Hey, hold on just a second before you fire up that weed — it could be toxic as hell.
A shiver ran through Eugene’s marijuana community Feb. 5 when the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) ordered the stop-sale of Guardian, a popular pesticide, after it was discovered the product contained abamectin, an insecticide that is highly toxic to bees and marine life, and which in high doses may lower sperm count in men.
Widely used by cannabis growers for its apparently all-natural ingredients like cinnamon oil, Guardian Mite Spray came under suspicion at a local lab when repeated tests of marijuana came up positive for abamectin. “In each of these cases, the cultivator claimed the only pesticide they were using was Guardian,” says Bethany Sherman at OG Analytical in Eugene. “With the third client, we urged them to bring in the pesticide itself for analysis.”
OG Analytical alerted the ODA, which confirmed the presence of abamectin in its samples of Guardian. The pesticide has now been pulled from grow shop shelves nationwide. The product itself had received a FIFRA [Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act] exemption, meaning the Environmental Protection Agency “cleared it as exempt from standard pesticide tolerances,” Sherman explains.
“It’s possible that the manufacturer, All In Enterprises, added the abamectin to the product formula after the FIFRA exemption was approved, but this information hasn’t been disclosed,” she adds.
Sherman points out that the state of Oregon’s legal weed program currently doesn’t require testing for abamectin, and as far as she knows, OG Analytical is the only cannabis lab in the state that routinely tests for the pesticide. “To be clear, despite the relevant toxicity of abamectin, because abamectin is not regulated by the OHA [Oregon Health Authority], a finding will not cause a failure. If we find it,” she adds, “the dispensary can still sell it.”
What this means is it’s possible, if not likely, that Eugene retail dispensaries are currently selling marijuana laced with abamectin. Adam Jacques, lead grower at Oregon Microgrowers Guild, says the discovery of abamectin in a product commonly used in the industry is a “big deal” because a lot of so-called safe pesticide sprays might be falling under the radar. “The newest guide for acceptable spray use in cannabis gardens is pretty vast,” Jacques says. “Lots of nasty stuff in there.”
Jacques, who prefers using diluted hydrogen peroxide as “spot” pesticide when necessary, says that labs like OG Analytical go “above and way beyond” the standard in letting growers and consumers know what’s in their cannabis, and he cautions growers and consumers alike to beware: “Trust your dispensary and trust your grower. Dispensaries have copies of the labs for all products they carry on site. Check what lab was used; see if you trust the results.”
Sherman at OG Analytical says that a number of local dispensaries have contacted the lab looking for guidance on the abamectin issue. Also, she adds, several growers in the community have spoken with her about the potential of a class-action lawsuit.
According to a recent press release, ODA is currently working with OHA and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to determine potential health concerns associated with consuming cannabis treated with Guardian. ODA also is advising growers, “in an abundance of caution,” to cease using Guardian until further notice.