Pesticide use embarrassing for the industry

Marijuana businesses can’t afford black marks

Month after month, we’re seeing the pesticide problem continue to grow within the cannabis industry. To be completely honest, it’s embarrassing.

As if marijuana businesses and the legalization movement need more obstacles and opponents, the prevalence of banned pesticides is a black eye for both the industry and the regulators who are establishing and enforcing rules.

Denver health officials recently issued their 20th recall of cannabis products, many of which have been related to the use of Eagle 20, a systemic fungicide with myclobutanil as the active ingredient. Myclobutanil, for those that don’t know, produces hydrogen cyanide gas when burned. If growers aren’t concerned about chemicals in their plants, you can bet consumers won’t look too kindly on this fact when they catch wind of it.

State regulators have been maddeningly slow to follow suit in both Colorado and Washington.

In November 2015, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper issued an executive order declaring pesticide-tainted marijuana to be a public safety risk. At the end of February, the state finally put the executive order to use by recalling cannabis products from four different operations.

Meanwhile, Washington saw its first two cases of illegal pesticide use, but rather than issuing any sort of recall or taking significant action, the state levied a pair of fines. This comes at a time when the state is attempting to merge the unregulated medical market with the recreational sector. All along, there’s been this line about “protecting legitimate patients” as a key reason why the two markets need to operate under the same rules. Clearly, if there’s something legitimate patients need, it’s the assurance that their pesticide testing seems like it should have been a much bigger priority than, say, Mr. Yuk stickers some people have proposed for cannabis packaging.

It’s easy for me to sit at my desk and cast stones at those companies that have been caught using banned pesticides. I don’t have any skin in the game.

But I think the vast majority of the industry recognizes the importance of doing everything right. They know the War on Drugs is far from over. They know watchful eyes are waiting for any slip-up, any way to gain leverage against legalization. They know the 2016 presidential election could potentially bring a new set of rules, and that their livelihood hangs in the balance. But sadly, the prohibitionists are not concerned with separating the good actors from the bad; they’d just as soon lump everybody into the same category.

The need for effective pest control won’t disappear, but neither will the news headlines. And at this point, we have a lot more questions than answers.

This is part of the transition from underground black market product to regulated agricultural crop. The old cultivation methods people have used in the past might not work in today’s market. It’s unfortunate that growers haven’t had access to the kinds of resources they need to effectively control pests without dangerous chemicals, but that’s changing fast.  Just like other aspects of this industry, success will come to those who are willing to dive deeper than an Internet chat room to determine best practices.

Cannabis might be a special plant to those who grow it and consume it, but it’s still just a plant, and people have been studying horticulture and botany for ages. There are true experts out there, and many are increasingly willing to work with the cannabis industry. But most of them don’t spend their hours posting information on online forums.

Garrett Rudolph


Washington okays tipping at marijuana retail stores

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board clarified its position on budtenders receiving tips at marijuana retail stores. The good news for cannabis industry employees is that the LCB has given the go-ahead: put those tip jars out where customers can see them!

“Effective immediately, customer tipping is now an allowable practice in licensed retail marijuana stores,” the LCB said in a press release. “However, tipping cannot be required or a condition of sale, nor can it be linked to the price of the product to avoid tax obligations. If a licensee allows tipping for their staff, licensees are reminded that there may be business or employee taxes associated with tips received.”

The LCB had received several inquiries asking about the practice of bud tender tip jars. In response, the LCB has reviewed its position and clarified the agency’s policy.


Previously, tipping had not been allowed in licensed retail marijuana locations. This position was adopted based on an interpretation of RCW 69.50.357, and indications that prices of products were being manipulated based on the size of a tip to avoid paying excise tax. However, changes in RCW 69.50.535 established in 2ESHB 2136 (Laws of 2015, 2d Spec. Sess., Ch. 4), modified the tax structure associated with marijuana sales, partially negating the concerns associated with prices being adjusted to avoid taxes. The legislation also prohibited sales of marijuana and marijuana products conditioned on the buyer’s purchase of a service or non-marijuana product. RCW 69.50.380. It placed restrictions on “bundled” transactions as well. RCW 69.50.570. Due to the statutory change, the Board has revisited the policy position, and its interpretation of RCW 69.50.357.

