been considered preliminary tests and were therefore never reported to OHA.
It seems imprudent to limit testing, but more testing leads to more expenses for the consumer and, by law, the state is mandated to consider both consumer cost and public safety when installing rules. With that in mind, Andre Ourso, manager of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program added, “The agency will evaluate the public comment. If it comes out that this is not something the public wants, the agency won’t adopt the change.”
Unfortunately, it seems as if this new introduction for limited pesticide testing was a surprise to many when it was announced by OHA and OLCC on March 3.
According to a Rules Advisory Committee member, and head chemist at OG Analytics, Rodger Voelker, the pesticide changes were a surprise introduction. “We thought we were going to be talking about some of the problems concerning edibles and batch sizes and addressing a wider scope of issues,” he said.
The concern does not stop with him; during the testimony other state representatives discussed their concerns with limiting testing as well including Representative Carl Wilson who said, “I guess a question that I would have is: given the responsibility that we have here, how do we vouch for walking back on safety standards.”
And Representative Julie Fahey asked, “Right now there is a relatively high percentage of concentrates and extracts that are failing and yet we seem to have set up what seems to be a ‘safe harbor’ where if your usable marijuana is tested to use concentrates, we are rolling back the requirements therein allowing this random sampling.
However, others were more moderate, like Senior Policy Advisor for the Governor Jeff Rhoades. “We are still testing more than any other food safety arena and we want to maintain that level of public safely, that an important piece for us,” he said. “ But we also want to be mindful of our statutory obligations to make certain that we are not making this overly burdensome or that we’re costing Oregonians good jobs, as well.”
It’s definitely a topic with no clear answer, but change is coming either way. While the public comment period, which was between March 15 and April 30, has now ended, whatever new rules come into place will be implemented by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission by June 1, 2017.
Today, in Oregon, testing is around $350 to $400 at most labs, which includes all the required tests to-date. This is way up from previous rates due to the stringent ongoing standard changes, but, says the labs, is not a result of “price collusion”. In fact, it’s frustrating to lab owners, who are faced with backlash for rising costs, said Camille Holladay, owner of Synergistic Pesticide Lab in Portland.
“Beyond the standard costs of rent, insurance, labor, utilities, marketing that most businesses have, there are instrumentation/equipment purchase and ongoing costs, specialized labor costs, accreditation related costs, calibrations, consumables, solvents, chemicals, gases, hazardous waste costs – I could go on.”
While something needs to change to ensure fair pricing and improved safety, one thing is for sure: education on pesticide use is needed. Among the cannabis crops that failed, some failure was seen among allowable pesticides. This shows that approved cannabis pesticides are being used improperly. For this reason, Holladay is proposing an education campaign this spring to ensure growers know how to properly read pesticide labels and follow the directions as specified.
While this has been a hot topic in Oregon, it’s not distinctive to this state. Similar conversations are taking place in other states where cannabis is now legal. The industry is new and evolving and our Vancouver, Washington dispensary is rolling with the punches.
Regardless of the changes to come, we will continue to ensure, regardless of state regulations that when you purchase cannabis and its concentrates at Mary Jane’s House of Grass you are receiving the highest quality products.