Pesticides present a unique challenge to the cannabis industry. There are dozens of industrial pesticides on the market, but there are no federal guidelines for use on cannabis. With each state setting its own limits on pesticides, growers and testing labs alike have to be ready to meet the standards. And the stakes are high: pesticides are hazardous to human health, and going over a pesticide action level can result in the destruction of an entire harvest. Similar to heavy metals, the extraction process may raise levels of these compounds in the final extract. So even if the flower used for extraction had been tested and approved, the final extract can still have levels of pesticides higher than acceptable limits.
Types of Pesticides
There are a wide variety of chemicals used as pesticides, each with its own benefits and hazards. States typically require cannabis to be tested for about 60 different pesticides, but standards can vary greatly. New Jersey currently does not allow the use of any pesticides on cannabis. A few pesticides are described below.
Mainly used for controlling aphids. While it is relatively safe for human exposure, it produces toxic fumes when burned, making it a potential concern for smokers.
Used on crops to kill insects and worms. Human exposure is linked to developmental and autoimmune disorders.
The main ingredient in many flea control products for pets. Its effectiveness against a wide range of insects also makes it useful for crops. Ingestion by humans can cause nausea, vomiting, agitation, and other symptoms, and the EPA has classified it as a possible carcinogen.
The most common organophosphate insecticide in the US, widely used for crops and public pest control. Although it has low toxicity, it has a possible link to ADHD in children.
Primarily used for mosquito control. Naled gained public awareness in 2015 and 2016, when the CDC recommended aerial spraying to prevent the spread of the Zika virus. It is not a carcinogen and not dangerous to humans at low exposures. However, repeated exposure in pregnant women can lead to developmental problems.