Did you know Eagle 20, a common pesticide used on agricultural crops, turns into hydrogen cyanide when burned? Did you also know that some growers have used Eagle 20 on their cannabis plants in the past? You probably don’t want to consume Eagle 20 when smoking a joint. Therefore, on August 1, 2018, the Colorado MED will begin requiring growers to submit flower and trim samples from every harvest batch to certified labs to be tested for harmful pesticides due to the human and environmental health risks some pesticides pose. In previous Silverpeak blog posts, we have covered details about the new regulation and horticulture practices we employ to prevent needing to use harmful pesticides on our plants. In this article, we will dive into the testing process and share what test results look like, so you have all the information needed to source harmful pesticide-free cannabis.
Rather than doing your own research on harmful pesticide testing, we went directly to the source to understand the process. Ryan Randolph is the Laboratory Director at AgriScience Labs, one of the state’s first certified labs for MED required potency, microbials, and harmful pesticides testing. He explained the pesticide testing process from flower sample to results.
The Harmful Pesticide Testing Process
Growers submit samples to the state-certified lab of their choice. The MED requires that the sample is large enough that the lab can repeat the test two more times as an insurance policy, ranging in 1.5g-3g depending on the lab. AgriScience then runs a preliminary screening test for pesticides by extracting particles using a solvent and then injecting them into a liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, or LC-MS, machine to search for pesticide compounds. If no signs of pesticides appear in the first screening, then the samples pass as clean. AgriScience also employs multiple controls in the process to ensure the indicators of pesticides actually come from the samples and not from contamination within the lab. They test a verified clean flower as a negative control, and also spike some samples with the regulation limit of pesticides to ensure the results match as a positive control.
According to MED R1507b, sample test results that do not pass the lowest allowable tolerance levels of harmful pesticides are submitted to METRC by the lab, and then the grower must destroy and document destruction of the harvest batch, or request that the facility does additional analyses. AgriScience will always run a confirmation analysis before reporting the results to METRC. They test the sample two more times and take the average of the three samples as the final result to be submitted. If both re-tests pass then the harvest batch is cleared to sell, but if one or both tests do not pass then the grower must destroy the entire harvest batch. Assuming samples pass the screening tests, the turn-around time for results is 2 days. If further testing is required, an additional 2 days are added.
Silverpeak Flower is Always Harmful Pesticide-Free
Silverpeak is one of the few grows that has been voluntarily submitting samples for pesticide testing months before the requirements take place. Our flower always passes as squeaky clean because we have never used any harmful pesticides on our plants. AgriScience anticipates the new regulation could impact some grows in the industry, particularly older grows that may have used harmful pesticides in the past. Once the harmful pesticides are used in a facility, traces are left behind in paint and HVAC systems, making them nearly impossible to remove without completely renovating the facility. AgriScience once tested swabs taken from inside an HVAC system of a grow that came back with 3-4 harmful pesticides in the samples at levels high enough to keep a sample from passing, even though pesticides weren’t being sprayed on plants at the time. This is exactly why Silverpeak invested since inception to develop a robust Integrated Pest Management System in our grow facility, controlling for environmental variables like air temperature, relative humidity, and scouting for vulnerable areas. We don’t have any harmful pesticides on our property, never have, and never will. Despite the initial pains for many growers to adjust to the new regulation, AgriScience is optimistic that the new regulations will benefit the industry in the long-run. This will help legitimize the industry and improve public trust in the product, keeping all consumers safe.