Canadian cannabis has a history with pesticides –while the use of most pesticides was forbidden during the dawn of legal medical cannabis, cultivators weren’t obligated by law to test their product, which is basically a case, and probably the only one, of ignorance being a legitimate excuse for breaking the law. As a result, during the last couple of years, unannounced inspections by Health Canada of licensed cannabis producers (LPs) found illegal pesticides in 18% of their tested products.
However, Health Canada issued a new law which came in effect on January 2, 2019 and should bring a long-needed, swift and sweeping change. That being said, it’s certainly interesting to take a closer look at these new regulations and juxtapose them with those in the U.S. in order to get a bigger picture of legal cannabis in North America and pesticides’ place in it.
New Canadian Regulations
The new law requires cannabis to undergo an independent lab test for 100 different pesticides. For an industry with such a pesticide-lenient past, a change like this might seem almost radical, and, in this instance, that kind of change is a beautiful thing.
“My opinion is that the industry, on the whole, is trying to do a good job,” John Coleman, co-founder and president of cannabis testing lab Anandia Laboratories, tells the Growth Op. “The problem is, you’re going from essentially a completely illegal industry to one that is legal and highly regulated, and it’s a transition. Getting rid of some of the bad habits is going to take a bit of time.”
American Cannabis Safer than Canadian?
But when you take a closer look at the Canadian regulations and compare them to the ones in the U.S., the former might not even be radical enough. The list of legal pesticides in Canada is just shy of 100 compounds, whereas the one in California contains only 38. Furthermore, while some of the allowed pesticides in California are organic, even coveted compounds like geraniol, rosemary and peppermint oil, the pesticides permitted in Canada conjure up very different connotations, like health hazards for certain animals. Last but not least, a lot of the pesticides which are illegal in California are legal in Canada, which speaks for itself.
In California, pesticides can be applied if they’re exempt from “residue tolerance requirements and the product is either exempt from registration requirements or registered for a use that’s broad enough to include use on cannabis,” as the Department of Pesticide Regulations puts it. In Colorado, The Organic Cannabis Association came up with a voluntary “pesticide-free” certification program for growers which focused on pesticide residue on the final products.
Canadian Cannabis Safer than American?
That being said, the U.S. could also learn from Health Canada’s pesticide testing practices and largest pesticide screening profile. While California allows less pesticides than Canada, it also screens for less – going from 21 before July to 66 afterwards, meaning their products might be contaminated with dangers of the unknown.
Furthermore, there are major discrepancies between the pesticide regulations of different states which causes confusion that can border with mild chaos. In Washington, for example, pesticides are only required for medical cannabis.
Canadian pesticide regulations still have a long way to way to go, and so do the ones in the U.S., but at least they are going, so to speak. Perhaps everyone would benefit if the two nations walked the road to clean cannabis together.