Pesticides in Cannabis: A Growing Nuisance



Colorado’s cannabis community is on high alert after independent studies found evidence of pesticides banned for use on consumable products. News outlets including CNN and the Denver Post recently conducted studies on cannabis product samples with eye-opening results.

CNN asked two cannabis dispensaries in Denver to submit cannabis product samples for testing. Results of the tests showed five samples tested clean for pesticides, but one concentrate tested positive for a neurotoxin called Imidacloprid. Imidacloprid is an insecticide that was made to mimic nicotine. It is used to control sucking insects, termites, some soil insects, and fleas on pets and has been used in products sold in the United States since 1994. Imidacloprid products may be used on crops, houses, or used in flea products for pets, but it is not approved for consumption by humans. CNN’s report resulted in the recall of more than 2,300 cannabis products in Colorado.

The Denver Post study completed in September produced equally concerning results. Some of the cannabis products by the Denver Post had as much as six times the federally allowed limit on pesticides in consumable products.

While the test results are alarming, they have launched an important conversation among Colorado cultivators and legislators alike. Right now, Colorado has no requirements for pesticide testing before products hit the shelves. The state also does not conduct random testing after the items are on the market. Shocked? We were too. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the federal body that usually regulates pesticides, but because the federal government still lists marijuana as an illegal Schedule I drug, the EPA does not have oversight. As a result, cannabis cultivators have been confused about which pesticides can be used and in what amounts.


In response to recent reports, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order granting agencies the power to keep products off shelves if they contain pesticide levels above what's approved by the EPA.

While the increased focus on pesticide testing has promise for future regulations in the industry, it doesn’t address the root of the issue - cultivators are still not required to test for pesticides and still do not have clear guidelines concerning type and amount of pesticide for safe use. The executive director of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, Larry Wolk predicts it will take at least six months for the state to work out pesticide labeling to help consumers easily identify state-approved products.


Cannabis consumers and producers in Oregon, another state that recently legalized marijuana, will start implementing new rules in 2016 that require marijuana products be screened for 60 pesticides, and testing labs be accredited by the state.

While states policies race to catch-up with the burgeoning cannabis industry, many wonder how cannabis patients and enthusiasts concerned about consuming pesticides can protect themselves? Since only state-licensed labs are allowed to collect samples from licensed cannabis businesses, not individual consumers, the best precaution to take is to make sure the products you consume are clearly labeled and (in states where cannabis is taxed and regulated for retail) purchased through a licensed cannabis dispensary. Consumers should also feel comfortable asking dispensary budtenders questions about the source and method of cultivation of the cannabis being sold.

Root offers its users the ability to grow cannabis in a safe environment and free of pesticides. You can learn more about the power of Root and how you could use it to grow your own cannabis plants by visiting www.growwithroot.com

To learn more about Colorado’s developing policies around pesticides in cannabis, click here.
Click here to read the High Times list of the “Top 5 Safest Pesticides.”