For all the positive vibes surrounding cannabis, Nic Easley, CEO and founder of Comprehensive Cannabis Consulting, reminded an audience at the High Times Business Summit 2015 in Washington, D.C., that commercial marijuana growing is industrial agriculture. He sees a warning to the industry in the Colorado pesticide-related recalls and called for federal assistance in regulating cannabis cultivation for the health and safety of consumers and workers.
We don’t have a model this can follow. This is not just ag. This isn’t tobacco. This isn’t alcohol. This is our opportunity to make something new, to do something different. But if we keep going down the road we’re going, we’re opening ourselves up to problems.
Easley grew up in farming and discovered the healing power of cannabis after having been injured in the military. The step into commercial marijuana cultivation was natural, as was consulting in cannabis and hemp production. The latter led Easley to work with the Colorado Department of Agriculture on pesticide issues.
In his presentation on Dec. 15, Easley touched on several issues critical to the development of cannabis agriculture. He sees greenhouse and outdoor cultivation playing an important role in lowering the cost of production and building a sustainable and environmentally aware industry.
But his message took on particular urgency when it came to standards and testing for contaminants. In the past 13 weeks, Colorado has seen at least 13 pesticide-related recalls. In Washington, at least one buyer for a major retail marijuana store reportedly saw growers applying banned pesticides such as Eagle 20 or Avid during field visits.
Even if marijuana were to be de-scheduled, Easley fears that a history of contamination problems and the ensuing class action lawsuits could shut down the industry for years.
He particularly cited faulty sampling procedures: “Samples from producers to labs, that has to stop.” He compared it to milk testing, which is conducted by the USDA on an unannounced basis at farms, at the point of sale, and at several other junctures from producer to consumer. “Without the testing, without the oversight, state regulators do not know what they’re doing,” he told the audience.
To start, he recommends looking at the guidance for safe agricultural practices and drug manufacturing set out by the USDA, EPA and FDA.
Never in my life would I have thought, ‘I want more government.’ But right now, I beg the government to help us. Working in 13 states, I would love the federal government to come and give us a hand with food, drugs, pesticides, testing protocols and standards. Right now, we’re leaving it up to states to fail.
In his presentation Easley looked forward to the next stage in the development of the cannabis industry. Few in the High Times Business Summit audience appeared to doubt that full adult-use legalization would occur. The issue was what it would look like.
Easley took the position that strict consumer protection measures would ultimately protect the industry and the profit-making potential of cannabis producers. “Not only is doing the right thing going to make you more money, it’s going to keep you in business longer.”