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Smoke Signals: Oregon Dept. of Agriculture Issues Pot Pesticide Warning 

One of the many strange consequences of America's paradoxical cannabis laws is that there are currently no pesticides specifically labeled for use on cannabis crops. Most cannabis consumers are like most consumers of other food products in that they prefer to consume cannabis that has not been treated with pesticides. That's because pesticides have been linked to a variety of serious and deadly diseases, and experts consider pesticides to be among the most dangerous chemicals to which humans are exposed.

Many consumers think that the "organic" label on a food or cannabis product means that the product was grown without the use of pesticides. However, this is not true and organic foods are not necessarily pesticide-free.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is responsible for regulating pesticides used on crops, and under Oregon law, cannabis is a crop. ODA describes the current health and safety predicament for cannabis crops very aptly and succinctly: "Health and safety impacts on people who smoke and/or consume marijuana and/or marijuana products from plants treated with pesticides have not been evaluated. Health and safety impacts to workers in marijuana grow operations have also not been evaluated."

There is plenty of evidence that Oregonians have consumed cannabis products that include illegally-applied pesticides. Last year, The Oregonian purchased cannabis that had passed state-mandated pesticide tests and then had the products tested by independent labs. Several samples included chemicals that the federal government says may cause cancer. One sample included a common household roach killer. Other samples included pesticide levels so high that the testing chemist concluded that the plant had been "soaked" in pesticide. The problem is particularly bad with concentrates, which concentrate pesticides in addition to THC.

In response, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) enacted new testing rules for cannabis. The rules require testing for 60 pesticides, but experts say that the rules may not be effectively addressing the problem. Alex Hoggan, owner of a cannabis testing lab in Milwaukie, told The Oregonian that he has been fielding calls from growers who are trying to find pesticides that are not on the testing list.

Davis Farrer, a public health toxicologist at OHA involved with creating the testing rules, said that some of the acceptable pesticide levels set by the rules are higher than those allowed for food products.

In January, ODA created a list of 257 pesticide products to help guide cannabis growers "in distinguishing those pesticide products with labels that do not legally prohibit use on cannabis from those that clearly do not allow use."

In enforcing pesticide laws, ODA's biggest weapon may be product recalls. Last month, ODA ordered retailers to stop selling the pesticide product Guardian, which is used by cannabis growers. Guardian's label says that the product is 100 percent natural, but an ODA investigation found that it contained the pesticide chemical "abamectin," a neurotoxin. ODA is asking growers who may have purchased the pesticide product to refrain from using it.

ODA maintains a guide list of pesticide products for growers on its cannabis and pesticides webpage. Home growing is another consumer option to avoid pesticides entirely.

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