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Monday, December 2, 2013

Unclean Weed: What's the Likelihood You're Smoking Pesticide-Tainted Marijuana?

Posted By on Mon, Dec 2, 2013 at 12:53 PM

Is your weed clean? - FLICKR/PETERWMDAVIS
  • Flickr/peterwmdavis
  • Is your weed clean?

Leftist Berkeley peaceniks and government-fearing, gun-toting Montana Tea Party members just might agree on drug prohibition, but nothing else. While it's hard to lure drug war opponents into a party, marijuana advocates do seem to lean toward Libertarian.

Shared politics centered on the self and self-determination makes sense -- it's the government, after all, that's waging a lengthy, costly and seemingly endless war on a plant. Though there's an exception. There are calls for big government when it comes to cannabis, beginning with the testing lab.

Some 35 percent of the marijuana tested by one L.A.-based lab had traces of toxic pesticides, the lab's operator said during a recent lecture at Humboldt State University. The state has no regulations for testing cannabis, and no regulations in place for testing the labs. Needless to say, it's not doing any good.

Speaking at HSU's lecture series on the state's marijuana industry, Jeffrey Raber of LA's Werc Shop weed-testing lab (he also holds a PhD in chemistry),, said that 10 percent of marijuana sent to his shop by dispensaries test positive for pesticides.

It gets worse: A random, broader sampling of weed revealed 35 percent of buds were tainted with toxins, according to the Eureka Times-Standard.

Pesticides in cannabis are more dangerous to humans than a Monsanto tomato dripping with RoundUp. The stomach, liver and other organs absorb toxins that go straight to the bloodstream and brain when those toxins are inhaled, Raber said.

Repeating longstanding warnings, Raber lamented the lack of state laws requiring cannabis to be tested, or at the very least have minimum standards for the testing labs. These labs have proliferated in California and in Colorado, however, they're getting mixed reviews when it comes to their reliability with test results, cleanliness, and potency.

One Humboldt dispensary operator noted that the same sample of bud sent to four different labs received four very different results.

As a result, buyers are taking a gamble when purchasing weed from the street or from a dispensary that doesn't test its product.

What's missing here are regulations, which at least for medical-grade, store-bought cannabis, would eliminate some of the guesswork. No law or force outside of consumer demand currently compels growers or dispensaries to test what's in their weed before it's released onto the market. That's Libertarian, indeed.

Some localities do have laws on the books requiring dispensary-sold bud to be inspected. But nobody inspects the inspectors. There is no accrediting agency for marijuana-testing labs, which often keep their methodology and data proprietary (trade secrets).

That's led Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey to call out state legislators for failing, as they have for the past few years, to get statewide regulations on cannabis passed. But even if regulations were passed, it's unclear who would accredit testing labs, and how they would be sufficiently nixed from the industry, objectively.

As anyone who has had to endure boasts of 25 percent THC-strength flowers knows: There is enormous incentive to inflate potency results. And if a bud's power is in question, so, too, is its cleanliness.

All this talk of dirty weed may be overblown -- there is no record of patients dying or being sickened from tainted weed, but that's because there's no data on that.

So what's in your weed? That just depends on who you ask.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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