Burning Questions: Keeping your crop clean

On pesticides and pot
By VALERIE VANDE PANNE  |  July 10, 2013

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EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s a confusing world out there for marijuana fans — and that’s not just because you might be stoned. Recent years in Rhode Island have brought the legalization of medical marijuana, the de-criminalization of non-medical marijuana, and debates in the state house over the full-on legalization and regulation of weed (the bills haven’t made it out of committee, alas). To help steer you through the confusion, the Providence Phoenix has enlisted Valerie Vande Panne, whose “Burning Questions” column will appear here once a month.

The column is the re-ignition of a regular installment from the bygone Boston Phoenix. But Vande Panne’s qualifications go well beyond being a friend of the Phoenix family. She’s a former news editor of High Times magazine who has served on the board of directors for Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the educational organization Flex Your Rights.

And it’s not just questions about bud she’ll be answering. “I want to include other drugs and the drug war, because, like sex, often times people are afraid or embarrassed [to ask],” she says. So read on, curious friends. The expert is now taking your questions.

Should there be concern about medical marijuana that has been treated with pesticides?

_Pondering in Pawtucket

“Yes, absolutely” there should be concern about medical marijuana treated with pesticides, says Jamie DeSousa, CEO of Providence-based Know Your Grow Laboratories (knowyourgrow.co), a facility that tests medicinal cannabis for contaminants, in addition to THC and CBD content.

DeSousa also cautions that it’s a practice for growers who have a bad crop — a mite infestation, for example — to make hash or oil out of it. That process might screen out the mites, larvae, and feces (as well as any mold and mildew), but any pesticide the plants were treated with will become concentrated in the hash or oil. Medical patients such as those with respiratory conditions, central nervous system disorders, PTSD, and chronic pain, might be especially vulnerable to pesticide-treated medi-pot, DeSousa says.

Growers can use organic methods to control pests, says High Times senior cultivation expert Danny Danko. Neem oil can be applied, or predator pests such as ladybugs can be introduced to the garden to eat the pests that are eating marijuana plants.

Unfortunately, some growers use the insecticide Avid or a pesticide “bomb” to deal with unwanted infestations late in the plant’s growth cycle. The problem with those is that the pesticide residue remains on the plant. Avid, for example, works by coating the plant, and it stays on the plant for 45 days, DeSousa says.

Any reputable, responsible medical marijuana dispensary in Rhode Island — or in any other medical marijuana state in the country — tests their medical marijuana for harmful contaminants, including pesticides, and if the bud is contaminated above a certain level, they do not pass it on to patients. “If [your bud tests] below 15 parts per million, you’re probably OK,” DeSousa says. “[But] 150 parts per million? You’re in trouble.”

Both Danko and DeSousa recommend patients go to dispensaries that test and know their product well. “The two [compassion centers] in Rhode Island test everything,” DeSousa says.

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