Testing for the presence of pesticides is not clearly defined
For food and agricultural products this is a tightly regulated issue with clear government standards that dictate specific testing requirements. In the cannabis world, regulatory requirements for pesticide levels are fragmented across states, can be nonspecific, and are often subject to change.
Massachusetts has some of the most stringent requirements for testing cannabis products for pesticides. In fact, it was the first state to create laboratory testing requirements through the Department of Public Health. Other states began their journeys into legalizing marijuana by regulating the business side of operations first, only gradually building on the public-health side of the equation, which remains elementary at best. To complicate matters further, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), usually the final authority for pesticide standards in the United States, is virtually silent on the issue because cannabis is illegal at the federal level.
The pesticide question is further complicated by the multiple forms of the cannabis product consumers may purchase. For example, for those who smoke marijuana, pesticide exposure would typically occur from combusting the amount of dried marijuana buds in the cannabis joint. For those who ingest edibles, the exposure may be much greater. Edibles require extracting THC from a much larger amount of cannabis product to create the liquid or wax-like concentration that is then added to the edible. This process potentially concentrates any pesticides on the plants and, therefore, increases the amount found in edible products.
So, are there pesticides in the cannabis you’re ingesting, and, if so, at what levels? Information likely varies greatly depending on the jurisdiction and the individual grower. In many areas of the country millions of dollars in cannabis is grown exclusively indoors in an environment that has a high potential for mold and pest concerns. There is strong incentive to use pesticides to minimize these risks and protect profits. A lack of adequate oversight would potentially expose the consumer to a potentially dangerous pesticide—opening the door for class-actions.
There is also exposure to the business operations side for cannabis producers. For example, if testing in one jurisdiction indicates that a banned pesticide has been used, millions of dollars’ worth of product could be ordered destroyed, without any clear-cut regulations that could have helped producers make proactive decisions to avoid such an outcome.