CVIndependent

Fri03222019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Pesticides are a problem.

In August, the Environmental Working Group—a nonprofit “dedicated to protecting human health and the environment”—announced the results of a study it commissioned to test foods made with oats. The group found glyphosate, an herbicide linked to cancer, in nearly all of them. 

Pesticides are a problem when it comes to marijuana, too.

It’s complicated: Pesticides and herbicides are regulated by the federal government. However, the federal government continues to enforce cannabis prohibition. Therefore, there are currently no pesticides and herbicides approved for use on cannabis plants.

To make things even more complicated, marijuana can be used in so many different ways—smoked, eaten, vaporized, as a salve, etc.—and there is no consensus among scientists regarding safe levels of pesticides with cannabis. A chemical might be safe to consume on food—but highly toxic when exposed to the high heat of smoking or vaping. For example, Eagle 20EW, a common fungicide used on grapes and hops, is not approved for use on tobacco. Of course, this problem goes the other way, too; there is little to no research on what may or may not be safe to be used on cannabis that is eaten as opposed to smoked.

Here in the Coachella Valley, we are seeing the creation of massive indoor grow operations. The Cathedral City Sunniva space under construction, along Ramon Road, is going to be about the size of seven or eight football fields, capable of producing almost 10,000 pounds of cannabis per month. It’s likely that operators of such huge operations will need to turn to industrial-strength chemicals to keep away the molds and mites that can easily destroy a cannabis crop—while adhering to California’s strict regulatory climate.

Let’s face it: Almost all of us already consume pesticide-laden foods every day. Unless you are very committed to “clean eating,” you are already devouring a level of pesticides that the government has deemed safe; as that Environmental Working Group study proves, those oat-based breakfast O’s that you and perhaps your kids have been eating have had cancer causing-herbicides in them for longer than we would like to admit … and we all seem fine with this. Again, the problem lies in the vacuum of research that America’s ill-conceived cannabis prohibition created.

However, now we are finally starting to get some data. The California Bureau of Cannabis Control recently revealed that chemicals and molds are indeed finding their way into the cannabis market: Nearly 20 percent of samples in California showed unacceptable levels of pesticides, mold and bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella, since mandatory testing began on July 1. Studies in Oregon and Colorado have found similar problems. Of course, this is not simply a post-prohibition problem; illegal and medical marijuana has had these same issues for years. However, with full state legality came regulation and testing, which has drawn back the curtain on the extent of the problem.

What does this all mean for consumers? It’s extremely complicated. On one hand, the testing and the removal of tainted products from shelves is driving prices higher—and dispensary prices are already much higher than the costs on the illegal market. On the other hand, we can go to sleep at night knowing the products we are consuming are much safer than they were in the days of complete prohibition; we can now make informed decisions about what we put in our bodies.

The real losers in all of this are low-income medical-marijuana patients. Some of them are returning to the illegal market for economic reasons—meaning the chances they are consuming tainted product is extremely high. Immunocompromised or other sick individuals who are using cannabis as medication need to be very cautious. The irony is that they may be ingesting cancer-causing chemicals while trying to treat the symptoms of cancer.

It is not just pesticides; mold allergies can be deadly. A friend of mine who cannot even eat blue cheese, much to his chagrin, has been advised to avoid cannabis edibles until we know the real extent of mold contamination throughout the industry.

The good news is the Food and Drug Administration may be finally starting to acknowledge that people are legitimately using cannabis. As more states end prohibition—and there is a strong likelihood that at least seven more states will either move to full legalization or decriminalize medical use in the coming year—better science will come to light. We are already seeing substantial growth in the cannabis-testing industry, which should lead to testing becoming less expensive for growers and producers alike. Hopefully as costs go down, the savings will be passed on to the consumer.

Overall, more testing and more information are good things. Whether a person is using cannabis as medicine or as a recreational drug, nobody should have to guess whether or not the product being consumed is laden with toxins.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

Following the lead of other Coachella Valley cities, Palm Springs has entered the commercial-cultivation game with the approval of the city’s first growing greenhouse.

The city granted the permit to Palm Springs Safe Access, which operates a medical dispensary on Gene Autry Trail. The grow will be located on 14 acres of land that PSSA owns in north Palm Springs, and will be in a 36,000-square-foot greenhouse.

PSSA president and co-founder Robert Van Roo plans to produce organic cannabis using sustainable cultivation methods.

There has been talk among Palm Springs city officials about the possibility of increasing cannabis taxes to alleviate impending pension woes. However, in an interview with the Independent, Van Roo reiterated his commitment to the city.

“This is the first phase of a 14-acre parcel, and we’ll be submitting plans for the next phase to the planning department sometime in the next 45 days or so,” he said. “Palm Springs Safe Access has always been supportive of the city of Palm Springs, and our ultimate goal is to help our community.”

