I was interviewed for this article, which appeared yesterday in the International Business Times.
I would like to clarify some language contained in the second paragraph. While the author used conditional phrases appropriately and did not misrepresent explicitly what I expressed, the paragraph implies that I had on occasion destroyed all plants in the largest flower room in the facility in which I used to work. I stated simply that the most responsible reaction to an irreparably infested crop would be to destroy it and start over. The situation he discussed is a hypothetical one; he had asked about the extent to which pests could have impacted the bottom line of my former facility and I gave him figures on the best-case production from the largest flower room.
Overall the article is an informative and even-handed one. However, I would like to call attention to my last post, in which I pointed out that the gray area, or “lack of guidance,” as this article puts it, that cannabis growers are said to be facing in regard to pesticide use is overstated. Pesticide regulation exists and is clearly defined; cannabis is at this moment simply one of numerous specialty crops that are not grown widely enough to be included on pesticide labels. Even if products are able to be EPA approved under the 24(c) exemption discussed, the impact of those products on consumers of treated cannabis would still be unknown, barring some very hastily done academic studies.
Additionally, the 2013 Journal of Toxicology study quoted, while serving a particular purpose, does not reflect accurately the manner in which pesticides would typically be applied to cannabis. In the study, pesticides were applied to already dried cannabis flower; see section 2.4 of the study for details on the manner in which the samples were prepared. This would be the equivalent of a grower harvesting cannabis, drying it for a couple weeks or so, then spraying the product with pesticides. Generally, this would not occur for obvious reasons. Somehow, studies need to be performed in which pesticide residues and metabolites are measured based on applications made to living plants under conditions approximating as closely as possible those that would be found in commercial cultivation facilities. Different application timing, frequency, and dilution rates should be recorded and product tested after it has been harvested and dried. Universities cannot study cannabis at this time without risking their federal funding. However, states could set up programs to do so using product from commercial growers caught using pesticides; the growers’ records, along with tests of the finished product, could at least be employed to gather preliminary data points on the persistence of residues. In this case inspection and enforcement of pesticide regulations could also contribute to closing the research gap, which is the fundamental problem at the heart of the pesticide issue.
Finally, I would like to applaud Mr. Van Hook, founder of the Clean Green organic cannabis certification in California. It is heartening to see people working toward the positive goal of ensuring that cannabis is grown responsibly and organically. In Colorado, the Organic Cannabis Association is working toward a similar objective. It is to be hoped that they are able to develop sound standards and that commercial growers will be willing to open their doors in order to verify that their cultivation practices are safe and beneficial for all. There are definitely operations out there that are growing organically and such certifications will help them rise to the top, leaving behind the groups who are choosing to spend their time attempting to get pesticides certified despite little to no available research.