Testing for Pesticides in the Cannabis Industry

You may have heard that a cannabis connoisseur can tell whether a grower properly flushed their buds by observing the ashes produced whenever a joint burns. That’s not always true though, as you’ll find out in this article when we get into the testing details. Flushing refers to the elimination of pesticides from a crop before consumption. Poorly flushed cannabis produces harsh tasting smoke that causes severe throat irritation. But often even a sufficient flush will not remove all pesticide residue if the wrong pesticides are used or even proper ones with the wrong quantity.

Prolonged smoking of buds containing pesticide residue can cause throat and lung infections. Unfortunately for cannabis users, many of us may be inhaling these pesticides via the products we get from dispensaries, the streets, and other sources. It’s a widely known fact in the industry that concentrates have been found with high rates of pesticides.


Cannabis Testing Laws

The current status of cannabis testing regulations and laws is dependant on the state (or country) that you live in. Many of the states that have legalized cannabis, and have had medical cannabis for years, like California and Colorado, have some statewide regulations in place.

California Cannabis Testing Regulations – “The Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) enforces laws that govern the sale and use of pesticides in California, including use on cannabis. The Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) requires DPR to develop guidelines for the use of pesticides in the cultivation of cannabis, provide guidelines on pesticide residue for the Bureau of Cannabis Control, and require that the application of pesticides in connection with the cultivation of cannabis complies with Division 6 of the FAC.”

Colorado Cannabis Testing Regulations – A Medical Marijuana Business may be required by the Division to submit a Sample(s) of Medical Marijuana, Medical Marijuana Concentrate or Medical Marijuana Infused Product it possesses to a Medical Marijuana Testing Facility at any time regardless of whether its process has been validated and without notice. Samples collected pursuant to this rule may be tested for potency or contaminants which may include, but may not be limited to, Pesticide, microbials, molds, metals, residual solvents, biological contaminants, and chemical contaminants.


Mail-in Cannabis Testing

Did you know that it’s illegal to send cannabis samples for lab testing via mail?

The government uses both state and private cannabis labs to keep track of growers. Hence, all labs require cannabis growers to present themselves and fill out forms.  Strict lab testing regulations ensure consistency in product quality hence consumers get value for money. In addition, federal governments can audit their growers’ databases by comparing them with various cannabis labs’ lab reports.

In order to exploit rising demand, some labs discreetly advertise mail-in testing in well-known online cannabis forums where growers frequent.  This tactic enables them to circumvent Google’s policy against cannabis advertisements. Moreover, labs offering mail-in cannabis testing deceive clients by promising to deliver lab results after two weeks.  Normally, testing cannabis for fungicides and pesticides takes 3-4 weeks. Cannabis growers who opt for mail-in testing expose themselves to numerous risks.

If you’re a dedicated cannabis grower, then you may find it hard to believe a lab report from an institution you’ve never visited. Visiting a lab enables the grower to do a quick inspection of equipment used in pesticide and toxicity tests. Shrewd labs who offer mail-in cannabis testing charge exorbitant fees because they’re just middle men. Once they receive a certain number of cannabis samples, these “mail-in” labs take them to shady research facilities.


What methods are used to test for pesticides in Cannabis plants

Currently, scientists use two methods to analyze the amount of pesticides present in cannabis samples. The analytical method involves detailed comparisons between original strains grown organically and samples brought by commercial growers. Due to the amount of complex experiments involved, you’ll need to take samples to a certified laboratory.

The second method used to test for pesticides in cannabis plants and concentrates is microbiological analysis. Here, botanists use complex scientific methods to break down a sample to its cellular level. Botanists can then observe the amount of pesticide concentration per cell.


Heavy metal screening in Cannabis

Due to prohibition, cannabis growers rely on pesticides manufactured for food crops on their plants. Fortunately, recently approved marijuana-friendly federal laws have opened up the door to development of exclusive cannabis pesticides. However, adequate research and testing require a lot of time.  Until then, cannabis growers will need to submit plant or concentrate samples for heavy metal screening.

