A CNN report late last year helped highlight a growing problem associated with the expanding marijuana industry – pesticide use and regulation.
Pesticides in marijuana is not regulated at the federal level, which means each state has its own list of pesticides that are acceptable – and its own problems with regulating use and testing with the exploding industry.
Currently, the states that have some legalization already require testing be done at independent labs and have their own lists of acceptable pesticides.
And without the protection of organic labeling, due to the illegal status nationally, anyone taking marijuana in any of its forms have to work to find a trusted source, or, be at risk to pesticides including inidacloprid and mylobutanil, which are both considered hazardous by the World Health Organization.
And with that, there have been product recalls, quarantines and at least one class-action lawsuit regarding use of pesticides not approved at the state level for the rapidly-growing crop.
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POT IS ON THE RISE
Marijuana has been called America’s number one cash crop and is a major growing industry in the united states, with the market going up 75 percent between 2013 and 2014.
Colorado had a 2.4 billion dollar impact in 2015 from legalizing it for those 21 and over recreationally, including 18,000 full-time jobs according to the Marijuana Policy Group.
Almost two-thirds of Americans supported legalizing marijuana, and a Harris poll found over 80 percent would legalize it for medical use.
Several states – California, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Arkansas, Florida, and Montana had ballot initiatives in 2016 to allow recreational or medical marijuana in the state. Currently, almost two thirds of the country favor legalization of marijuana, mostly for medical use.
A total of twenty-eight states now allow marijuana use medically or recreationally, setting individual possession and plant amounts, as well as age limits for recreational use.
Why isn’t pot regulated across the US, even with medical use more common?
Let’s talk about its legal definition under US drug policy.
HASHING OUT THE LEGAL STUFF
Marijuana growth is not regulated by the US government. Under the Controlled Substances Act, it’s considered a Level 1 substance, which are defined as having a high risk of abuse, and as of the act’s creation, no approved medical use or accepted level of safety under medical supervision in the United States.
Marijuana’s phytocannabinoids, the naturally-occuring chemicals inside the flowers are what makes it useful for medical use. There are 113, including tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
Two FDA-approved man-made cannabinoid medications are also listed under Schedule III for limited use under the Marinol trademark, treating nausea and side effects from cancer treatment. They are Syndos, a liquid, and Drobinol a pill.
Schedule III is defined as having as having a currently medical use and has a chance of physical or mental dependence.
The active ingredient of Marinol is man-made dronabinol, chemically known as THC.
Dropping marijuana from Level I has been reviewed several times, as lately as 2011, and has been denied since they still have no accepted medical use for it, and still has a high risk of abuse. And the Drug Enforcement Administration responded to two petitions this year denying legalization as well.
With it still being labeled Level I, it is hard for researchers to get approval for studies, which leaves a national set of regulations still impossible to allow efficient study to take place, and without legalization, doctors may not be able to offer it as an official treatment or properly educate themselves on its use.
The White House eliminating the Public Service Review component of the process has brought some relief for the research of marijuana’s medical benefits. Since 1999, it was required for research that was not funded by the government.
PASS THE PRESCRIPTION MARIJUANA
Some of the ways marijuana or cannabis is currently prescribed…
- Improving appetite and reducing nausea
- Relief from chronic pain
- Lessening anxiety
- Help sleeping
- And with specific medical conditions including Tourette Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis and more.
But there’s more benefits than than just immediate physical relief. It’s been found that where marijuana is legal for medical use, there are
less people relying on prescription drugs. With almost half of Americans taking at least one prescription drug in the last 30 days, legalization would make a dramatic impact on medical care in the US.
PUFF OR PASS
Even with more states choosing to legalize it for medical and/or recreational reasons, not everyone is on board yet with handing out a free pass just yet.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, even though it supports downgrading it to a Schedule 2 to facilitate research more easily, it doesn’t support children receiving it for treatment just yet. According to their 2015 policy statement, they feel more research needs to be done in order to facilitate even and correct dosing and formulation of cannabis products. However, the AAP recognizes some children cannot wait for lengthy research to be done, “some exceptions should be made for compassionate use in children with debilitating or life-limiting diseases.”
The AAP offers advice for parents of teenagers who are using recreationally, where there is a higher chance of rick-taking behaviors, loss of cognitive function, and mental health problems. 20 percent of 12th graders have smoked marijuana in the last month, and 6 percent of eighth graders.
The March of Dimes gives a laundry list for expectant mothers to avoid marijuana, including premature or low weight babies, withdrawal symptoms in newborns, or brain development issues.
The World Health Organization also recognizes that benefits could result from better research, however, they show concern in smoking marijuana with long-term health effects such as dependence, birth defects, cognitive function, and schizophrenia in some after prolonged use.
Marijuana is not advised for anyone with a history of schizophrenia, since it has been shown as a causation, though it could be that people with the disorder are more inclined to abuse marijuana. There are also several arguments back and forth over the use of marijuana for pain with debilitating diseases, since the risk of permanent cognitive and psychosomatic affects as well as a higher chance of depression in users.
SMOKING OUT THE ISSUES
Which brings us back to the issue with pesticides.
Last year a group of Colorado residents filed a class-action lawsuit with LiveWell, a Colorado a medical and recreational marijuana dispensary chain, over the fact that their product had been sprayed with Eagle 20, a myclobutanil pesticide that is not on the state’s approved list. When smoked, the plaintiffs could have breathed in hydrogen cyanide. Eagle 20 is currently accepted for use on edibles such as spinach, but not for use on tobacco nationally for that reason.
However, even though the plaintiffs, including one with a medical card to help with a brain tumor, complained that they would not have used the product knowing it contained the pesticide, the judge threw out the case saying there was no after effects proven from the consumption.
For pediatric patients, those who are prescribed cannabis may be using tinctures and oils have several risks involved. The extraction process itself can either use butane, or CO2 which uses an adjustable but longer segmented process. Butane is quick and easy, but can extract vital elements like chlorophyll if left on too long.
Then, even if it is a pure extraction, the product then may be put into a tainted product, like a vape pen, from China or elsewhere. There are not current final testing for marijuana and cannabis products, so even if the product was grown with organic methods, users still could build up doses of pesticides in their bodies.
THE BLUNT TRUTH ABOUT LEGALIZATION
Since legalization is done at the state level, there are different levels of regulation. Colorado doesn’t lest for heavy metals and fungus, but Washington, which tests for microbial agents, rejected about 13 percent of marijuana products last year for containing contaminants like E. coli, salmonella and yeast mold.
Without government standards and support on the regulation process, states will still struggle self-regulating. And users will struggle to find quality, safe, products.
Mamavation recommends consulting with your doctor or medical provider before starting holistic treatment on any condition.
This post was edited 11/13/2016 to reflect current laws.