PESTICIDE TESTING

Pesticide Examination – $250 A thorough examination of the product screening for an extensive list of pesticides commonly abused and enforced upon.

SAMPLE SIZE

Flower: Minimum sample size of 6 grams.

Concentrates: Minimum sample size of 1 gram (this is in addition to any other testing, so if you are requesting pesticides AND potency/residual/terpenes, the 1 gram for pesticides is in addition tot he material needed for the other tests).

SAMPLE HANDLING

The realities of living in the current agricultural era means pesticides are all around us, all the time. Add in the fact that the equipment we utilize to test for their presence is sensitive to trace compounds to the tune of parts per trillion, and you’ll recognize the weight of what this test means. Similar to the microbial examination, it is imperative that samples are handled with best practices. All handling of the samples should be done with sterile gloves. Samples should be placed in sterile sample bags (we provide these for free upon request). Employees should refrain from handling sample materials as much as possible, always keeping in mind the potential for contamination.

THE PESTICIDES WE TEST FOR

Up to 59 compounds representing many different classes are screened including, but not limited to, the following: Abamectin, Myclobutanil, Imidacloprid, Pyrethrin I, Piperonyl Butoxide, and compounds present on the Oregon and the Washington Cannabis Pesticides Lists.

HOW WE TEST FOR PESTICIDES

Cannabis samples are homogenized, extracted using a custom QuEChERS protocol, and interfering compounds removed by centrifugation, solid phase extraction, and filtration. Instrumental analysis is performed with UHPLC-MS/MS (tandem quadrupole).

Target compounds are identified by matching to Certified Reference Materials. Ion-selective detection (multiple reaction monitoring, or MRM) are used to ensure that precursor and product ions of the correct masses co-elute and are observed in ratios matching those for the reference materials.

An extensive battery of matrix blanks following spiked matrix blanks, spiked blanks, and blank blanks are evaluated with every run to verify recovery and ensure no cross-contamination. The instrument is re-calibrated for every target compound at the beginning and end of every run to ensure consistency of measure.

This method of chemical identification is state-of-the-art in forensic analysis of residues. With appropriate cross-examination, it is considered irrefutable evidence in a court of law.

TURNAROUND TIME

Our turnaround time is currently 7 – 14 days from receipt of sample. Efficiency reviews are ongoing and we expect that time to diminish shortly.

WHERE DID THE PESTICIDES ON MY SAMPLE COME FROM? I’VE NEVER USED _______ ON MY PLANTS!

Marijuana can be exposed to pesticides through a wide variety of sources, and detection at low levels –even levels above the action limits – is not necessarily evidence of wrongdoing. When considering how preventable human actions can be the cause of the exposure, we can reasonably group exposures into one of three groups:

First, and most egregious, is deliberate application of a pesticide on a crop it is not approved for. When unapproved pesticides are applied to cannabis plants, even in the vegetative stages of development, it is likely to cause the final product to have residues at concentrations far above the action limits.

Second is incidental exposure from neighboring sources, which can sometimes result in levels higher than you’d like. Pesticides are applied in many agricultural areas and home gardens, and it is hard to find a place in our modern world where application of pesticides isn’t near. There are mitigation strategies that have proven to work in the organic produce industry to maintain compliance despite neighbors who spray. We are happy to work with you to identify these sources and strategize for improvement.

Third, and least troubling, is low-level incidental exposure. Pesticides of all types and levels of health risk are used in many ways, and very low levels (less than 0.1 ppm, or far lower) are present in the air we breathe, in the food we eat, and in the water we drink. It is an unfortunate reality of modern life, but not necessarily one that needs to negatively impact your products in particular. Confidence Analytics is here to help you maintain compliance and provide safe marijuana products for our state.

MY CERTIFICATE ONLY SHOWS THINGS AT A VERY LOW NUMBER (LESS THAN 0.1 PPM), IS THIS A LEVEL THAT IS WORTH BEING CONCERNED ABOUT?

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board approved a pesticides action level schedule which can be viewed here; this schedule comprises the detected levels for certain compounds which the WSLCB considers actionable, including actions of recall. The levels they have selected are based on a paper written by the Oregon Health Authority, which itself admits that the levels are conservative but caution is warranted where smoking or vaping may lead to unknown pyrolysis products. Levels below this are generally considered safe by multiple government regulatory agencies.

