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Marijuana Pesticide Contamination Becomes Health Concern As Legalization Spreads

By Hey :-), Apr 2, 2014 | | |
  1. Hey :-)
    BELFAIR, Wash. -- Other than a skunky aroma, the waiting room at the Cannabis Care Foundation in Belfair, Wash., resembles your typical pharmacy. Chairs line walls next to stacks of magazines -- in this case, issues of Rolling Stone -- and a steady stream of patients step up to the counter with doctor's notes.

    One by one, salesman Adam Dempsey leads them to the back of the shop, where they can choose from an extensive weed menu -- products with names such as Frankenstein, Garbage, Snoops Dream and Sour Diesel.

    View attachment 38027 "I take it every day myself," said Dempsey, sporting a black hat with a green embroidered marijuana leaf and a plain white T-shirt over his tattooed arms. He works security and customer service at the non-profit store, which through a cooperative arrangement gets much of its cannabis crop from patients themselves.

    Marijuana's primary mind-bending ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Dempsey suggested, helps tame his attention deficit disorder.

    But experts warn that unwelcome chemicals, including pesticides, may be tagging along with the THC and threatening the health of marijuana users.

    "There's a pretty considerable amount of contaminated cannabis," said Jeff Raber of The Werc Shop, a Pasadena, Calif.-based lab that tests products primarily for California dispensaries.

    "There are no application standards," he added. "Since we're not telling growers that they're allowed to use anything, they often use whatever they can get their hands on. And that's a lot of bad things."

    Many of the chemicals applied to pot plants are intended only for lawns and other non-edibles. Medical cannabis samples collected in Los Angeles have been found to contain pesticide residues at levels 1600 times the legal digestible amount.

    Because the product is generally inhaled rather than eaten, any toxins it carries have an even more direct route into the lungs and blood stream. Raber noted the situation is all the more concerning for patients smoking medical cannabis, whose health problems could make them more vulnerable to the risks pesticide exposure brings -- especially if they suffer from a liver disease.

    Still illegal in the eyes of the federal government, marijuana use is condoned by a growing number of states. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia now allow the medical use of cannabis, and Colorado and Washington recently approved pot for recreational use. Many of the states where some form of marijuana use is legal, including Washington, have begun drafting regulations that would require independent labs to test products before they are sold.

    While efforts to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis could lead to "a greater awareness of and demand for clean, pesticide-free marijuana," said Raber, the burgeoning market remains troublesome.

    Raber published a study this month that attempted to answer some lingering questions about pot and pesticide exposure. He and his colleagues investigated pesticides they'd commonly detected on marijuana products in their lab -- bifenthrin, diazinon, and permethrin -- as well as a plant growth regulator called paclobutrazol. One concern was whether those pesticides could actually get into a user's body.

    The short answer: yes. However, amounts varied depending on how the pot was smoked.

    The researchers determined that as much as 60.3 percent to 69.5 percent of chemical residues would be inhaled with a hand-held glass pipe, but as little as 0.08 percent to 10.9 percent got through with a filtered water pipe.

    "When you filter, you see a dramatic reduction in the amount of pesticides," said Raber.

    Not all cannabis is the same, of course. Each strain comes with its own unique combination of chemical compounds, and scientists have yet to get a handle on how any of the chemicals applied to the plant might interact with those natural chemicals, especially when burned and inhaled together. Then there are all of the other forms in which cannabis is consumed -- from oils to teas to candies.

    "This raises a lot of questions on how to set up better structures to provide clean, regulated supplies," Raber said.

    Public health experts interviewed by The Huffington Post lamented the dearth of data on the subject. Some research has been done on pesticides and smoking tobacco, but since tobacco is not a food crop, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not set tolerances on pesticide residue levels.

    Tobacco is also generally smoked through filtered cigarettes, and for the most part not targeted for use by already unhealthy adults, as medical marijuana is.

    "If the pesticide is inhaled, then this is quite worrisome," said Dr. Beate Ritz, an environmental health epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Pubic Health. "And these patients might be much more vulnerable."

    "Pesticides affect the nervous systems of insects. Our nervous systems are similar to theirs," added Ritz, noting that for patients with terminal illnesses, the benefits of smoking marijuana might outweigh long-term risks of pesticide exposure, such as cancer and heart disease. But acute risks such as flu-like illnesses and respiratory problems, she said, would still be a serious concern.

    Given all this, it seems reasonable to ask whether pesticides are even necessary to grow marijuana plants. The answer depends on whom you ask.

    James Dill, a pest management specialist with the University of Maine's Cooperative Extension, explained that pests create difficulties in managing the crop. Too much moisture and growers face a fungus or mildew problem; too much dryness and spider mites can take over.

    "All of the sudden you could be smoking a mold," said Dill. "That's not meant to be ingested."

    It can be easy to see why growers motivated to fend off these foes, and by constraints on time and space to grow plants faster and taller, might resort to chemical help.

    There are some alternatives.

    "If they're smart, they use companion planting like garlic and onion chives to provide a natural barrier," said Dempsey, the Washington marijuana dispensary salesman.

