Strict regulations on pesticide content in cannabis products make sourcing ingredients challenging. Often, pesticide-free cannabis extract is readily available, but finding ingredients that are pesticide-free can require getting creative.
In California, there are 66 regulated pesticides falling under two categories. Twenty-one of these pesticides are Category 1, which are banned for use on cannabis because they are either not registered for use on food crops or are known to cause a significant risk to groundwater. Any detection of Category 1 pesticides constitutes a failure from a compliance perspective. The other 45 pesticides are Category 2 and have different action levels depending on whether the product is inhaled or ingested. Action levels range from 0.1 ppm for to 40 ppm depending on the pesticide and means of consumption.
The California pesticide action limits are stringent and it is not uncommon for crops to fail pesticide testing even when no pesticides were intentionally used on the crops. Dusting from nearby farms using pesticides can be enough to raise the pesticide levels above the action limit.
Even if a cannabis manufacturer obtains clean extract or distillate (as determined by a cannabis testing lab) it is possible that formulation of the final product raises the pesticide levels above the acceptable limits. This most often occurs in one of two ways: either the distillate or extract is concentrated resulting in higher concentrations of pesticide, or the formulation of the product with other ingredients raises the pesticide levels above acceptable limits. The latter case is most common with product formulations that contain other ingredients such as fruits.
Combining fruits with cannabis oil can increse the pesticide levels because the FDA limits for pesticides in fruits are often higher than the action limits set by the cannabis regulations. If we take the pesticide Captan (Category 2) as an example, the action limit regulated by the California Bureau of Cannibas Control (BCC) is 5 ppm. The Food and Drug Administration, however, has set the action limit for Captan on strawberries at 20 ppm. Thus, if the cannabis oil is mixed with strawberries in certain ratios it is quite possible to obtain pesticide levels that are above the allowable limits.
Food ingredients sourced for cannabis production need to be selected for pesticide levels that will allow for mixing without the resulting cannabis product going above the pesticide action limits. It is not uncommon for manufacturers to source ingredients from international suppliers where pesticides are less common in order to overcome these challenges. By testing the food source and ensuring supply chain 'cleanliness,' cannabis manufacturers can improve their product development and manufacturing quality.
To learn more about the costs involved in cannabis testing check out this article by Iridium Consulting partner, Aaron Green.
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