Pot Treated With Unapproved Pesticides a Public Safety Threat, Hick Order Says

Since March, we've been reporting about concerns over the use of pesticides on marijuana.

Now, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has taken up the cause.

In an executive order included in an industry-wide bulletin distributed by the Marijuana Enforcement Division, Hickenlooper directs "state agencies to address threats to public safety posed by marijuana contaminated by pesticide."

We've included the documents below in their entirety, but here's a key excerpt from a section headed "Background and Purpose:"
The State of Colorado regulates pesticide use pursuant to the Colorado Pesticide Applicators' Act and rules promulgated under the Act. It is a violation of state and federal law to use pesticides in a manner that is inconsistent with the EPA's label directions or otherwise unsafe. When a pesticide is applied to a crop in a manner that is inconsistent with the pesticide's label (an "Off-Label Pesticide"), and the crop is contaminated by that pesticide, it constitutes a threat to the public safety.

Until scientific assessment establishes which additional pesticides can be safely applied to marijuana, marijuana contaminated by an Off-Label Pesticide shall constitute a threat to the public safety.

As for how to deal with such cannabis, Hickenlooper directs the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the Colorado Department of Revenue to "utilize all existing investigatory and enforcement authorities established by law to protect against threats to the public safety posed by contaminated marijuana including, but not limited to, placing contaminated marijuana on administrative hold and destroying contaminated marijuana pursuant to existing law."

Moreover, the order will remain in force "until amended or rescinded by further executive order or otherwise superseded by Colorado law."

Hickenlooper's order is only the latest development in a story that's been gaining steam since May. As our Thomas Mitchell reported then, documents obtained by the Cannabis Consumers Coalition via the Colorado Open Records Act revealed that the Denver Department of Environmental Health had issued investigatory reports on nine marijuana cultivation facilities suspected of using chemical pesticides such as Avid, Mallet and Eagle 20 — a petroleum-based fungicide.

As Mitchell noted, Eagle 20 "is not specifically recommended for use on marijuana," but "few pesticides actually are — because of the federal prohibition on cannabis, not many chemical companies invest time and effort in creating pesticides for cannabis." This fact has complicated the process of determining which pesticides are and aren't safe for use on marijuana, and has forced the State of Colorado to take a leading role in an area that's typically handled at the federal level.

Shortly thereafter, the coalition picketed one dispensary as a way of drawing more attention to the issue — a process continued in October, when  attorney Rob Corry, who describes himself as "one of the fathers of Colorado's marijuana industry," filed a lawsuit against the LivWell chain of dispensaries for alleged use of Eagle 20 on marijuana.

LivWell didn't offer a comment about the suit to Westword, but John Lord, the dispensary chain's owner, previously issued a statement about Denver's actions in May.

It reads in part:: "Testing of our finished product by an independent, state-licensed lab approved by the City of Denver showed that our products are safe – as we have always maintained. We have reached an agreement with the City resulting in a release of the hold order on the tested products and all similar products. More importantly, over the last two weeks, we have been working hand-in-hand with the Denver Department of Environmental Health to design and implement what we hope will be an industry standard testing regime to ensure safe cannabis products. We are proud to be able to meaningfully contribute to the standards that will ensure public health and safety moving forward."

Developing rules governing pesticide use is an announced priority for Colorado officials — and Hickenlooper's order, and the MED bulletin that accompanied it, will presumably only fuel the process of doing so. Read the documents below.

MED Bulletin and John Hickenlooper Executive Order

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts