There’s a dangerous problem in the marijuana growing community: poisoned crops. It’s not a new problem. Even 50 years ago marijuana growers were spraying and aerosolizing harmful Big Ag pesticides and fungicides onto their outdoor and indoor plants…and they still are.
A troubling percentage of home-based and commercial growers use poisons and other harmful materials to fight spider mites, thrips, aphids, mealybugs, powdery mildew, whiteflies, fungus gnats, caterpillars, and other attackers. The problem is so pervasive that marijuana testing labs report 30-80% of tested buds and concentrates samples have detectable pesticide residues.
Lab test evidence of crop contamination doesn’t surprise me. As a cannabis journalist who talks to growers at trade shows, in hydroponics stores, and via clandestine grower networks, I estimate that at least 30% of marijuana growers use dangerous insecticide and fungicide products such as Avid, Eagle 20, Pylon, Floramite, and Forbid.
Avid contains a toxin called Abamectin. Eagle 20 contains Myclobutanil. Floramite contains Bifenazate. Forbid contains Spiromesifen. Pylon contains Chlorfenapyr. These toxins and other substances in chemical pesticides and fungicides aren’t meant for use on plants that will be combusted, vaporized, or processed into cannabis oils, dabs, or other marijuana products.
Eagle 20 & Other Poisons: Bad for People, Animals, Environment
Not only do ag poisons contaminate marijuana plants and make them unsafe to consume, they also contaminate people applying these poisons to marijuana plants. People who use these products or consume buds contaminated by them may experience resultant respiratory illness, eye damage, compromised immune systems, and worse.
Ag poisons harm animals and the environment. They’ve been especially implicated for harming bees, other pollinators, amphibians, and birds.
The manufacturers of these pesticides and fungicides advise against using them on marijuana. Eagle 20’s manufacturer claims that the main ingredient, Myclobutanil, is safe to use on some food crops. That doesn’t mean it’s safe to use on marijuana. Indeed, when you vape or combust marijuana polluted by Eagle 20, you inhale a combustion byproduct called hydrogen cyanide, which can cause neurological, respiratory, cardiovascular, and thyroid problems.
Eagle 20’s manufacturer (Dow AgroSciences) acknowledges their product should not be used on tobacco or marijuana. “Dow AgroSciences, without exception, will not seek regulatory approvals or support the use of its products on marijuana. Eagle 20 is not approved for use nor should it be used under any circumstances on marijuana,” the company says.
Avid’s manufacturer specifies use only on ornamental crops such as Christmas trees and foliage plants. Floramite’s manufacturer specifies use only for ornamentals and for “mature” tomato crops. When you read the manufacturer’s spec sheets for chemical insecticide and fungicide products and see the many dire warnings and precautions, it gives you the creeps. Nobody who cares about health and safety would spray or aerosolize this stuff onto their buds.
Who Uses Avid, Eagle 20 & Floramite for Growing Marijuana?
What type of marijuana growers use Avid, Eagle 20 and other poisons on marijuana plants? It’s a diverse group, including Mexican drug cartels that grow tens of thousands of marijuana plants in Mexico and on American public lands. The cartels are notoriously prolific users of agricultural pesticides, fungicides and other poisons.
Canadian and American motorcycle gangs such as Hells Angels run very large indoor and outdoor marijuana grow ops. Along with other organized crime syndicates, they use lots of poisons on their crops. Self-described “redneck anarchist outlaw” growers in various parts of North America use poisonous pesticides and fungicides on their crops.
And there’s the carelessly uninformed group of poisoners, consisting of small-scale and often newbie growers who read on an online marijuana cultivation forum or hear from a grow buddy or hydroponics store employee that they can get rid of spider mites, aphids, thrips, mealybugs, whiteflies or powdery mildew fast using Avid, Eagle 20, Floramite, or other poisons.
What often happens is that a panicked grower desperately consults online marijuana forums or other advisors because his plants are under threat from mites, thrips, powdery mildew, or other attackers. Somebody advises him to use a poisonous product, and the grower doesn’t do further research or read the safety warnings on the products. He doesn’t get educated about the harms to himself, his plants, and cannabis consumers.