CannaSol Farms receives million dollar rebate

Grower rewarded for utilizing new G2V technology

OKANOGAN, Wash. — CannaSol Farms, a top-producing cannabis company in Eastern Washington, received a $976,000 rebate check from the Okanogan County Public Utility District, for utilizing fusion-based G2V technology.
CannaSol Farms worked with Okanogan County PUD officials to install G2V, which features a miniaturized, high-ionization, plasma-density recapturing system throughout its facility to lower overhead and improve operational efficiencies. G2V’s low carbon footprint aligns with CannaSol’s mission to support organic and sustainable agriculture.
“G2V technology is the most innovative and sophisticated lighting system experienced to date,” said Jeremy Moberg, CEO of CannaSol Farms. “This is almost better than the sun. New scientific discoveries coupled with the rapid development of fusion-based technology are promising to advance this industry and we are proud to remain the front-runners in this effort.”
Moberg has been a long-time advocate for sun-grown cannabis for its benefit to the environment, but recently concluded that G2V technology is the future.
“This is amazing technology that will revolutionize agriculture as we know it,” Moberg said.
Moberg claims that the G2V system keeps CannaSol’s utility bill to almost zero.
PUD commissioner Stephen Dallas said he was blown away when Moberg approached the agency with the idea.
“After performing an extensive feasibility study, we had to create a new type of agricultural category based upon this technology to fit within the parameters of our existing programs,” Dallas said. “We expect this demonstration to be the model for future cannabis production agreements.”
According to renowned energy-climate scientist Dr. Evan Mills from the National Labs in Berkeley, California, it is estimated that more than 1% of the nation’s power is currently used to grow marijuana indoors.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that carbon-polluting practices are being rewarded by local utility programs giving rebates to pollute the environment,” Dallas said. “It is great to see a program that is being administered by a public utility district that is actually creating energy savings that will lower the average consumer’s utility bill.”
Environmental groups have been supportive of the program as well.
“This is an amazing synergy between a newly developing industry that obviously wants to be a responsible player in our society,” said Willow Brookes, the director of the Sustainable Use of Nature, a European consortium of environmental thought leaders based in Berlin, Germany.
The program has been so successful that it has even attracted the attention of the presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
“This is the right way to approach legalization,” Sanders said when recently questioned about the environmental impact of large-scale indoor marijuana grows. “I think this is foremost a civil liberties issue, but it is also an environmental issue. All of America should support these advancements in marijuana production.”
The PUD rebate was drawn from the existing SNAP program, which was created to pay consumers for producing their own power.

Cannabis shelf life: How long does it last?



IMG_1456-1024x768An experiment on the shelf stability of cannabis flowers

By Nick Mosely

Like any agricultural commodity, marijuana has a shelf life.

There must be some period of time after which the product has lost its optimum flavor or effect or is no longer fit for human consumption. In other words, at some point the cannabis is no longer representative of the quality advertised by the producer.

Unlike other agricultural commodities, standards do not exist in the cannabis market that specify how long a product should remain on the shelf or if/when it should expire.

About the Research Methods

Following a proposed change to quality assurance standards in Washington, Confidence Analytics conducted a research experiment to learn more about the shelf life of cannabis.

The pool of samples examined in this experiment was selected out of convenience; Confidence Analytics, a state-certified cannabis testing laboratory, stores samples for several months before destroying them, which allowed its scientists to retest some samples to evaluate trends over time as the material decays. The company investigated changes in viable microbial bioburden and cannabinoid content over a period of 125 days.

