King County wants to test pot for illegal pesticides

King County proposes testing pot for illegal pesticides. (KOMO)

SEATTLE - Lawmakers are talking pot -- and pesticides.

The King County Council is currently weighing a measure to test recreational marijuana for illegal pesticides. Producers of products found with banned substances could face fines or have their licenses suspended, officials said Wednesday.

"We certainly feel the public should be aware that currently there are maybe pesticide residues in marijuana, regardless of where it's obtained," said Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, health officer with Seattle-King County Public Health. "We don't really understand what the health effects of that may be."

Washington State currently allows hundreds of approved pesticides in marijuana products, but banned chemicals have been found in pot sold in recreational stores, said King County County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles.

"There is a sense the products have been certified as safe for consumption, yet we heard at the board of health there have been products containing upwards of 100,000 parts per billion of banned pesticides in this state," Kohl-Welles said. "It's not a surprise in some ways, but very unfortunate that the state has not made it a priority."

Customers often ask what is in a certain product and whether it contains pesticides, said Logan Bowers, co-owner of Hashtag, a pot shop in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood.

"We absolutely do get that question all the time at the shop, and we carry a set of growers who clearly mark on their label that they're pesticide-free," said Bowers, who is also president of the Cannabis Organization of Retail Establishments. "There's always an issue of some products will use pesticides and that's reasonable, but we want to make sure the right pesticides are used and in the correct amounts."

Testing a product costs about $100 a pop, lawmakers said. The cost to run the program would be about $50,000 per year, with the money coming from the marijuana excise tax.

Lawmakers debated the issue for about 45 minutes Wednesday, but postponed action on the ordinance until a meeting on September 20th.

"We have to trust that the producer / processors are selling us stuff that meets standards, and we're sort of put in a position where the way the rules are written we can't just go out and test this ourselves. We're stuck," said Philip Dawdy, who attended Wednesday's hearing on behalf of Have a Heart retail and medical cannabis stores. "I don't think that's a good situation.

"We want to get this right," he continued, "so if it has to start on a county level, fine."

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