California is famous worldwide for its weed, with online marijuana stores and pot delivery available for medical patients. Pot growers are everywhere cultivating large tracts of land, growing in backyards, in warehouses, and even randomly on public land. However, with the new recreational market legalized officially on January 1, many are wondering what will happen to these growers, both big and small.
Over the last year, since voters approved Proposition 64 in November 2016, regulators have been drafting new rules for the legal market. One issue kept cropping up, namely how to regulate pesticide use associated with cannabis cultivation. For decades now, pesticides used on crops destined for the black market have been contaminating California’s water, wildlife, and people.
However, until recently, it was impossible for the state to prevent growers from using dangerous rodent killers, fungicides, and pesticides to treat their crops. Now, with legalization, regulators hope to curb this problem, but scientists, lawmakers, and even growers themselves agree that guaranteeing clean marijuana will be a challenging endeavor.
After a six-month phase-in period for legal marijuana, which started on January 1, the new Bureau of Cannabis Control says that all pot sold legally on the market must test clean for 66 different pesticides. The goal of these stringent regulations is to ensure the safety of cannabis for both the environment and consumers. However, growers have real concerns about this.
Currently, their crops already test at such tiny levels that even organically grown pot can fail them. One reason for this is the pesticides used on agricultural crops contaminating pot plants around them, many of which do not comply with the same stringent regulations. In an interview with VICE News, Shawn Webber, a licensed cultivator from Sonoma County, explained the situation for growers in the state:
“Other crops can use fungicides and pesticides. For weed, nothing is allowed, because cannabis is still illegal under federal law.” Those poisons used to treat vegetables, for example, drift on the air to form residues on cannabis plants around them. Scientists have other concerns, as well. One such worry is that regulators are not extending these same strict standards to laboratories themselves.
According to Reggie Gaudino, chief science officer at Steep Hill Labs, which provides testing services for growers in Berkeley, “It is zero tolerance for pesticides, but at what level? The regulations have no minimum standards for the machines that test the weed. People are going to shop around for the worst lab so they do not fail.”
Those critical of these new rules believe that cultivators who fail these tests, or those who simply do not want to invest the time or money into meeting such rigorous standards, will just go back to selling their crops on the black market. Despite every effort of the state to control and regulate pesticide use in the newly legal pot industry, tainted cannabis will still be around well into the future.