It's been nearly four years since Washington state residents voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in November 2012. Systems have been implemented to tax and regulate the different facets of the state's retail cannabis industry from seed to sale.
Marijuana produced in Washington has required that crops be tested for mold and fungus since recreational sales began in the state but screening for pesticides has not been a regular part of the program. Since the first licensed recreational crops were planted in 2014, there have been only 45 investigations of illegal pesticide use.
Other states with recreational marijuana have faced similar issues regarding pesticides. There are no federal guidelines regarding pesticide use on cannabis because it remains federally illegal. After having developed their own regulations, Oregon and Colorado are currently in the process of certifying laboratories to test for illegal pesticides.
According to Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board director Risk Garza; “Testing for pesticides is a complex and costly process. Labs need specialized equipment and highly-trained staff to carry out the tests. This agreement will satisfy those obstacles. It will send a strong message to any producer applying illegal pesticides that they will be caught and face significant penalties, including cancellation of the license.”
But the Liquor and Cannabis Board announced Thursday that it will be increasing the frequency and comprehensiveness of its pesticide testing. The board will be paying the Washington Department of Agriculture over $1 million to hire full-time testers and purchase the necessary equipment.
Agriculture Department spokesperson Hector Castro says, “This should be a real game-changer for the industry in terms of public safety. They're on notice that we're going to be on the lookout for this.”
The state will be able to test for more than 100 banned pesticides and they estimate being screening up to 75 samples a month with an average 2-4 week turnaround time.