Dear Herb: What pesticides are permitted for use on cannabis?

Currently, Canada allows 24 different pest control products to be used on weed


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Dear Herb: My question has to do with pesticides allowed for use on cannabis.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/01/2019 (1471 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Dear Herb: My question has to do with pesticides allowed for use on cannabis.

I have been searching Health Canada’s website, and there is a list of approved products but absolutely no info regarding the actual active ingredients in these products. I am trying to find out what actual pesticides are acceptable, not just approved products or brand names.

I’m also looking for info regarding the maximum residual limits of pesticides allowed. I really hope you can be able to help me clarify some details. Searching the Health Canada website has been rather frustrating. — Pestered

Dear Pestered: I’m going to guess that the Health Canada list of approved pesticides to which you refer is the one located here, dated October 2018.

Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he'll look into it.

That list is easy to find through an internet search, but it’s actually out of date. It only includes 22 approved pesticides for cannabis, but two more appear to have been added in recent months, for a total of 24 as of today.

To find a completely up-to-date list of the pesticidal products that Health Canada allows for cannabis production, you have to search through the pest control product labels posted online by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), which is a sub-agency of Health Canada. Just plug the word “cannabis” into the PMRA’s search tool, and you should get a list of all products approved for use on cannabis.

From that list, you can get a whole lot of information about the approved pesticides (or “pest control products” in government lingo). Click on the links under “Product Name” to get a simplified breakdown of the product label, including the active ingredient and when the product’s government registration expires. Or, click on the links below “Registration Number” to view the full product label for each pesticidal product.

Those labels contain details about the active ingredient in each specific product, and also give the manufacturer’s instructions for how the product is supposed to be used on cannabis, as opposed to other plants. (Note that the active ingredient is sometimes listed under the heading “Guarantee”.)

A lab technician in California prepares samples for an analytical test. (Associated Press/Jeff Chiu)

Only the specific products registered with the PMRA are permitted for commercial cannabis production by licensed producers. If you want to use pest control products as a licensed cannabis producer, you have to stick to those exact products — you can’t just go about applying the active ingredients of those pesticides on your own.

As for the maximum residual limits of pesticides permitted by Health Canada, you can find that information here in a document called, “Mandatory cannabis testing for pesticide active ingredients – List and limits.” The list includes a wide variety of pest control active ingredients that aren’t approved for use on cannabis, and specifies the acceptable limits for residues of those ingredients as determined by lab testing.

Remember, even though the limits allow for trace amounts of these active ingredients, the products on this list aren’t supposed to be used on cannabis at all. Health Canada is very clear about this fact in this FAQ, which states: “Under the Cannabis Regulations, licence holders must not sell or provide cannabis products treated with an unauthorized PCP, regardless of the concentration of residues in the finished product. All PCPs used must be registered or authorized for use on cannabis under the Pest Control Products Act.”

Health Canada requires that licensed producers test for the banned pesticides on the mandatory testing list because they’re known to be used on cannabis, are meant for pests that tend to attack cannabis, “were observed by inspectors of Health Canada or the Canadian Border Services Agency,” or pose a specific “risk to health or the environment.”

The pesticides approved for cannabis by the PMRA don’t require residue testing because they’re considered relatively benign.

If you want to learn more about the kinds of pesticides that the Canadian government considers safe for cannabis, you might want to check out this Leaf News article from before legalization.

Until next week!

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