Pesticides & Politics: California’s Recreational Marijuana Industry

written for Inspire Malibu

February 28, 2017

LOS ANGELES – Before the ink on new marijuana laws has even dried, there are looming signs of trouble. To coin a phrase, where there’s smoke, there might be a federal raid underway.

In 2016, California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined a handful of other states by legalizing the use, cultivation and sale of not just medicinal marijuana, but recreational as well. It’s expected to be a cash crop, in terms of added jobs, retail sales and tax-income states will require from the highly regulated industry. This is especially true in California, the most populous state in the country, where recreational pot is to go into effect in January 2018.

States face new challenges with pot sales, like tracking the flow of product, what market analysts refer to as the “seed-to-sale” supply chain. Regulation and compliance are such big issues some legislators in California don’t believe everything will be in place for the start of next year.

The issue, however, has grown more complex in two different ways.

First, a recent investigation by the NBC4 News Team found several instances of potentially harmful pesticides used in the cultivation of marijuana. While some states have strict regulations regarding pesticide use in grow operations, California is lacking. Out of 44 samples, purchased from various southland dispensaries, the NBC4 investigative team found 93 percent tested positive for pesticides banned in other states.

“It’s really like injecting pesticides right into your bloodstream,” Dr. Jeff Raber, a former University of Southern California chemistry professor, told NBC4. Raber, who coauthored a study in the Journal of Toxicology about pesticides and pot, added that smoking pesticide-laced weed could damage a person’s kidney, liver and other organs.

Yet another issue is the new, much more conservative administration in the White House. “Trump was never all that reassuring on the issue of marijuana legalization,” Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, told The Los Angeles Times. The marijuana lobby, though, is paying close attention to the appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime supporter of the war on drugs.

Sessions has publicly signaled displeasure with state recreational marijuana laws despite the Department of Justice’s stance under the Obama Administration.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed this in a recent briefing. Asked whether the Attorney General would break with the previous administration’s position on recreational pot, Spicer said, “I do believe you’ll see greater enforcement of it.” Spicer did make the point that Congress has previously passed a measure preventing the DOJ from prohibiting state medicinal pot laws.

As far as the country at large is concerned, a Quinnipiac University poll conducted earlier this month, reports support for recreational marijuana crosses party lines. Of the voters polled, 59 percent support broad legalization while 36 percent of voters oppose it.

As supporters and critics try to interpret the federal smoke-signals, an all too important concern appears overlooked. The White House has made no statements with regard to funding public awareness campaigns about marijuana addiction or federal support for those in need of treatment and rehabilitation.

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