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BANNED FUNGICIDE FOUND IN LICENSED MEDICAL MARIJUANA
By Ronan O'Doherty
Licensed Producers (LP) of Medical Marijuana Canada-wide have been under scrutiny over the last several months due to reports of banned pesticides being found in their products.
Companies like Mettrum in Ontario, Organigram in Moncton and Hydropothecary in Gatineau have all had to issue recalls of their products for traces of various banned substances.
Myclobutanil, also known by the brand name Eagle-20 or Nova, is the pesticide most consumers should be worried about.
It's a fungicide that's effective in ridding plants of powdery mildew disease, often manifested as dusty white spots on flowers and leaves.
Powdery mildew disease is a systemic fungus whose spores can be found almost anywhere in the home or outdoors.
It spreads rapidly and can cause susceptible plants to become weaker and bloom less; which can be a nightmare for LPs, who can lose tens of thousands of dollars when a flowering crop is affected.
Myclobutanil is used on various other crops like grapes, almonds and strawberries as it poses minimal threats to humans when ingested.
However, when set alight, the chemical can emit hydrogen cyanide, which is quite poisonous to humans and can cause adverse effects including cancer.
Thaddeus Conrad is the Founder and President of Med Man Brand and a Medical Marijuana Consultant for over 20 years.
He was quick to point out the ubiquitous nature of the disease.
"If you don't have a clean flower room those spores are already in the air," Conrad said, "When you're growing on an industrial scale, you're almost always going to have small spots where these things will spring up."
He says that certain species don't have an immune system built for a fungus like powdery mildew disease.
"The highest quality medicinal plants come from the Hindu Kush region," Conrad said, referring to a mountainous region in Asia," They're used to dry conditions at a high altitude so the plants have no immunity to the powdery mildew," adding, "If they're put in doors they have a really tough time fighting that fungus."
Conrad explained that various equatorial or sub-tropical varieties or strains of marijuana aren't as prone to the disease but the plants are tougher to grow, the yield they produce is lower and due to their lesser THC content, they aren't as in demand in the medical area.
From a business perspective, they don't make sense.
He was also quick to warn that the greatest health risk is to the people working at the facilities where chemicals like myclobutanil are freshly sprayed on the plants.
In Conrad's opinion, workers at the LPs should have to go through a course like other farmers to use the pesticides.
Health Canada was previously using a regulation system where they trusted the LPs to police themselves, assuming that they would be wary enough of the potential pitfalls of license revocation to avoid risking the use of banned pesticides.
However, with the recent influx of LPs having to perform recalls, Health Canada has started randomly testing cannabis products to assure that only authorized pesticides are being used on them.
A botanist with one of the LPs in Ontario, who asked not to be identified as their employer didn't want to be associated with a pesticide story, informed us that it is increasingly challenging to operate within the constraints placed upon them.
They explained that of the 14 pesticides allowed under the Canadian medical framework, none are very effective treatments for powdery mildew. They simply don't work.
Thaddeus Conrad believes that even with the legal pesticides LPs need to be careful.
"Even organic pesticides shouldn't be sprayed on buds or flowers," he said," It's better to use them in the vegetative phase as a preventative."
He went on to compare the production of plants to that of human health, which it is inextricably tied in with as a pharmaceutical product.
"It's about prevention," Conrad said," You want to be in a position of prevention because an ounce of prevention is a pound of cure."
It was also pointed out by those within LPs that the rates which Health Canada is testing to, can be a little too strict.
In Hydropotchecary's case the amount of banned pesticide on the product was less than 1 part per billion, meaning if the farmer used the chemical on a field a couple kilometres away, it could find potentially find a way onto the product.
Health Canada provided the same information, including the following statement, which appeared on a recent news release,
"Health Canada's analysis of the recalled cannabis products show that the trace levels of myclobutanil that were present would have produced a negligible amount of additional hydrogen cyanide upon combustion, in comparison to the levels already produced by marijuana alone. Specifically, the level of cyanide from the burning of myclobutanil found on the cannabis samples is more than 1000 times less than the cyanide in cannabis smoke alone, and is 500 times below the acceptable level established by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. As such, the risk of serious adverse health consequences resulting from the inhalation of combusted myclobutanil in the recalled cannabis products was determined by Health Canada to be low."
Cannabis production is due to undergo a momentous rise as legalization in Canada approaches.
Health Canada wants to set a strict standard with the existing LPs, which will protect the upcoming large customer base, specifically those that depend on cannabis for medical reasons.
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