State board considers requiring pesticide testing on pot after California recall

SEATTLE -- A recent recall of millions of dollars of marijuana in California has some cannabis consumers here in Washington asking if our laws are too relaxed.

Currently, the state doesn’t require pesticide testing on recreational marijuana, but that could soon be changing.

While the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board does require pesticide testing for medical marijuana, Washington is one of the only states with legal cannabis where vendors are not required to perform pesticide testing on recreational cannabis.

“Just like food we are putting it into our bodies,” said Natalie Schnelle, a manager at Pot Shop Seattle in South Lake Union. “We want to know what we are putting into our bodies.”

Stores that sell cannabis in Washington do require that vendors have their pesticide levels available for customers to see, a task that requires third party labs to get involved. The state doesn’t currently regulate third party testing labs.

“There’s currently 16 labs and those are certified, so we don’t license labs or have direct control over them,” said Brian Smith, Communications Director at Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

Some Washington cannabis consumers want the state to get involved with pesticide testing on recreational cannabis to avoid any discrepancies that may come from third party labs. It’s a sentiment Natalie Schnelle says she hears from some of her customers as well.

“I think a state-run system would give people peace of mind,” she said. “Unfortunately, people aren’t immune to being paid off.”

Officials with Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board say they’re now taking steps to require pesticide testing on recreational cannabis.

“I think we think it’s time to go forward with pesticide testing,” Smith said. “I think all the other states have it in some way shape or form but to get into that next step is a major undertaking.”

State officials say requiring pesticide testing comes with a multi-million dollar price and no guidance from federal regulatory agencies like The Food and Drug Administration since recreational marijuana is still illegal federally.

“So we would need all of our labs to be able to do that, it requires a huge capital investment to have the equipment to do pesticide testing,” Smith said. “Upwards of half a million dollars per piece of equipment.”

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board is now beginning the process of creating new pesticide testing rules by talking to small businesses and stakeholders about the major impacts this change would have on the industry here in Washington. Officials say the change could come as soon as 2020 after the board goes through its rule making process.