Groundbreaking on the first phase should happen by the end of the year, and Van Roo hopes it will be operational within four months of that.

Meanwhile, neighboring Cathedral City’s City Council has decided the town has reached a saturation point with dispensaries, enacting a ban on new ones south of Interstate 10—but cultivation is another story. In July, the city issued 18 cultivation and dispensary licenses to CP Logistics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Calgary-based Sunniva Holdings Corp. With existing operations in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, Sunniva hopes to cash in on the biggest weed market in the U.S. with its foray into the Golden State.

“We are entering the California market with plans for a remarkably efficient and large-scale facility—one that will benefit from California’s abundant natural sunlight to deliver low-cost, high-quality medical products at scale,” said Dr. Anthony Holler, CEO of Sunniva, in a news release. “The award of these licenses and additional acreage puts in place the essential elements for us to move forward with Sunrise Campus as we envision it.”

The company increased its Cathedral City land holdings to 20 acres with the recent purchase of 14 additional acres. The land will be home to a large-scale greenhouse operation producing medical cannabis.

The Cathedral City facility will be constructed in two phases. Phase 1—breaking ground in the next couple of months—is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2018. This first phase is projected to produce around 90 tons of flower product per year. The addition of Phase 2 in late 2018 is projected to add another 49 tons per year.

A conditional use permit (CUP) hearing for Phase 1 is set for Aug. 2. These hearings determine whether a permit is issued to let construction begin. Citizens of Cathedral City have 10 days to file an objection, and if an objection is filed, the decision is made by the City Council.


Dispensaries ARE Good for the Community

We in the Coachella Valley are aware of the financial rewards some local cities are enjoying from the cannabis biz. But what about the effects on neighborhoods and crime?

For years, we’ve heard NIMBY prohibitionists claim dispensaries cause an increase in crime in the surrounding neighborhoods (a claim that has been debunked repeatedly). But what about when dispensaries close—are they such crime deterrents that their absence is actually detrimental? A recent study published by the Harvard Business Review says yes.

Using data collected before and after 2010’s shuttering of more than 400 dispensaries in Los Angeles, authors Tom Y. Chang and Mireille Jacobson of the Harvard Business Center were able to determine the closing of dispensaries led to a marked increase in crime in the immediate area. They found the types of crimes to increase are those typically deterred by foot traffic and bystanders, like car theft and property crimes. In fact, the authors concluded: “Open dispensaries provide over $30,000 per year in social benefit in terms of larcenies prevented.”

Of course, these findings were welcomed by marijuana advocates.

“These conclusions are consistent with prior research indicating that dispensaries contribute to neighborhood safety by hiring doormen and taking other steps to deter local criminal activity,” said NORML deputy director Paul Armentano in an email. “Such well-regulated establishments can play a positive role in the improved safety and wellness of a community.”


Cannabis-Infused Coffee Pods!

In a blatant attempt to take all of my money, San Diego company Cannabiniers has introduced Brewbudz—cannabis-infused coffee, tea and cocoa pods for your Keurig coffee maker.

“What we are aspiring to create is the normalization of cannabis consumption in a way that integrates with consumers’ already established habits and lifestyles,” said Timothy Walters, president of Cannabiniers, in a news release. “Brewbudz is our way of providing consumers with a natural, safe and chemical-free way to consume cannabis’ natural compounds, combined with an everyday behavior—coffee/tea drinking, that is both socially acceptable and discreet.”

But what about all of that packaging? In keeping with its motto—“Good for you. Good for the Earth.”—the company has developed a 100 percent compostable brew pod. The rigid top ring of the pod is made from the skin of roasted coffee beans and other compostable matter, and the lid and mesh are made from fully compostable materials and inks.

For coffee, there’s West Coast Roast, made from “responsibly sourced” 100 percent Arabica beans in regular and decaf. French vanilla and hazelnut are on the way, according the company’s website. For tea-lovers, Cannabiniers offers artisan tea featuring the “most delicious tea leaves and high-quality cannabis to create exhilarating blends that delight the senses,” available in black, green and herbal varieties. Just in case weed-infused tea isn’t mellow enough for you, chamomile is coming soon.

They recommend the Decadent Dark Chocolate cocoa as a weed aperitif, but it sounds like the perfect end to a day of snowboarding, too.

Pods are available in THC contents of 10 mg, 25 mg and 50 mg, and are available in Indica or Sativa. The company claims there is virtually no cannabis smell or flavor in the prepared beverages.

For now, Brewbudz is only available in Nevada, but California and Colorado are on deck! Visit brewbudz.us for more information.

Published in Cannabis in the CV