You're probably thinking "here we go again, just another article about why you should spend half your paycheck on buying organic produce." Just hear us out! We promise this will be worth your time and money. Despite marijuana's effects ranging from calming anxiety attacks to increasing productivity, smoking or eating marijuana grown with pesticides poses a large health threat by exposing the body to lethal chemicals that should be regulated, but aren't. A Berkeley laboratory recently found that 84% of medical marijuana samples contained large amounts of pesticides (4). Myclobutanil, which is a key ingredient in the pesticide Eagle 20, was identified in more than 65% of samples tested in a month. When heated to high temperatures (like when you smoke), myclobutanil transforms into hydrogen cyanide which affects your oxygen-sensitive organs, including the brain, cardiovascular system and the lungs. It's extremely poisonous and can be lethal in high doses. Inhalation of pesticides directly into your lungs (which is basically what happens when you inhale a puff of smoke) also causes greater damage because detoxifying organs (i.e. your liver or kidney) can't get to work right away getting those chemicals out of your body. Yikes!
If you're whipping up some delicious meals or snacks with marijuana, the pesticides used during growing are of less concern. It's still not great, but it's not as bad as inhaling it because the body does a better job of clearing out toxins from the body if they are ingested (2). So if you are making special brownies, you might be okay. But don't forget, pesticides can also get into the water, soil and harm wildlife. Bottom line, pesticides aren't just bad for you, they're also bad for the planet!
Who invited pesticides to the party anyway?
It would be great if pesticides weren't part of the picture, but, unfortunately, despite some form of legalization of marijuana in 29 states, the government still hasn't put any regulation on controlling the growing of marijuana because it is still federally classified as a controlled substance (3). This classification makes it extremely difficult for third-parties like universities to get permission to conduct more research on marijuana safety! This means that marijuana regulation, whether inhaled or ingested, is up to the States themselves. California and Oregon are two states that have begun to mandate testing marijuana for pesticides and microbes and have laws in place to prevent failed batches from being sold retail. We can only hope that other states continue to follow suit!
How can I make the most out of my experience?
Since marijuana research, regulation, and testing is still backlogged everywhere, it's up to everyone to keep the supply safe, and we're here to help you figure out what you can do! There are currently two big organizations that are trying to grow and certify organic marijuana.
1. Cannabis Certification Council (CCC): Founded by two organizations in Oregon and Colorado, the CCC offers a national third-party certification program. Cannabis certified by the CCC will say Organically Grown and Fairly Produced.
2. Clean Green Certified: Founded in California in 2004, this is the only nationally recognized third-party certification program. Clean Green certifies cannabis using sustainable, biodynamic and organic standards. A list of its members can be found on its website.
Despite their expertise in growing marijuana, these two organizations can't take advantage of certified organic labeling (USDA organic), like the eggs or veggies you can purchase, since marijuana is technically illegal at the federal level. This does make it harder to differentiate between what's organic and what isn't. So, the best thing you can do is ask for information from growers or whomever you are purchasing marijuana from to ensure a quality product. Even if there is very little to no government oversight on the growing of marijuana, you can still keep yourself safe by going organic. And hey! By asking questions and advocating for safer marijuana growing standards, who knows, you might be the one to tip the scale in favor of regulations on organically grown marijuana in the future.