– [Voiceover] Inside Colorado Green Labs, Frank Conrad is testing
strains of cannabis for levels of their active
ingredient, called THC, and he wants to start
testing for pesticides. – I think that it’s going to have to come to the forefront
as a testing priority. Pesticides are known
to be toxic to humans, and they know that
they’re actually appearing in these products in really high levels. – [Voiceover] For
Conrad, pesticide testing isn’t just about making revenu. – I think it’s a public health concern. Denver, the city and county of Denver, clearly recognizes it’s
a public health concern, because they’ve been inspecting
and quarantining plants. – [ Voiceover] Since the
beginning of the year, the city and county of
Denver has placed holds on tens of thousands of cannabis
plants all across the city, because they found residue
of unapproved pesticides, to kill things like this. – Powdery mildew is a type of mold that basically feeds off the plant. It grows fast. It will cover an entire room
and then it will basically destroy the value of that crop. That’s probably one of the
principle agents, I think, that’s affecting the
marijuana crop right now. – [Voiceover] The pesticide
best known for killing off powdery mildew, is called Eagle 20. – Eagle 20 was one of the first pesticides identified by Denver. Myclobutanil, which is the
active ingredient in Eagle 20, is known to be low-toxicity
if humans ingest it. Inhaling it though, if
it’s burned and generating hydrogen cyanide, that’s an
entirely different problem. – [Voiceover] Hydrogen
cyanide is a toxic gas, most notorious for its use
in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. And it’s produced when Eagle 20 is burned, which poses a pretty serious
threat for consumers. The popular pesticide is also
commonly mixed with a solvant that can pose a threat to
workers inhaling those fumes. And yet, there’s a lot of money
in protecting these crops. Millions of dollars in fact. When viewed nationally,
hundreds of millions. Three states now allow
the sale of marijuana for adult recreational use. And for the tens of thousands
of workers in the industry, more than 20,000 in Colorado alone, these pesticides could
cause lasting illnesses. – Workers should have
protective equipment, so that they’re not constantly
getting exposed to it. Part of this is a ventilation issue. On the inside, you’re actually
accumulating the fumes and the workers are
getting exposed to them. Short-term exposure to
it, you can get ill, but your body will recover. Long-term chronic exposure
is associated with a number of different health risks, but particularly neurodegeneration. That, I think, is one of the
clearest risks to workers if they are not wearing
protective equipment while applying pesticides to marijuana. – [Voiceover] But cannabis
is still federally illegal, meaning that the feds
have not yet provided any resources or guidance to
ensuring worker protection, which means it’s up to the states. In Colorado, ensuring
worker safety is up to him, Michael Rigirozzi. – Currently I think our
inspectors have reached probably about 100 facilities. – [Voiceover] But there
are more than 1,000 licensed cultivators in the state. – The issue is that without the resources of the Federal Government,
it’s difficult for a state-level agency to have
the resources to effectively bring in regulation in a timely manner. They’re doing what they can, they’re chipping away at the problem, but there’s always going to
be agricultural pathogens and there will be a need for pesticides, potentially to treat them. – [Voiceover] The EPA
says they’re willing to work with the states, but the
process takes a long time. Meanwhile, complaints just keep coming in, revealing hazardous use of pesticides and dangerous environments for employees. But the rules are there, it’s just a matter of following them. – There are continually
changing sets of rules. – We’re also looking at the
worker protection standard changing within the next six months. – It’s gonna be a lot
of seminars and meetings to get people aware of the new changes. – We’re all trying to
play catch-up to an actual agricultural industry. – [Voiceover] Pat Currah
is a cannabis grower, and he hopes that these
trainings will bring legitimacy to the industry. – Now that we can follow the
same regulations as, say, Corn Farmers, Palisade Farmers, we can start to be looked
at as an actual industry, and not something that’s, you know, swept under the rug, let’s not
talk about it, let’s actually be here and be a part of
the agriculture industry. – [Voiceover] But without swift
and consistent enforcement, thousands of workers in
Colorado and across the nation are at risk of harmful
exposure to toxic chemicals. For Harvest Public
Media, I’m Katie Wilcox.