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Microbiological analysis was performed using routine methods of microbial enumeration via plate count as described by the Food and Drug Administration’s Bacterial Analytical Manual. Endpoints included colony-forming units per gram (CFU/g) of total aerobic bacterial (or just aerobic), total fungal (or just fungal) and total bile-tolerant gram-negative bacterial (or just enterobac). Three groups of samples representing storage durations of 45 days (sample size=22), 60 days (sample size =21) and 90 days (sample size =11) were each examined to compare initial versus final microbial bioburden using a paired t-test with two tails. Microbiological results were also assessed in comparison to Washington state’s quality assurance failure thresholds for microbial contamination (100,000 CFU/g for aerobic; 10,000 CFU/g for fungal; 1,000 CFU/g for enterobac).

Cannabinoid content analysis (sample size=81) was performed using high-pressure liquid chromatography separation and diode array detection as described by the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (Cannabis Inflorescence and Leaf), with individual reference standards for each analyte. Endpoints described in this publication include quantifications of both the acidic (THCA) and decarboxylate (THCd) forms of the main psychoactive cannabinoid ∆-9-tetrahydrocannabinol over a continuous date range of one to 125 days from the initial test. Trends in the decarboxylation rate were examined using the equation below, which computes the percentage loss of THCA as it converts to THCd through the process of decarboxylation.


In all calculations, a conversion factor of 0.877 was used to account for the molecular weight difference between THCA and THCd; the measured value of THCA was multiplied by the conversion factor for all calculations in this publication. Relative decarboxylation was fit to a linear regression for statistical analysis. A p-value of less than 0.05 was interpreted as statistically significant for all statistical tests.

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Recently, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board proposed rule changes that would begin to define shelf life of marijuana, particularly as it relates to the length of time that analytical test results remain valid representations of the quality of that lot. The Liquor and Cannabis Board has proposed that the results of the initial analysis of a flower lot are no longer valid after 30 days; therefore, the results have expired and the lot needs to be retested if any material has not yet been sold at wholesale.This proposed rule, if put into effect, would have some profound consequences for many stakeholders in the cannabis industry. One potential positive outcome may be that it prompts a discussion about shelf stability, so stakeholders can begin to ask: When should marijuana expire? Should it ever? Does it have a “best by” date? How should it be stored prior to packaging? How do different storage methods affect the rate of change to the marijuana’s quality? What is the best way to package it, and why? How do we know these things? These are complex questions with complex answers, and they warrant our attention.

This article will examine one method of storage and investigate the rate of change in analytical test values over time as the product experiences consistent storage conditions.

The Experiment

Producers and processors of useable marijuana continuously submit samples of flower for quality assurance testing, either as a state-mandated requirement prior to sale, or for their own research and development purposes. Samples of cannabis flower, upon receipt by Confidence Analytics, are completely dried in a desiccator and homogenized into a fine powder before subsamples are drawn for various microbiological and analytical chemistry assays. Most of the homogenized sample remains unused and is stored in an individual plastic bag, sealed with a zip-lock, and kept in a cool, dry, dark environment.

For this experiment, flower samples from 135 lots were selected semi-randomly from the pool of samples tested in the previous 125 days. Samples were intentionally selected to cover a wide range of storage duration and original microbiological contamination values.

These samples had all been initially tested for microbial bioburden and/or cannabinoid content immediately prior to storage.

The initial test values were compared to values obtained after post-storage reexamination, representing a change in value over time.

The Results

Microbiological contamination values for all three contaminants of interest (aerobic, fungal and enterobac) observed under these storage conditions demonstrated a decrease in viable colonies over time. The downward trend was statistically significant at 45 days for aerobic (p-value=0.012) and fungal (p-value=0.035), but not enterobac (p-value=0.444). The decreasing trend was consistent for all three time comparisons. None of the samples in this experiment changed from passing microbial contamination values to failing after storage, and one sample changed from failing to passing.