    Still, he admitted that his suppliers, many of whom are also his customers, are still just "learning how to grow."

    The Cannabis Care Foundation doesn't have any special testing equipment, nor does it send marijuana out to a lab for analysis. But Dempsey suggested that he and his coworkers can "tell pesticides right away" by smell, taste, touch or by using a microscope. He added that they reject a good amount of cannabis due to mold, pests or pesticide contamination.

    But Raber expressed doubt that such surface-level analysis would be sufficient.

    "There is no way they could detect pesticide molecules inside of the plant that were put there through the roots," he said. "Nor could they smell the tens to hundreds of compounds you'd like to look for that could potentially be put on there by a cultivator."

    Pesticides can be dangerous even at levels far lower than someone would be able to see with a microscope, he added. But he also emphasized that most dispensaries and cultivators want to provide a clean, safe product. In many cases, both seller and grower are unaware that a crop has become contaminated.

    "Cannabis is well known to pull up a lot of crap out of the ground," he said.

    Evan Mascagni stumbled across the issue of contaminated cannabis while filming his upcoming documentary, "Toxic Profits," which highlights the global sale of pesticides banned in the U.S. He noted concern among many in California that because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn't allow any organic certification for its products.

    Some independent efforts such as Clean Green Certified have sprouted, but even crops from growers who think they are complying with organic standards sometimes test positive for pesticides.

    "You can only imagine the pesticides that are being used on marijuana grown elsewhere by profit-driven farmers" who may not care about the health of consumers or the environment, Mascagni told HuffPost in an email.

    Pot-smokers aren't the only ones at risk from the application of pesticides on marijuana crops. Also potentially in danger are the people spraying the chemicals -- especially if the practice takes place indoors -- and others that may eat, drink or breathe downwind.

    Dempsey maintained that growers can produce cannabis without using pesticides.

    "This is a pharmacy," he said. "We need something that helps a patient get healthier, not something that kills them."

    By Lynne Peeples
    Photographs google imgs.
    2 April 2014
    Huff Post


  1. Hey :-)
    Are You Smoking Pesticides With Your Pot?

    When you smoke pot, you might also be smoking a glut of nasty chemicals. A new study published in the Journal of Toxicology found that up to 70 percent of the pesticides on a given marijuana bud can transfer to the inhaled smoke.

    [IMGR=''white'']https://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=38029&stc=1&d=1107383359[/IMGR]Researcher Jeffrey Raber, a chemist who runs a medical cannabis testing company in Pasadena, Calif. called the Werc Shop, conducted the study inspired by prior research conducted on cigarettes, which showed that smokers could inhale compounds present on tobacco.

    Raber presented his findings at a talk titled, “Medical Cannabis Quality Control in California: Keeping a Weed Free Garden,”at Humboldt State University in November as part of a lecture series put on by Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research. The talk focused in part on the contaminants found in cannabis smoke, as well as a number of other topics, which an article in Eureka’s Times-Standard categorized as “everything from erroneous branding at dispensaries and testing procedures to the various components of marijuana and the ways to determine the best strains to treat specific ailments.”

    Raber’s lecture ultimately left a message of caution for the marijuana buyer.

    "Because this is currently quasi legal if not illegal in some places, and people are motivated to be making a commercial amount of money in a small amount of space, with no regulations and no quality control, anything that can be brought out to the market will go out to the market,” Raber said.

    Raber noted that within California any use of pesticides on cannabis plants is illegal. However, as cannabis cultivation also remains illegal on the federal level, as well as in California state aside from specified medical grows, there is no oversight in place to regulate what is sprayed on cannabis plants. Further, cannabis growers can’t legally apply to be certified organic when they aren’t using pesticides or other chemicals. Without independent laboratory testing like Raber’s, there is no way to tell whether or not a bud is covered in toxic chemicals.

    According to Raber, about 10 percent of the marijuana tested in his lab registers positive for pesticides on average. All of those samples come from medical marijuana dispensaries as well as patients who have sought out testing.The Times-Standard reported that in one random study in Raber’s lab, more than 35 percent of marijuana failed pesticide tests.

    Raber said in the talk that his studies point to a need for “serious regulations” within California to determine what can and can’t be sprayed on marijuana plants, “especially in the medical patient context.”

    Research has already confirmed the devastating effects of pesticides on human health. Pesticide use is linked to sterility in humans as well as animals, cancer, and numerous additional chronic illnesses according to Radcliffe's Integrated Pest Management (IPM) World Textbook at the University of Minnesota. An IPM report titled "Public Health Risks Associated with Pesticides and Natural Toxins in Foods" states that human poisonings and their related illnesses "are clearly the highest price paid for pesticide use," and notes that about 67,000 pesticide poisonings are reported each year in the U.S.

    Raber noted in his talk that when you inhale something “it’s much like injecting it straight into your bloodstream,” as the body has filters in place for things that are ingested, which don’t apply to things that are inhaled.

    Raber’s lab tests for about 30 to 40 different types of chemicals, based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s intake limits. He noted that the list used is “certainly not perfect."

