CVIndependent

Thu09202018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Pesticides are a problem.

In August, the Environmental Working Group—a nonprofit “dedicated to protecting human health and the environment”—announced the results of a study it commissioned to test foods made with oats. The group found glyphosate, an herbicide linked to cancer, in nearly all of them. 

Pesticides are a problem when it comes to marijuana, too.

It’s complicated: Pesticides and herbicides are regulated by the federal government. However, the federal government continues to enforce cannabis prohibition. Therefore, there are currently no pesticides and herbicides approved for use on cannabis plants.

To make things even more complicated, marijuana can be used in so many different ways—smoked, eaten, vaporized, as a salve, etc.—and there is no consensus among scientists regarding safe levels of pesticides with cannabis. A chemical might be safe to consume on food—but highly toxic when exposed to the high heat of smoking or vaping. For example, Eagle 20EW, a common fungicide used on grapes and hops, is not approved for use on tobacco. Of course, this problem goes the other way, too; there is little to no research on what may or may not be safe to be used on cannabis that is eaten as opposed to smoked.

Here in the Coachella Valley, we are seeing the creation of massive indoor grow operations. The Cathedral City Sunniva space under construction, along Ramon Road, is going to be about the size of seven or eight football fields, capable of producing almost 10,000 pounds of cannabis per month. It’s likely that operators of such huge operations will need to turn to industrial-strength chemicals to keep away the molds and mites that can easily destroy a cannabis crop—while adhering to California’s strict regulatory climate.

Let’s face it: Almost all of us already consume pesticide-laden foods every day. Unless you are very committed to “clean eating,” you are already devouring a level of pesticides that the government has deemed safe; as that Environmental Working Group study proves, those oat-based breakfast O’s that you and perhaps your kids have been eating have had cancer causing-herbicides in them for longer than we would like to admit … and we all seem fine with this. Again, the problem lies in the vacuum of research that America’s ill-conceived cannabis prohibition created.

However, now we are finally starting to get some data. The California Bureau of Cannabis Control recently revealed that chemicals and molds are indeed finding their way into the cannabis market: Nearly 20 percent of samples in California showed unacceptable levels of pesticides, mold and bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella, since mandatory testing began on July 1. Studies in Oregon and Colorado have found similar problems. Of course, this is not simply a post-prohibition problem; illegal and medical marijuana has had these same issues for years. However, with full state legality came regulation and testing, which has drawn back the curtain on the extent of the problem.

What does this all mean for consumers? It’s extremely complicated. On one hand, the testing and the removal of tainted products from shelves is driving process higher—and dispensary prices are already much higher than the costs on the illegal market. On the other hand, we can go to sleep at night knowing the products we are consuming are much safer than they were in the days of complete prohibition; we can now make informed decisions about what we put in our bodies.

The real losers in all of this are low-income medical-marijuana patients. Some of them are returning to the illegal market for economic reasons—meaning the chances they are consuming tainted product is extremely high. Immunocompromised or other sick individuals who are using cannabis as form of medication need to be very cautious. The irony is that they may be ingesting cancer-causing chemicals while trying to treat the symptoms of cancer.

It is not just pesticides; mold allergies can be deadly. A friend of mine who cannot even eat blue cheese, much to his chagrin, has been advised to avoid cannabis edibles until we know the real extent of mold contamination throughout the industry.

The good news is the Food and Drug Administration may be finally starting to acknowledge that people are legitimately using cannabis. As more states end prohibition—and there is a strong likelihood that at least seven more states will either move to full legalization or decriminalize medical use in the coming year—better science will come to light. We are already seeing substantial growth in the cannabis-testing industry, which should lead to testing becoming less expensive for growers and producers alike. Hopefully as costs go down, the savings will be passed on to the consumer.