I debated a grower who posts on online cultivation forums that it’s fine to use Eagle 20 and other poisons… even though he admits his eyes burn and he feels dizzy and gets headaches when he sprays the poisons onto his plants!
“Dude, stop tripping,” the grower exclaimed. “Only hippies and organic freaks worry about this crap. Besides, I take my buds and sell them to a company that makes dabs. Whatever I use on my crops is filtered out when they make the dabs. Problem solved.”
Unfortunately, the exact opposite is true. Making concentrates from contaminated buds does more than extract cannabinoids and terpenoids. It also co-extracts pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals. What might have been allegedly harmless “trace amounts” of Avid or other poisons on whole flowers becomes concentrated amounts when those same buds are processed into dabs or oils.
But the obvious dangers don’t stop all marijuana growers from using poisons. Here’s part of an email we got from a marijuana grower who uses poisons, and our response:
“I read your webzine and you help me fix problems and get more profits from every harvest. I count on marijuana to pay the bills so when I found out my wife was pregnant with our first child, I counted on my harvests to keep giving me the same profits or better so I could spend it on our baby. Then spider mites got onto my plants. I tried spraying them off with strong hot water spray. I tried horticulture soap, Azamax, and Mighty Wash. I sprayed almost every day for three weeks. It would look like the mites were all gone but then they’d come back. It wasn’t eggs hatching. I couldn’t figure out how new spider mites could be getting in. By now the plants were in the second week of bloom. I knew if I don’t stop the mites now I’ll lose the whole crop, and I couldn’t afford that, so I used Floramite. After a week of spraying, the mites were gone and they stayed gone. I thought the buds from that harvest tasted fine but one of my customers said they tasted funny and I had to give him his money back. In a perfect world, I’d never use Floramite, but did I have a choice?”
Here’s the answer we sent back…
Dear Friend: We’re all growers here. We understand the need for reliable income from each grow season. We understand the fear and frustration we face fighting powdery mildew and spider mites. Mildew and mites are among the top three enemies that harm grow ops (the other one is botrytis, otherwise known as gray mold). When growers use dangerous poisons like Eagle 20, Avid, and Floramite, it’s most often powdery mildew or mites they’re using them for. No doubt these poisons eliminate mites or mildew in almost all cases. But ask yourself if the benefits outweigh the risks.
For example, Floramite’s manufacturer says this about its product: “Floramite is a selective miticide for the control of a variety of mite pests on ornamental plants and trees. It can also be used on non-bearing fruit trees which will not bear fruit for a minimum of 12 months. Floramite should not be used in indoor settings. Floramite is toxic to birds, estuarine/marine invertebrates, and fish, and poses health risks for humans even though casual contact. People applying Floramite should wear protective clothing, shoes, and socks. Clothing worn during application should be washed separate from other clothing in strong detergent and hot water. If Floramite gets onto skin or inside clothing, the user should remove clothing and immediately wash off the pesticide, and put on uncontaminated clothing.”
Let’s say you’d chosen Avid instead of Floramite. Here’s what the manufacturer says about Avid precautions: “Avid can cause skin corrosion and irritation, organ toxicity, reproductive toxicity, inhalation toxicity, eye damage in humans and animals. It may damage human fertility or an unborn fetus. Avid harms fish, birds, bees, and other pollinators. Use Avid only outdoors or in extremely well-ventilated areas. Users must wear protective clothing, an inhalation filter, and eye protection. Clothing contaminated with Avid must be thoroughly laundered, separate from any other clothing. Avid has at least a 28-day residual presence in and on plants.”
If you had been fighting powdery mildew instead of spider mites, and had chosen to use the toxic fungicide Eagle 20, consider what the Eagle 20 manufacturer says about its product: “Especially in enclosed areas, user must wear full protective clothing including long-sleeved shirt and long pants, chemical-resistant gloves made from barrier laminate, shoes and socks. Overdose of Eagle 20 can result in observable foliar greening, thickened leaves, and/or shortened internodes. Do not use treated plant materials for food or feed.”
So you see that as a marijuana grower, when you use Avid, Eagle 20, Floramite and other poisons, you automatically create health risks for yourself and anyone else in the grow house. If we were in your situation, especially with a pregnant wife in the house, we’d be very alarmed to see the manufacturer of a pesticide product specifically warning us about harms to an unborn fetus.