    The Time-Standard spoke with Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey, who said his deputies have found “massive amounts" of "high-powered pesticides" at marijuana gardens in the county, including those with posted medical marijuana recommendations.

    Downey told the Times-Standard he'd like to see some studies specifically looking at the cumulative impacts of inhaling these substances over the course of years, or even decades.

    AlterNet ran a related article in October titled “The New Reefer Madness: Drug War Crusaders Blame Pot Growers for Dead Animals, But the Drug War's to Blame,” which notes that Downey is among a series of unlikely advocates of national marijuana legalization, as a means of amping up regulation.

    The article discussed the decimation of rodent populations due to the use of rodenticides in the many illegal or “trespass” cannabis grow sites, which are hidden deep inside Humboldt County forests. Rodenticides are deadly to wildlife as well as the hawks and owls that naturally prey on rodents. While the media and some authorities point to the trend as a reason to bolster the war on drugs, the article notes legalization would better fix the problem because those grows would no longer be forced to operate undercover.

    “Amplified by a willing national media, the environmental harms caused by pot have become the new 'reefer madness,’ … ut some Northern California officials who are on the frontlines of combating trespass grows say they're only a symptom of a much larger problem: the drug war itself."

    Butte County Supervisor Bill Connelly, a conservative who describes himself as "definitely not an environmentalist," said in the article that “ramping up the war on pot because of trespass grows will ultimately fail to either eradicate the farms or protect Mother Nature. As a result, he's joined advocates like Downey in calling for the legalization of marijuana nationwide."

    The same idea holds true in the case of pesticide use. If marijuana were legalized, pesticide use could be regulated and overseen, and organic growers could delineate their crops as such. As cultivation remains unregulated, it remains a potential health threat.

    Jeffrey Raber says while his study is the first of its kind and turned out some alarming results, more detailed studies are needed.

    By April M Short
    Photograph Shutterstock, Igor Kolos
    Dec 1 2013
    Google: Australian Broadcasting Corporation; tv; Australia; Gardening Australia; natural pest repellent + insecticide

    When insect pests invade your plants you've got to get on to the problem right away. Colin prefers to use home-made remedies where possible because they're generally safer for the environment and more economical. However he advises, "Be careful of these solutions around children, as they should not be ingested. Don't store them in soft drink bottles and make sure you keep them out of reach of children.

    Scale and Mealybugs: Make an oil preparation that suffocates them by mixing four tablespoons of dishwashing liquid into one cup of vegetable oil. Mix one part of that mixture to about twenty parts of water, put it in your sprayer and spray the affected plants.

    Aphids, Caterpillars and Other Insects: Add two tablespoons of soap flakes to one litre of water and stir thoroughly until completely dissolved (this is quicker in warm water). There is no need to dilute this further, just spray it on as is.

    Black Spot Fungicide: In Queensland, Black Spot's a major problem with roses, but this fungicide mixture works miracles. Add three teaspoons of bicarb soda to one litre of water. Don't get carried away with the bicarb soda because if you make it too strong, it'll cause all sorts of problems. Add a few drops of either dishwashing liquid, or fish emulsion to help the solution adhere to the leaf more effectively.

    Fungicide: Mix one level teaspoon of bicarb soda into one litre of water. Add one litre of skim milk and a pinch of Condy's Crystals (potassium permanganate) which you can get from a produce agent (someone that supplies to horse owners). Shake thoroughly.

    Grasshopper, Caterpillar and Possum Deterrent: Mix a cup of molasses into one litre of water and spray it over new foliage.

    Nematodes: Add half a litre of molasses to two litres of water and spread over one and a half square metres of affected garden area.

    All-round Insecticide: Chop four large onions, two cloves of garlic, and four hot chillies. Mix them together and cover with warm, soapy water and leave it to stand overnight. Strain off that liquid and add it to five litres of water to create an all-round insecticide.

    Pesticide: Crush a whole bulb of garlic and cover with vegetable oil. After two days, strain off the liquid, add a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid and use one millilitre of concentrate to one litre of water.

    Herbicide: Add a cup of common salt to a litre of vinegar. After it's dissolved, brush it directly onto weeds. Remember, it's not a selective weed killer. It'll kill anything it touches so be very careful how you use it.

    Predator Attractor: Predators that prey on pests are great things to have in the garden. Lacewings are particularly desirable because they consume aphids and many other pests. To encourage them into your garden, dissolve one teaspoon of a yeast based sandwich spread in water and spray it all over the plants.


    Can't remember source for the following:

    To deter animals, such as possums, and pets from eating your beloved plants / seedlings / cotyledons.

    Google: "quassia bark; supplies" (pronounced KWARSHIA / quarsha)

    Also Google it's preparation, but, from memory, boil a handful of the bark chips in 1 litre of water for 10 mns; leave to steep overnight, and drain then filter liquid through cloth, or filter paper, and spray onto plants.

    Extremely bitter to animals, but may not deter insects. Harmless, but wash off plants in water before consumption.
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