Overall, more testing and more information are good things. Whether a person is using cannabis as medicine or as a recreational drug, nobody should have to guess whether or not the product being consumed is laden with toxins.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

The Palm Springs Cultural Center accomplishes a lot in the Coachella Valley. In addition to doing the programming at the Camelot Theatres and running the area’s Certified Farmers’ Markets, the center produces several film festivals.

And now, the Palm Springs Cultural Center is getting involved with weed—by producing the first Palm Springs Cannabis Film Festival and Summit, taking place largely at the Camelot Theatres April 17-22.

Giacomina Marie and Paul Palodichuk are the festival directors, as well as the directors of the Palm Springs Farmers’ Market, which they founded 10 years ago. (Full disclosure: I work with the Palm Springs Cultural Center as the volunteer coordinator.)

When asked why they decided to start the festival and summit, they talked about their connection to farmers, coming from Northern California and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They’re used to working directly not only with produce farmers, but also with local cannabis growers. With the Coachella Valley becoming a mecca for cannabis production and tourism, they felt the area was ripe for a public discussion about what we want the legal cannabis industry to look like. They also want to educate consumers about responsible consumption, both medicinally and recreationally—and clear up some of the confusion regarding the country’s split personality regarding legality.

The film festival and summit are designed to help ease apprehension regarding marijuana use. Taking a lesson from the gay-rights movement, many in the cannabis industry are working hard to get people to “come out” and tell their stories.

Programming and films are still being finalized for the conference. “Talking to Your Teens” will be led by Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum, director emerita of the San Francisco office of Drug Policy Alliance and author of the booklet Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs. She will help parents and grandparents have informed discussions with young people about how to make good decisions in the recreational market. Although it is illegal for teens to use or possess marijuana … if teens today are anything like I was when I was in high school, they’re experimenting with marijuana.

Most of the films being chosen for the festival are documentaries exploring marijuana culture, both nationally and internationally.

While Marie and Palodichuk have more familiarity with small-scale operations due to their farmers’ market background, they said they’re taking great pains to invite representatives from large companies as well as boutique producers. Marie made a comparison to a person’s decision on where to shop for groceries: Some people are going to shop at farmers’ markets; others will only shop at large-scale grocery stores—but all of us are trying to make informed choices.

Looking at the schedule so far, there really is something for everyone, from first-time users to experienced cannabis entrepreneurs. If you are someone who hasn’t smoked a joint since the ’70s, or perhaps spent your entire life following the “Just Say No” message, there are talks specifically designed to help you overcome your understandable worries. Seniors are the fastest-growing segment of cannabis users, and Dr. Jonathan Bechard, from Eisenhower Medical Center, will lead a talk on the safe and effective uses of cannabis for pain and stress relief—and he’s coming to the discussion with a healthy dose of skepticism regarding the belief that cannabis is an all-encompassing cure-all. On the other end of the life cycle, the summit will look at how children with autism, epilepsy and life-threatening diseases might be helped. There is even a veterinarian coming in to talk about the benefits of cannabis use for your pet. As the owner of a hyperactive Pomeranian, I will be checking this out.

For those who are part of the lucrative cannabis industry—or who want to be—there are two tracks that might be right for you. A “Green Rush Series” will investigate the opportunities in marijuana retail, tourism, culinary businesses “and beyond”; and a “Business Case Industry Series” will explore the quickly changing federal, state, county and city legalities, as well as insurance and banking considerations when opening a cannabis related business.

Interested in learning to grow your own? Brooke Sinclair, founder of Sierra Bloom Collective, will lead a workshop on getting the most out of the six plants an individual can grow for themselves. Concerned about social justice? Check out keynote speaker Dr. Lori Ajax, chief of the California Bureau of Cannabis Control.

But what if you just want to come and have fun? Sexologist Nick Karras, creator of the “The Passionate High” project, will present on how pot’s psychotropic and physical effects can help people to experience greater creativity and passion in their intimate relationships.

For more information or festival passes, visit pscff.jackalyst.com.

Published in Cannabis in the CV