The preponderance of evidence is that pesticides and fungicides persist in the environment and in and on whatever they’re applied to, and that they endanger people and other organisms wherever they’re used. I urge you to read this report that contains the most comprehensive examination of marijuana cultivation toxicity issues I’ve ever seen. I highlight the report’s conclusion that “pesticide use in the legal cultivation of cannabis… raises serious concerns about protection of public health and the environment.”
Following the Precautionary Principle When Growing Marijuana
We also want to explore other toxicity issues caused by faulty marijuana cultivation practices and materials. One is the use of Paclobutrazol (otherwise known as PACLO) on cannabis crops. Products made by General Hydroponics (which is now owned by Scotts Miracle-Gro, a notorious environmental criminal) and other companies contain this harmful compound, a plant growth regulator that allegedly makes buds harder and denser. But research suggests that Paclobutrazol used on cannabis crops creates serious health risks.
Another toxic problem is the use of inferior hydroponics nutrients and other fertilizers that contain heavy metals. Marijuana plants are “biological vacuum cleaners” that are very efficient at taking in and storing heavy metals. There are toxicity problems associated with heavy metals, including potentially radioactive crops.
Another thing to consider is that spider mites, powdery mildew fungi, and other cannabis attackers are very adaptive. The use of poisons creates adaption, resistance, and resilience for many of these organisms—they’re evolving to be immune to eradication efforts. Ironically, as marijuana growers use poisons, they create stronger mites and other predators that are harder and harder to eliminate.
A major commercial grower we spoke to said it’s ok to use Avid, Floramite, Eagle 20 and other poisons on clones, seedlings, and until the third week of grow phase.
“I use as little as possible. After I’ve eliminated the target organism, I wash my plants and flush the root zones to remove residue. I have my buds tested. If the lab detects even the slightest amount of residue, I trash those buds. Have I lost thousands of dollars because of that? Yes. But it’s the right thing to do,” he explained.
In conclusion, we’d ask all marijuana growers to consider a guiding idea called the “precautionary principle.” This principle can be summarized as follows:
“When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.” You can read more about the precautionary principle here.
Nathaniel Pennington, the founder and CEO of Humboldt Seed Company, says his company and its allied growers follow a strict, proprietary process that prohibits all toxic pesticides and other harmful contaminants from their marijuana growing operations.
“We’re a validated organic grower network because we want growers to have absolutely pure seeds and clones when they purchase our strains,” he explains. “You don’t have to use any poisons or plant growth regulators to have healthy crops and massive harvests of premium flowers. You can use integrated pest management and other tactics, along with choosing strains resistant to pests and diseases commonly found where you grow cannabis.”
Pennington says Humboldt Seed Company uses extensive phenotype genetic evaluation and selective breeding to increase terpenoids and genotype traits that resist common marijuana pests and diseases such as mites, gray mold and powdery mildew.
“When you look at our cannabis seeds catalogue and talk to our technical support people, you find strains that naturally deter whatever pests or diseases have plagued your crops in the past,” he explained.
As an ecologist and wildlife advocate, Pennington is especially concerned about the use of rodenticides, pesticides and herbicides in outdoor growing. “A percentage of growers poison the habitat zones, animals, surface water and groundwater at their outdoor grow sites using all kinds of poisons,” he laments.
Pennington advises that home-based and small-scale craft cannabis growers must produce only the cleanest, safest, purest buds and cannabis concentrates if they want to successfully compete with licensed commercial growers and cannabis processors who are required by law to produce clean crops.
“Consumers will buy cannabis from dispensaries instead of from craft growers if they believe dispensary products are cleaner and safer,” he notes. “Besides, when you inhale poisoned crops, you can immediately taste, smell and feel it. It’s ruins the quality and marketability of the product.”
Growing marijuana involves moral choices, not just cultivation techniques. It might be convenient and effective to poison cannabis crops in your battle against pests and diseases, but it’s just not right. We here at GrowingMarijuanaPerfectly hope you’ll choose the ethical path for growing nature’s kindest plant.