“Pesticides in Marijuana” California was the first state
to legalize medical marijuana. When labs started reporting they were
finding high levels of pesticide residues, the LA city government covertly acquired
and then tested three samples from dispensaries and found
that two of the three samples did have exceedingly high
pesticide levels, up to a thousand times the legal limit. Yeah, but how much ends
up inside the consumer? Only about 10 percent or so
of pesticides in tobacco makes it through a filtered cigarette
which was found to be comparable to using cannabis in water
pipe with filters attached. But use a regular bong and about half
the pesticides end up in your lungs, and a glass pipe is even worse. Because most users don’t attach
a carbon filter to their bongs with seven and a half
grams of activated charcoal, “in general the portion of pesticide
recovery [from cannabis would be] alarmingly high and is a serious concern.” Although we don’t know precisely how
damaging these chemicals are, the fact that they are present in smoke at
such high levels should be concerning. “Considering these results, high pesticide
exposure through cannabis smoking is a significant possibility, which may
lead to further health complications in cannabis consumers,” especially if
we’re talking about medical marijuana. Sick vulnerable people potentially
making things worse. “The potential of pesticide and chemical
residue exposures to cannabis users is substantial and may pose a
significant toxicological threat in the absence of adequate
regulatory frameworks.” Okay, so what are states
doing about it? Colorado recently suffered some high
profile recalls of marijuana batches contaminated with harmful pesticides
that made it into some of the edibles. Evidently growers sometimes find
themselves overwhelmed by pest issues and resort to “nuclear tactics,”
trying anything to protect their crop. This has created a public health
threat, with “intensified toxicity in concentrated products
of particular concern.” “Pesticide levels were found to
be approximately 10x higher in concentrated cannabis products”
like the oils and waxes sometimes used in edibles or
dabbed as concentrates. A study of pesticide use on cannabis
crops in Oregon found a similar problem. A survey of samples off store shelves in
Washington state found five out of six contaminated, including with potentially
neurotoxic and carcinogenic agents. Many samples harbored multiple
contaminants, attaining levels basically off the chart, including
24 distinct pesticide agents, insecticides, fungicides, none of
which are approved for use on cannabis. But it’s not their fault—the EPA
hasn’t approved any because it’s still a federally illegal crop. In fact, testing labs in California
have “become hesitant to publicize their service or list agents
for which they could [test], as they suspected that such information”
might just be used as an instruction manual by unscrupulous growers to
seek out even more toxic agents. Okay, so just regulate it. They’ve tried, but guess what was the
biggest barrier they came up against? Surprise, surprise, the cannabis industry—
the multi-billion-dollar cannabis industry. Like the tobacco industry before it, the cannabis industry is attempting
to weaken pesticide regulations. Reportedly, the Colorado Department
of Agriculture “initially hoped to limit permissible pesticides
to the most nontoxic,” but this proposal was quashed
by industry pushback, just like the tobacco
industry was able to do. Big Tobacco has provided a detailed
road map for King Cannabis: “deny addiction potential,
downplaying any adverse health effects, create as large a market
as quickly as possible, and protect that market through
lobbying [and campaign contributions.]” Bolstered by enormous profits,
the tobacco industry was able to get itself exempted from every major
piece of consumer protection legislation. So that should be a
cautionary tale for us now given that public health advocates have
definitely fewer billions to work with. Big Tobacco may not just
be providing the roadmap but waiting in the
wings to own the road. “As a result of [lawsuits]
against the tobacco industry, more than 80 million pages of internal
company documents became available.” And what they reveal is that “since
at least 1970, despite fervent denials, major multinational tobacco
companies” like Philip Morris have been scheming,
willing, and prepared to enter the legalized marijuana
market to become Big Blunt. “Because of the tobacco industry’s
demonstrated ability and willingness to modify its products to increase
addictiveness, obfuscate information, deceive the public, and target
vulnerable groups to increase demand, the industry has the power
to dramatically [change the game.]”