March 27, 2013

Dangers of pesticides on cannabis pretty hazy

By Michael Shepherd
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

He said, "If we're going to really grow these big indoor grow rooms full of cannabis without any pesticide option, we're probably going to have a hard time supplying the people of the state who need this through the dispensary model."

But Dan Tomaski, who runs Northern Lab Services, a firm in northern Michigan that tests medical marijuana for purity and potency, said destroying a crop is better than tainting it, especially for sensitive patients with ailments as serious as cancer or AIDS.

"If you don't eradicate (pests), they will build up an immunity and you'll have to use a stronger pesticide," he said.

"I recommend no one spray pesticides on medical marijuana or anything that you smoke, for Pete's sake," Tomaski said. "Theoretically, you could kill someone." 

State Rep. James Dill, D-Old Town, a pest management specialist with the University of Maine's Cooperative Extension, said he has been asked for tips on how to control pests in marijuana growing operations.

He said he can't recommend much more than spraying pests off with streams of water. Because no pesticides can be used, "that's about all you've got available to you," he said.

Dill said he is concerned about pesticides' potential effects on smokers' lungs, because the respiratory system could be more sensitive to pesticides than the skin or the digestive system.

For example, a reference sheet on Serenade Garden Disease Control, one of the pesticides that Wellness Connection was cited for using, says it can be used in organic gardening of vegetables, fruits and flowering plants. 

It also says the pesticide shouldn't be inhaled, even though the federal Environmental Protection Agency has approved it for use on tobacco, said Hicks, with the Maine Board of Pesticides Control.

Hicks said it's likely that patients who smoke marijuana treated with one of the five pesticides allowed for tobacco use won't have ill effects.

But the federal government's record on pesticide use in tobacco isn't perfect. In 2003, the Governmental Accountability Office criticized the EPA for not examining the long-term effects of pesticides when smoked.

Allen St. Pierre, a Maine native who is executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the state's investigation into Wellness Connection reflects a changing public sentiment about marijuana.

He said Maine's concern about pesticide use is "a watershed moment" in American medical marijuana politics, especially with a federal government that still says marijuana is a harmful drug with no medicinal benefits.

"I've been here 23 years, and the irony that the state is now concerned with the quality of marijuana is tremendous," St. Pierre said. 

Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 370-7652 or at:
Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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