WANTED: Pesticide & Heavy Metals Testing

As you may have heard, big waves rang across the I-502 market last week when one of the biggest retail players announced they will be testing product on their shelves for pesticides and heavy metals.

Ike’s OK Testing: A Simple Solution to the Pot Pesticide Problem Seattle, Washington October 16, 2018

Uncle Ike’s is set to launch the state’s first consumer minded testing program: Ike’s OK. While cannabis products in Washington State have to go through testing for potency, foreign matter, and mycotoxins, they don’t get tested for pesticides and heavy metals. Sadly, we know that pesticides are present in a startling number of products, and have been for quite some time.

Currently, the state performs limited testing of cannabis plants for pesticide at the producer level. About 33 percent of those tests find pesticides above the state’s safety thresholds, according to data obtained via public records requests. Confidence Analytics, a state-licensed cannabis lab with the ability to perform pesticide testing, has also found that about 20% of products voluntarily submitted by their clients for pesticide testing fail. This implies that, given how many crops aren’t tested for pesticides, some are making it through. Indeed, our own preliminary testing has found that to be true.

Ike’s OK is our antidote to that. As owner Ian Eisenberg put it, “We all want to make a difference in the world. This is Ike’s way to make change in our little universe.” Ideally, this program will inspire other retailers to do the same.


The new testing program will consist of monthly testing of a random sampling of products on our shelves, supervised by Washington cannabis consumer safety advocate Dr. Jim MacRae. After the products are selected each month, MacRae buys them off store shelves and delivers them to Medicine Creek Analytics. Medicine Creek is cannabis testing laboratory owned by the the Puyallup Tribe, and one of the few in Washington equipped to test for pesticides and heavy metals. After receiving the results, the certificates of analysis will then be published on the Ike’s OK page of our website, in order to provide complete transparency to our customers. If a product we’ve sold shows levels of pesticides above the state’s safety limits, we’ll take it off our shelves, and we’d urge customers who’ve purchased it to return it as quickly as possible.


“We are the first flower company in the state to test our crops according to Dept of Health standards [for pesticides and heavy metals] and now all of our packages have the DOH compliant symbol,” said Shawn DeNae, owner of Washington Bud Co., a long-time Ike’s vendor. “Uncle Ike’s identified us as a grower they wanted to offer their clientele and are furthering that effort to provide clean cannabis with these random tests. We encourage all growers who claim ‘Pesticide Free’ product to back it up with scientific testing.”

The program was designed cooperatively by Ike’s staff—Regan, Eisenberg, Director of Operations Jen Lanzador, and Liz Jeffers, Ike’s head buyer—as well as MacRae and Tobias Coughlin-Bogue, whose reporting on pesticide use in Washington’s weed industry first brought the issue to the public’s attention.

“As a journalist, you spend a lot of time calling out issues of public concern, and calling for someone to do something about them,” said Coughlin-Bogue. “Rarely are you also given the chance to be that someone. Getting to help design the Ike’s OK program—a very simple solution to the complex problem of pesticide use on pot—is an amazing opportunity.”

The first round of test results are currently live on the Uncle Ike’s website, at ikes.com/ok/

Summary

It looks like one of the biggest retail chains in WA has made a big push for increased pesticide testing. In California the new recreational laws enforce strict testing on the products sold to end users, but not in Washington. Uncle Ikes will be taking product right off their shelves and sending it in for pesticide and heavy metals testing, ensuring the brands they carry are truly clean.

Effects on the Marketplace

What does this mean moving forward? In the release they mentioned inspiring other retailers to take action. If this trend spreads to other large stores across the state, you could see virtually every product line being independently tested. We are already hearing concern from processors that don’t grow themselves, but sell concentrates and vape lines. These processors rely on the farms they source from to keep their products clean, and they source alot!

If independent testing spreads, we could also see an increase in demand for tested material. Right now it’s not uncommon to see complete harvests without a single pesticide test, this will start to come at a price. The biggest effect on value will most likely come with extraction material, if you have .10/g trim, the difference between having a clean test result vs. untested material could swing the value +/- .02-.03/g. When making those bulk extraction material sales, the possible 20% difference in value will make a huge difference.

And forget about potential value.. When most buyers start to require clean pesticide & heavy metals tests, material that hasn’t been tested might not see any offers at all!

Pesticide Free vs. Pesticide Clean

Just because a pesticide test comes back clean, doesn’t mean no pesticides were used. This is back to the basics for most, but there does seem to be a little misunderstanding here with some end users and even processors. Washington State does have a list of approved pesticides that farms can use on the plants. If applied during the right stages, and with a proper flush, these pesticides will not show in a pesticide screening (or at least won’t break the states maximum allowance).

In this case with a proper flush, you have Clean testing end products, but pesticides were used. What do we call that? The issue comes where buyers expect totally pesticide free flower but don’t want to pay a premium. The organic flower does exist. A good place to start looking is the farms that hold certifications like the ‘Clean Green Certified’, but this flower and extraction material comes at a slightly higher price.

Nobody wants to get stuck with some product that tests hot, which means more testing is on the way. Testing cost money, and the demand for tested material will rise. These two forces will try to push the price of clean testing material up, effecting extraction material the most. This is all hypothetical, but if we see a few more retail shops hop onto the Ikes OK wagon, then this could become our reality in 2019.

New For Kush

On the Kush Marketplace we are seeing the value in marketing your clean products. Expect in the next few weeks for us to launch new features to highlight not only clean testing products, but other certifications like ‘Clean Green Certified’. We will also be requiring current pesticide testing from all of our ‘Trusted’ vendors come 2019.

If you need any help, or have any questions feel free to reach out. We have many growers and experienced farm owners on staff, we can definitely help. Reach out over the site, or give us a call at 206-587-5874.

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