Pot pesticides come up for debate this week

Heading into year three of recreational marijuana sales: Colorado leaders want to tighten rules to make sure growers are using safe methods. 9NEWS at 5 p.m. 1/26/16.

DENVER— Heading into year three of recreational marijuana sales, Colorado leaders want to tighten rules to make sure growers are using safe methods.

Pesticides are going to be a big focus this year and the rules could get tighter.

Cannabis plants thrive in warm, humid conditions, but so can mold, mildew, fungus and bugs.

Growers have to deal with them somehow and many opt for pesticides.

"There are tens of thousands of pesticides," said Andrew Freedman, the state marijuana coordinator."Most of them, the vast majority of those are not appropriate for use on marijuana."

Ordinarily, the federal government would decide what pesticides can be used on which crops.

But not for pot: It's still banned under federal law.

So the state department of agriculture has been doing that job.

"It has to be tested on such broad things like leafy greens in general," Freedman said. "It also has to be proven safe to smoke. It has to be proven to be safe to eat. And if it meets those criteria, then we're saying that is something that is a safe pesticide to be used."

It's become a serious issue for growers, many of whom would like to see clearer direction on what's okay and what's not. The City of Denver seized plants over pesticide issues last year.

Current state law requires a list of all banned pesticides, but that list would be thousands of products long.

The governor's office hopes lawmakers will pass SB 15, a bipartisan bill that would change state law to require the administration to keep a short list of products that are safe to use on pot plants.

The state agriculture department already started that list.

The list contains pesticides made with active ingredients you probably have in your kitchen—like lemon, rosemary and thyme.

It also contains pesticides with active ingredients like "Gliocladium Virens G-21" (a naturally occurring fungus, says the EPA) and a biochemical called "GS-omega/kappa-Hxtx-Hv1a."

The only time you get to know what pesticides were used to treat commercial marijuana in Colorado is if you buy a marijuana edible.

"On the back of the wrapper it will say here's what was used on it," Freedman says.

Smokeable pot doesn't have that requirement.

To try to get more info to shoppers, one pro-legalization lawmaker wants to let growers certify their pot as organic.

"Just like we have with beer or wine or any other product you're getting off the shelves, you have a right to know what's going into your food before you put it in your body," said Rep. Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont.)

This brings up yet another snag with the federal government, which controls the use of the "organic" label.

Singer is working on a Colorado alternative in HB 1079, and says he's working on an alternative to the "pesticide-free" label proposed in the first draft.

That's because (as mentioned above) some pesticides can be made with organic ingredients.

He'll need to choose the new wording carefully.

Anything that appears to have the state promoting pot is bound to stir up controversy in the Capitol.

(© 2016 KUSA)


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