Much like growing any other plant on the planet, a cannabis garden is known for attracting unwanted pests. It’s just an unavoidable fact of farming life. As a consequence, cannabis growers will likely face the difficult decision of how to prevent these pests from breeding and further decimating their crop. Should cannabis cultivators attack pesky garden invaders with poisoning pesticides?
Unfortunately, the pesticide conundrum is a harsh reality when it comes to cannabis cultivation. And if growers aren’t careful when using pesticides, they can contaminate a plant so much that it isn’t safe to consume — in any form.
Licensed cultivation centers located in legal states are subject to random testing. Indeed, professional growers located in legalized areas who opt to use permitted pesticides must constantly monitor their plants for overexposure to these deadly chemicals. If plants test too high for pesticide content, growers are obliged to destroy the crop, just like they would with moldy plants or ones that turn out to be male. If plants are found heavily concentrated with pesticides, the business can have their credentials revoked by the state and their operations totally dismantled.
However, following protocol doesn’t ensure your crop won’t come into contact with contaminants, especially if you’re producing or manufacturing edibles.
ABC News has reported that, according California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control, “just 5-percent of cannabis products for sale in the state are tested for safety. And some experts believe as much as half the pot being grown is contaminated with potentially dangerous chemicals or bacteria.”
Steve DeAngelo of Oakland’s Harborside dispensary tells ABC News of his business’s cannabis-testing protocol: “We test because, while cannabis itself is very safe, it can be contaminated with things that are not safe.
“Pesticides are one of the things, but there are a variety of pathogenic molds and fungus that can also grow on cannabis. it can be dangerous to human beings, especially people who have compromised immune systems,” DeAngelo continues.
Although there hasn’t been much research to support this claim, contaminated edibles and other cannabis products could be the reason why consumers are visiting the hospital and frequently being diagnosed with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), or frequent nausea and projectile vomiting caused by consuming tainted cannabis.
One potential culprit for the rise in CHS is Eagle 20, a fungicide containing the chemical myclobutanil that’s used by big agriculture on food, yet is banned for use on cannabis crops in post-prohibition states like Washington and Colorado due to health concerns.
However, those cultivators operating in the cannabis black market are unlikely to heed this ban. Indeed, unregulated drug cartels are infamous for using poisons on their products, and of course, there isn’t any type of regulatory agency testing for contaminants on unlicensed crops.
Eagle 20’s manufacturer Dow AgroSciences claims its fungicide is safe to use on food, but explicitly says it shouldn’t be applied to cannabis.
“Dow AgroSciences, without exception, will not seek regulatory approvals or support the use of its products on marijuana. Eagle 20 is not approved for use nor should it be used under any circumstances on marijuana,” the company said in a statement.
Additionally, cannabis growers have reported resultant respiratory illness, eye irritation, skin rashes, nausea, cramps and compromised immune systems when using this product. So, if growers are already experiencing medical problems, you can only imagine what happens to those who consume edibles tainted with Eagle 20.
The bottom line is this: We advise against incorporating Eagle 20 into your foliar spray, as well as advise against the likes of other harmful miticides like Avid and Floramite, because once these chemicals are used, they can’t be washed from your crop and can stay in your plants for a long time. This means your future plants could also be contaminated, even though you didn’t apply such pesticides to them.
These chemicals also pose a threat to ecosystems, including humans and animals that inhabit this environment. Since many growers are environmentally conscious of their carbon footprint, this fact alone should raise a red flag.
Instead, those wanting to use natural ingredients can opt for neem oil, or friendly, symbiotic critters like praying mantises or ladybugs, who will tend to devour unwanted pests including aphids, whiteflies, beetles and spider mites.
Ultimately, the lack of knowledge around pesticides in cannabis growing is rooted in the lack of credible research available. Since cannabis is still a federally scheduled drug under the Controlled Substances Act, we’re left with the pesticides we use on food — which, admittedly, isn’t that great an option, either.