Will 2015 be remembered as the year legal marijuana first encountered — and eventually figured out — its pesticide problem?
The national conversation surrounding pesticide application on cannabis blew up this year. The hot topic has made headlines in Oregon, Washington, New Hampshire, California and elsewhere — but nowhere was the conversation more heated and involved than in Colorado, the first U.S. state to start selling legal cannabis.
It began after more than 100,000 plants were put on hold because of pesticide concerns. Inspections were stepped-up in cultivation facilities. A lot of questions were asked — but not a lot of them had answers. The industry reacted to the changing landscape — but the industry also flexed its political muscle in an effort to delay state and city efforts to enact pesticide regulations.
My colleagues and I at The Denver Post and The Cannabist commissioned independent tests on marijuana concentrates, and the results — which showed high levels of banned pesticides in one popular brand, Mahatma — spurred a Denver Department of Environmental Health investigation thatrecalled Mahatma products, and now many others.
The pesticides-and-pot conversations in Colorado served as a gateway to other related issues. The Post learned that Colorado’s attorney general was investigating several marijuana businesses overconcerns the word “organic” in their names or advertising might be misleading to consumers. Colorado’s former agriculture commissioner said the marijuana industry “was the biggest obstacle we had” in devising any effective pesticide regulation. And more than two months after their first pot recall, Denver health officials started requiring marijuana companies that recall products tainted with unapproved pesticides to use their websites and social media accounts to alert consumers, who weren’t returning many of the recalled products, The Post learned.
Even though no sicknesses have yet been attributed to the use of these banned pesticides, a pair of marijuana users in Colorado — one of them a medical-card holder with a brain tumor — have sued the state’s largest pot grower for allegedly using a potentially dangerous pesticide on the pot they later purchased. The state proposed new rules that would further restrict which pesticides can be used to grow marijuana. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order telling state agencies that any marijuana grown with unapproved pesticides is a threat to public safety and should be removed from commerce and destroyed. TheU.S. Environmental Protection Agency put the onus on the makers of pesticides to prove their safety.
And meanwhile, the recalls of marijuana and pot products keep rolling. Because each recall of pesticide-tainted cannabis involves long lists of items associated with often-lengthy batch numbers, The Cannabist has compiled all of the available information in one place for readers concerned about the purity of their pot. So below you’ll find our reporting on each recall — as well as the city of Denver’s press releases on the recalls, which contain exact information to help users identify any tainted pot and cannabis products they might have.
Do you have pesticide-peppered pot in your stash? Find out now — and we will keep this list updated.