Pesticides, Heavy Metals & Cannabis: Why Lab Testing Matters

This week in California, the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) approved the final regulations that were published by the state’s three-headed beast of cannabis licensing agencies (the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the Department of Food & Agriculture, and the Department of Public Health) at the end of 2018. These final regulations are effective immediately, and their impact on the industry is sure to be wide-ranging.

Among the most talked about aspects of the new law of the land is the implementation of Cat III product testing, which broadens the scope of 3rd party cannabis purity testing to include results for heavy metals and mycotoxins.

This update in testing requirements has cultivators, extractors, and edibles producers in the Golden State scrambling to not only meet compliance, but to figure out where they’ll scrape together the money for what is expected to be a 40-50% jump in testing costs for many operators.

These costs are sure to be passed along in some form or fashion to the end consumer, but Cali’s savvy cannabis market has already shown distaste for overpriced weed from the “legal” side and further cost hikes on the retail end will not be met with much enthusiasm.


Less expensive, but poorly tested?
Or at a higher cost that comes with higher quality control?

Cultivators are already citing results that reveal that their soil itself cannot pass heavy metals testing showing levels 10-20x higher than the allowable amounts.

Obviously, we aren’t talking about Metallica here, so what are heavy metals?

The list of heavy metals typically includes arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, zinc, nickel, selenium, silver, antimony, manganese, and others.

High levels of these can be found in some of our most popular foods, particularly rice and fish, and are even present in every top brand of baby food on the market.

When it comes to pesticides, the USDA recently declared that the U.S. food supply is “one of the safest in the world”, but in the same report they readily admit that at least 80% of the food they tested showed some levels of residual pesticides.

Similarly, Steep Hill Labs reported that roughly 84% of all cannabis tested in their facility in 2017 showed at least traces of pesticides.

Doctors and nutritionists are still torn about just how concerned we should be about eating and drinking these potential toxins, but the state of California has clearly decided that we should not be smoking or vaping them and in doing so they have put in place perhaps the most rigorous testing standards in the country, if not the world.

In fact, though the states of Colorado and Washington blazed the trail for legal recreational cannabis in 2012, Colorado just started requiring pesticide testing last August (2018), and in Washington pesticide testing is only mandatory for medical marijuana. Even then the testing only screens for a short list of unapproved pesticides.


So if these hard-to-pronounce micro-oddities are fine for me to eat with my Big Mac and Large Fries, why should I care if a few more sneak into my OG Kush?

Well, a 2013 study released in the Journal of Toxicology in part by The Werc Shop showed that pesticides inhaled from smoking or vaping infected cannabis can, in fact, enter the user’s bloodstream where they can travel to and accumulate in your liver, your spleen, or your brain.

Continuous exposure to inhaled pesticides has shown links to respiratory diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, birth defects, fertility and reproductive problems, and several forms of cancer.

In 2015 the Cannabis Safety Institute determined that extracted or concentrated forms of cannabis contained up to 10x the amount of pesticides as the flower it was derived from as those toxic compounds get chemically stripped from the plant along with the desired cannabinoids.

For most cannabis users, the relatively low levels of any residual pesticides combined with infrequency of ingestion is enough that they may never notice any detrimental effects, but the analogy of putting a drop of crude oil in a bathtub full of clean water and then placing your infant child in that water comes to mind – why even mess around?

Furthermore, as cannabis continues its march into the mainstream, more and more people will be inclined to try it either for recreational or medicinal purposes. Those who look to now-legal cannabis to help them with a medical condition – particularly those with compromised immune systems – could be doing more harm than good by ingesting tainted weed.

“A lot of patients consume cannabis to help them with certain things,” says Tyler at Optimal Genetics, “and they are unknowingly ingesting poison and actually doing the exact opposite of what they want it to do.”

For example, one of the toxins tested for in Cali is called myclobutanil.

This anti-fungal substance is used quite a bit in grape growing, but farmers working with myclobutanil have reported the following side effects:

  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Nosebleed
  • Eye irritation

None of those sound very pleasant, but what the hell, we don’t get sick eating grapes, right?

Here’s the thing, when myclobutanil is heated, it converts into hydrogen cyanide – the same poisonous chemical used in Nazi gas chambers and the Jonestown massacre. Definitely something you don’t want people bringing to the sesh.

With Cat III testing now in full swing, there are even widespread reports that certain brands of unfilled vape carts are failing heavy metals testing before they are even filled with product!

That’s right, many of these low-end knockoff imports contain poorly designed and cheaply manufactured metal components that are leeching toxic chemicals into testing equipment and/or into the concentrated oils that they contain.

Flowers are failing.
Oils are failing.
Even empty carts are failing.

What is a health-conscious cannabis consumer to do?

The answer has been the same for decades, even before we knew that you could lab test cannabis:


Do you think that the same company that is importing the absolute cheapest vape carts that they can find in China won’t use that same business model when seeking out the oil to fill them with?

Or if they make their own oil, do you really think they are sourcing top-shelf flower to do so?

Here at Optimal Genetics, frankly it pisses us off to see other companies taking these shortcuts and jeopardizing the health of patients who are counting on their product for relief.

We go to great lengths to ensure that you can trust every aspect of our product to deliver a safe blend of the healing cannabinoids that you need.

From growing and sourcing the finest flower available, to our expert extraction procedures, right down to sourcing the highest quality cartridges and batteries, Optimal Genetics takes our job very seriously and we take pride in knowing that we provide a truly healthy alternative.

Navigating our way into California’s legal market has been a challenge for many legit operators, us included, but we feel that it is all worth it if regulation means safe meds for those who need them.

At Optimal Genetics we strive to always source the highest quality flower from sustainable sources to provide our end user with the ultimate blend of value and uncompromised quality.
Post by Jack Riordan

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