The Battle of Pesticide Regulation: Florida vs. California
Updated: Sep 21
“Medical cannabis, like many pharmaceuticals and herbal medicines, are prone to contamination of (heavy) metals, fungi, and pesticides during the manufacturing and storage processes. While pharmaceutical contaminants are under robust U.S. FDA regulations, there is a lack of drug safety regulation of medical cannabis at the federal level (Pinkhasova et al., 2021). It is important to stay informed about pesticide use and contamination when growing and consuming cannabis in the same way you would want when picking items off the shelf at an organic grocery store. You should be able to trust that the products you are consuming are not contaminated with pesticide residue. EcoMIGHT in South Florida, which advertises itself as a “Full line of natural pest control products,” has come under scrutiny for labeling certain pesticide products as organic when actually containing hazardous chemicals “including glyphosate, bifenthrin, permethrin, cypermethrin, and carbaryl” (California Department of Pesticide Regulation [DPR] 2021).
The Call for Uniform Regulation
However, Florida is not the only state in the hot seat when it comes to the use of banned pesticides. In California, “Many of the state’s estimated 50,000 illegal cultivation sites have been found to use banned pesticides that can poison wildlife and water supplies and are believed to account for hundreds of millions of gallons in water stolen from farms and neighboring communities each year” (Nieves, 2021). So, why care about an individual state’s policies regarding pesticides on cannabis? Because it’s all about the consumer’s safety and experience. The average consumer often only gets vague assurances of safety from sellers and regulators. They may think pesticides on cannabis are okay because some pesticide regulations are better than none. Consumers need to be able to ask themselves, “Is it clean enough?” or “Is it truly safe?” (Seltenrich, 2019).
At the center of the issue is the legality of growing and selling medical cannabis. While Florida has seven approved medical growers, much of California is still an underground economy. There is some concern as to whether loosening the law on this would attract further crime. “A whopping 68 percent of California cities ban cannabis retail, including wide swaths of the Central Valley. Other areas have imposed strict caps on the number of available licenses, limiting market growth” (Nieves, 2021). The lack of action on a federal level has left the problem-solving to each individual state. “As part of its enforcement of the law, U.S. EPA registers pesticide products and approves label language before a pesticide can be sold or distributed. The agency’s goal is to provide clear directions for effective product performance while minimizing risks to human health and the environment. Meanwhile, “The Florida Department of Health is moving forward with a proposed rule that would allow marijuana growers licensed under Florida’s medical cannabis laws to use ‘minimum risk pesticides’ on plants” (Irwin, 2017). Minimum risk pesticides are defined as those that “Pose little to no risk to human health or the environment and include natural substances like organic oils, citric acid, sodium chloride, and malic acid” (Irwin, 2017).
As for EcoMIGHT, their website now has an announcement stating, “Recent events have brought to light that we are no longer able to guarantee the quality of EcoMIGHT products. To date, the manufacturer of EcoMIGHT has not been able to assure us that the high level of quality we demand will be met. As a result, we have suspended all operations as of July 31, 2021. We want to thank all of our customers for their dedication and support.” So how can you stay informed and limit your cannabis product’s risk to harmful chemicals? Kerrie and Kurt Badertscher of Cannabis Business Times have a list as follows:
Know the pesticide pool
Read the Label and Follow Directions
Comply, Comply, Comply
Use Everything at Your Disposal
Stay on Top of Things
Rely on Steep Hill
Beyond this list, it is also important that you find a lab partner like Steep Hill, who can provide the guidance and testing services required to understand pesticide contamination and whether or not your cannabis product is safe and passable concerning required regulatory testing. As growers and cultivators, don’t wait to get your product tested. Rely on your local, trustworthy Steep Hill lab to bring you the results you need!
Click here for more information regarding your next pesticide screening.
Regulatory status of pesticide residues in Cannabis: Implications to medical use in neurological diseases. (March 1, 2021). ScienceDirect. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666027X21000128.
W.O.W. (Whack Out Weeds) Non-Selective Weed and Grass Killer. (n.d.). EcoMIGHT. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from http://legacy.picol.cahnrs.wsu.edu/~picol/pdf/OR/70614.pdf
State Warns Organic Farmers to Stop Using W.O.W. Whack Out Weeds! And EcoMIGHT-Pro Pesticides. (July 30, 2021). California Department of Pesticide Regulation [DPR]. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/pressrls/2021/073021.htm
Irwin, J. State Health Department Wants to Regulate Pesticides Used on Medical Marijuana. (March 16, 2017). Tampa Bay Business Journal. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.bizjournals.com/tampabay/news/2017/03/16/state-health-department-wants-to-regulate.html
Nieves, A. California’s Legal Weed Industry Can’t Compete with Illicit Market. (October 23, 2021). Politico. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.politico.com/news/2021/10/23/california-legal-illicit-weed-market-516868
Badertscher K. & Badertscher K. Are You Ready for California’s Pesticide Regulations?. (March 8, 2018). Cannabis Business Times. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.cannabisbusinesstimes.com/article/are-you-ready-for-californias-pesticide-regulations/
Seltenrich, N. Into the Weeds: Regulating Pesticides in Cannabis. (April 25, 2019). Environmental Health Perspectives. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/EHP5265