Colorado has seen dozens of cannabis growers charged with using unsafe pesticides in recent years. From the outside, it might look like these growers are just trying to cut corners by using cheaper or more effective pesticides at the cost of users’ health, but many marijuana advocates say the issue is much more complicated.

An executive order from Governor John Hickenlooper would have given state agencies the right to seize and destroy entire crops after they test positive for certain pesticides without giving cultivators the chance to appeal the tests or the decision, but it was voted down by a state Senate committee last week.

“It is my position that government should not take someone’s private property and destroy it,” State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg told The Cannabist. “The property owner should be able to see if there are other avenues to dispose of the plants, and it should be their responsibility to destroy their own property. … I also think that it is unreasonable to have a zero limit rather than an acceptable limit according to like plants and uses.”

Many in the industry are in favor of pesticide regulation. “Responsible regulation creates certainty for industry and reassures consumers that the products are safe,” said Michael Elliott of the Marijuana Industry Group.

But others feel the knee-jerk reaction from the governor’s office to pesticides in cannabis unjustly constricts the industry.

According to cannabusiness attorney Sean McAllister, the executive order was a “feel good proclamation.” But McAllister argued that, “We don’t need political proclamations to set policy — we need science to set policy. We really need the hard work and expertise of the state agencies like the Department of Agriculture, like the health department, like the MED.”

The executive order allowing agencies to destroy crops without will remain in place until new legislation takes its place, but the fact that it didn’t pass the senate committee will make it much easier to replace with a more balanced regulation system.

“I believe the agencies understand that the approach to date has had a lot of problems, and we’re working on a new approach to both satisfy the concerns of the agency and also address the concerns of the industry,” McAllister said. “I think we’re getting closer to an agreement on how to handle this so it’ll be better going forward.”


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