It’s illegal for cannabis growers to use banned pesticides such as Chlordane and Daminozide because they contain high heavy metal concentration. Smoking poorly flushed buds treated with these outlawed pesticides could cause cancer due to pesticide residue.  In addition to putting consumers at risk, using pesticides rich in heavy metals affects the soil and nearby water bodies.

When you take your cannabis sample for toxicity screening, it goes inside a Plasma Mass Spectrometry machine. This machine uses microbiological analysis to breakdown samples to molecular level. A lab technician can then distinguish foreign molecules from organic matter. The next step is determining heavy metal concentration in parts per million.

Seasoned cannabis growers advice their colleagues to have their irrigation water screened for presence of heavy metals.  Sometimes unreported public water contamination incidents in the city water end up with growers spraying harmful water on their cannabis plants.


Effects of Smoking Pesticides in Cannabis

When you look at the side of a pesticide container, you’ll see a caution against smoking while using the product. Most pesticides contain the ingredient known as arsenic. Medical research proves that inhaling arsenic fumes rapidly increases the smoker’s chances of acquiring lung cancer. In addition to arsenic, some pesticides contain other harmful compounds such as chloride and formaldehyde. Morgues use formaldehyde to embalm corpses.

Consuming poorly flushed buds can leave you nursing intense headaches as a result of inhaling myclobutalin. During joint or bowl combustion, the myclobutalin molecules enter into the bloodstream and react negatively with red blood cells. As the smoker inhales more contaminated bud, the level of myclobutalin rises to a point where it affects the blood’s pH and oxygen concentration. Smoking cannabis contaminated with this chemical triggers migraine attacks.

Manufactures use ammonia as an ingredient in pesticide manufacturing because it attracts insects. If your shatter contains high amounts of ammonia, you’ll experience nasty headaches and eye irritation during smoke sessions.  Smoke containing ammonia also causes burns to the nose and throat due to its corrosive nature. Chronic smoking of buds high in ammonia can cause blindness due to frequent eye irritation.


Frequent Nose Bleeding

Due to ammonia’s highly corrosive nature, a smoker suffers micro-sized cuts in their airway with each hit off poorly flushed buds or dabs. Each puff worsens these cuts so badly that capillaries in the nose start bleeding. In this situation, blood takes longer than usual to clot because the ammonia molecules corrode the platelets.


Cost implications for Testing in the Cannabis Industry

In Washington, cannabis growers may pay $300+ for a pesticide test. California cannabis cultivators pay $400 dollars to get their products tested for pesticides in state-run laboratories. Small-scale growers argue that these high costs will force them to increase their prices and risk losing consumers. However, the state government is playing its oversight role to ensure cannabis vendors provide safe products.


The Future of Cannabis Testing for Pesticides

Consumers trust cannabis growers to provide them with high-quality products that lack traces of harmful pesticides. In order to ensure that consumers get value for money without compromising their health, cannabis vendors ought to perform due diligence when looking for genuine labs. Visiting various cannabis testing labs enables you to ask important questions regarding testing methods and credibility of lab reports. The more states that legalize the recreational and medical use of cannabis will hopefully bring in national standards and eventually a more safe market for everyone. Perhaps technology will soon allow for home-based testing too.

Here is an example of a patient who has been doing his own rogue testing of cannabis products found in California dispensaries, some of the results have been shocking:

Instagram for datdude41510

FYI for Commercial Cannabis: Avoid using mail-in cannabis testing if you are a legal provider, because you risk losing your marijuana cultivation license. Some cannabis growers know too well not to trust labs offering mail-in testing because of losing money to fraudsters.

Patient “datdude41510” Instagram With Cannabis Testing
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Justin Meerkat

Cannabis Entrepreneur & Cofounder GetHigh.com | Follow @justinmeerkat on Instagram

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