March Newsletter: Pesticide Confusion

Each month, we publish a newsletter discussing a trending topic within the cannabis industry and how it shapes Surna’s philosophy. To be one of the first to receive this information, be sure to sign up for our email list.

April 5, 2016

News reports about recalled cannabis have become a common occurrence lately, The Cannabist published 6 stories about product recalls in Colorado due to pesticide use this month alone. Unfortunately, due to labeling laws, until cannabis becomes federally legal, or the entire industry agrees to avoid pesticides altogether, these recalls will continue to be a common occurrence.

At the federal level, there are no pesticides that are approved for use on cannabis. However, states have taken it upon themselves to create a list of pesticides they believe can be used on cannabis without directly violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. According to the rules in Oregon, “use of a pesticide on cannabis is allowed if it is intended for unspecified food products, is exempt from a tolerance, and is considered low risk.”

In a widely published story, one pesticide, which was believed to be natural and approved for use on cannabis in a number of states, had failed to list an active ingredient on the label, changing its perceived risk level. This product has since been taken off the list of approved pesticides, but many cultivators are left with crops that were sprayed with it when it was approved. At least one cultivator is now facing a product recall because of such circumstances.

With all the confusion, it would seem that the best option is to avoid using pesticides whenever possible. While this is a tall order, there are steps that can be taken to make your garden less prone to infection. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Implementing air sanitation. When dangerous pathogens enter a garden, they often spread as airborne spores. Some, such as powdery mildew, can take up to two weeks to show physical signs of their presence. By the time this happens, it is too late to prevent an outbreak from infecting more plants. Equipping your grow rooms with air sanitation devices can lead to cleaner air and a reduction in the likelihood of an outbreak.
  • Reining in humidity levels. High humidity levels create a perfect breeding ground for mold and pathogens to grow. Proper dehumidification can go a long way towards reducing the need for pesticides.
  • Isolating cultivation rooms. When air is brought in from outside, it brings with it a variety of pests and pathogens. Once inside the facility, air movement can easily transfer the unwanted residents to every room in a grow. Instead, isolate each room and avoid sharing air between cultivation rooms.
  • Keeping tools clean. Using a pair of scissors that was previously used on an infected plant is a great way to infect new plants. Always clean and sterilize tools before they are used on a different plant.

As more states implement rules surrounding product testing for cannabis, reducing dependence on pesticides will become increasingly important. Take steps now to make the transition easier.

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