The Big Problem with Pot Farmers and Pesticides

Pot farmers are having trouble finding safe pesticides.

Growing marijuana in states where it is perfectly legal is becoming a bit problematic for pot farmers. That’s because pot isn’t legal at the federal level – that predicament has left pot farmers with no approved pesticides. And, according to The Atlantic, pot farmers are now at a harmful crossroads.

While other types of crops have clear instructions on how to deal with plant pests, weed farming and pest control have no clear-cut instructions, mainly because The Drug Enforcement Agency classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance. This is the “most dangerous” level – it’s in the same class as ecstasy, heroin, LSD, methaqualone, and peyote.

The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for registering the labels on pesticides that guide use across the country, and according to The Atlantic, “These labels, which explicitly state how and where to use the products to minimize health risks, are legal contracts—states can’t allow the use of pesticides that aren’t approved at the federal level. Because of its Schedule I status, though, no label for marijuana exists, meaning cannabis farmers are left in agricultural limbo,”

Randy Simmons, the deputy director of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board equates this “limbo” to traveling down a dark alley “to figure what works, what doesn’t work, what’s best for the consumer.”

Some states are creating their own lists of approved pesticides (both Colorado and Washington are providing information on how to use pesticides on marijuana plants in wording that won’t cause legal problems). The Atlantic reports that most of the products named by these states “contain active ingredients that have low toxicity and are considered minimal risk, like petroleum oil, soap, and sulfur” — their low-danger status makes them exempt from EPA rules on pesticide residues.

But it’s that low toxicity which can make it difficult for these pesticides to kill some pests, such as spider mites and powdery mildew. This causes some growers to sneak in and use dangerous chemicals. Some of these unapproved chemicals contain “residues from household roach killer and other materials that shouldn’t be used on consumable crops.”

All of this could be solved with more scientific research, but until everything is legal at the federal level, this research will be very hard to conduct.

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Pot farm image from Shutterstock