Two years after Washington state legalized cannabis, the officials decide to focus not only on the legality of sales but also on the quality of weed on the official market.
The Liquor and Cannabis Board in Washington state announced their plans to spend more than $1 million on their new project that will focus on testing pot for pesticides. This sum is going to cover new equipment and two full-time workers that will conduct all the tests. The project will start at the beginning of the next year.
Rick Garza, the board’s director, believes that this money will be enough to overcome the obstacles on the way to realizing the project. The labs have to operate on specialized equipment, and the staff who is supposed to carry out the tests should be highly-trained and competent.
First of all, the tests will be conducted in the places where according to the regulators' suspicions low-quality pot is sold. This pot often contains illegal pesticides as it may be grown partly illegally. If any of the weed producers is caught applying illegal pesticides, they will face significant penalties. In some cases, it may even include the cancellation of the license.
So far, pot in Washington has been regularly checked for mold and other impurities, but organizing tests for pesticide use faced the same problems as they have in Colorado and Oregon. There is simply no regulation on pesticide use for marijuana on the federal level, as cannabis remains an illegal plant under federal law. That is why Washington officials had to figure out by themselves how to solve this problem the best way.
In Washington, like in the other two states, they have a list of allowed pesticides for using with marijuana. However, since the recreational cannabis sales became legal in 2014, there were no tests conducted to check for pesticides in the state. Not that there were any incidents of cannabis users becoming ill because of pesticides in pot products, but the public worries anyway.
And these worries have their ground: only this year, Colorado has opened more than one hundred investigations on pesticide misuse. Out of this hundred, a bit less than half indeed were using unapproved practices in growing marijuana.
In Colorado, they launch weed testing when they receive complaints about growers, and check pot for bacteria, mold, insects, potency, and pesticides. In Washington, it was impossible to check for possible pesticide misuse, and the pressure of having more tests pushed the authorities to take measures to change this situation.
Since 2014, about 45 investigations of pesticide misuse were conducted in Washington. The new equipment can drastically change this situation. Now, the labs will be able to check 75 samples per month for all the known illegal pesticides. Each test will take from 15 to 30 days to give the full result.
The Agriculture Department spokesman Hector Castro believes that this project will change the whole situation for the industry in terms of public safety. “They’re on notice that we’re going to be on the lookout for this,” said Castro.