Decarboxylation of THCA resulted in a statistically significant linear decrease in the concentration of that molecule over time, with the average sample losing 0.0167% of its THCA content per day (95% confidence interval=0.0113-0.0221; p=2.91e-8). This amounts to a loss of 0.5% of THCA in 30 days. If we assume that degradation of THCA through decarboxylation follows this pattern of decay, we’d predict the half-life of THCA under these storage conditions to be somewhere in the range of eight to nine years.


The storage conditions examined in this experiment demonstrate a decrease in both viable microbiological contamination and THCA content over time. While the downward trends for both are statistically significant, only the change in microbial contamination is particularly meaningful at this time scale. With a predicted half-life of nearly a decade, the rate of THCA loss over 125 days is insubstantial, even if it is statistically significant, and an accurate decay curve would be better demonstrated by a study of longer duration. It was observed that microbial contaminants in cannabis flower lose viability over time when stored at desiccated conditions, and the implications of this finding to the marijuana industry could be profound.

A very important point to consider as a caveat to any conclusions drawn from these data is that the trends observed here are true only for the storage conditions described. Certainly, most producers and processors of useable marijuana do not store their flowers completely dried, as was done in this experiment. From anecdotal experience, this author can confirm that even when modest amounts of moisture are present in the container, marijuana flowers can grow mold in the packaging.

A very wide variety of storage methods exist in the cannabis domain, some of which (such as packing with inert gas) might outperform the results of this study in terms of product stability over time. Other forms of storage, particularly when high levels of heat or moisture are present, will certainly perform less well.

Perhaps the most important conclusion to be drawn from these results is the realization that there is much more to learn about the shelf stability of cannabis. Studies such as this can be highly informative to manufacturing processes and legislative decisions, especially in such a young industry. With similar methods to those described here, it should be possible to validate relatively long periods of shelf stability. To that end, we encourage manufacturers of marijuana products to partner with their analytical labs to further the science of this commodity and enhance the professionalism of their craft.

Nick Mosely is the scientific director and part owner of Confidence Analytics, a state-certified cannabis quality assurance laboratory serving producers, processors and collectives throughout Washington state. Confidence Analytics can be reached by email



Mexico Rules Consumption and Cultivation of Cannabis is a Fundamental Human Right

The Mexican Supreme Court ruled by a 4 to 1 vote that banning the consumption and cultivation of cannabis for personal use violates the human right to free development of one’s personality.

“This vote by Mexico’s Supreme Court is extraordinary for two reasons,” says Hannah Hetzer of the US Drug Policy Alliance, which campaigns for the relaxation of drug laws. “First, it’s being argued on human-rights grounds, and secondly, it’s taking place in one of the countries that has suffered most from the war on drugs,” she says.

Cannabis reached the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, arriving in the southwest from Mexico, as immigrants fled the country during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1911. The cultivation of cannabis, commonly known as marijuana, can be traced back at least 12,000 years, which places the plant among humanity’s oldest cultivated crops.However, modern humans have found it acceptable to prohibit the use of one of the most therapeutic plants in the world based on mostly political reasons.

Source: Mexico Rules Consumption and Cultivation of Cannabis is a Fundamental Human Right

Washington is handing out $6 million in pot taxes; where will it go?

The state’s ready to dole out $6 million in tax money collected from marijuana sales over the last fiscal year. It will go to local counties and cities.

The state’s ready to dole out tax money collected from marijuana sales over the last fiscal year to local counties and cities.

But distributing the $12 million over two years won’t be so easy. When Washington passed Initiative 502, it didn’t instruct the state to share the tax dollars that it collected from pot sales. That frustrated many county and local municipalities and lead to the passing of House Bill 2136, which set in place a program of tax fund sharing between the state, counties and cities.

“The original initiative — Initiative 502 — didn’t provide for any revenue going to cities or counties, so we think this is a good first step,” said Candice Bock, a government relations advocate with the Association of Washington Cities.

There will be $6 million distributed this year, and another $6 million next year. The money is coming in quarterly installments, and takes into account the amount of marijuana sales within a jurisdiction.

Source: Washington is handing out $6 million in pot taxes; where will it go?