We offer an option to print a condensed certificate of analysis which only shows results for compounds which are over the state action level. This condensed certificate gives the opportunity to present a certificate demonstrating compliance with state standards after extensive screening by a certified cannabis laboratory, even when incidental trace levels are found. The condensed certificate of analysis does feature a disclaimer describing the omission of anything below the action level. Processors purchasing marijuana should ask for the uncondensed certificate if they want some assurance they aren’t buying something that might concentrate pesticides to levels above the limit.

I’M A RETAILER/PRODUCER/PROCESSOR, AND I’M THINKING ABOUT BUYING FLOWER/TRIM/KIEF/ETC. THAT YOU TESTED FOR PESTICIDES. CAN I CHECK TO BE SURE THAT THE PRODUCT IS CLEAN?

Ask them for their Certificate of Analysis. If you plan to concentrate the material, be sure to ask for the unabridged version of the certificate, which lists everything detected. If they don’t have a C of A, we’d be happy to test the material for you, ask the vendor for a sample.

Before interpreting pesticide test results, you may want to read what the leading authorities have said about pesticide residues in cannabis and otherwise.

Washington Cannabis Pesticide Action Limits

WSDA’s Criteria for Pesticide Use in Marijuana Production

Oregon Health Authority’s Technical Report

EPA’s “Setting Tolerances for Pesticide Residues in Foods”

beyondpesticides.org

MY BHO/CO2 HAS WAY MORE PESTICIDES IN IT THAN I THOUGHT FROM THE TRIM THAT I PURCHASED. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

There is unfortunately little data currently available about pesticide residue concentration during cannabis oil extraction. Some of this data was presented at the 2016 Emerald Conference, and the general consensus at the time was that a roughly 10-fold concentration of pesticide residues should be expected compared to the residue concentration in the starting material. Most pesticides in common use are soluble in the same solvents that cannabinoids are – butane, CO2, ethanol, etc.

This 10X should be considered a rule of thumb. The following is a reasonable way to consider the details:

A better way to think about it is to consider the actual starting material itself. Trim has a low cannabinoid content, but a larger amount of exposed surface area, so it is reasonable to assume a relatively large ratio of pesticide residue to cannabinoids. Flower, especially if very dense in structure and tightly trimmed, has a much larger cannabinoid concentration than trim, and also has less exposed surface area; thus it makes sense that a flower extract will have a lower ratio of pesticide residue to cannabinoids. Exactly how wide the gap is between the results of using either starting material is unknown – we would love to find out! Regardless, it seems from this thought experiment that a nug run would be favorable to a trim run. Isn’t that always the case?

The safest bet is to not apply any limited or banned pesticides to your own plants, and to test any material for pesticides before you buy it to make oil. A single $250 pesticide test is a lot cheaper than buying a contaminated lot!

CAN PESTICIDE-CONTAMINATED MATERIAL CONTAMINATE MY OIL EXTRACTION SYSTEM?

Yes, but only high levels pose a significant risk of contaminating later runs. Luckily, regular cleaning with most solvents – ethanol, isopropanol, or acetone, or an empty run with extraction solvent – will help to remove any pesticide residue present. Most pesticides are non-volatile, and so will generally not be recovered into your recovery tank during evaporation and purge. It is possible that some CO2 extraction systems may enable some pesticides to be recovered in the recovery tank, but this is only hypothetical and would depend on how your system is designed and how it is operated.

The safest bet is to only buy material you know is clean – with a pesticide residue certificate of analysis – and to regularly clean all parts of your extraction system that could contaminate your product.

MY BHO/CO2 OIL TESTED AT A LEVEL OVER THE STATE ACTION LIMIT FOR ______, IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO CLEAN IT UP?

The short answer is: no, not without completely changing the nature of the product.

Pesticides cannot be purged out or cooked away – once they are there they will tend to stay. There are a variety of techniques in chemistry that could be used to remove pesticide residue – large-scale chromatography, acid-base extractions, extractions and washes with various solvents, recrystallization – but to our knowledge none of these techniques have been used successfully to reduce the pesticide residue level from above the action limit to below the action limit in cannabis extract products intended for human consumption.

It is possible that vacuum distillation (“the clear”) may help to reduce pesticide residue in a finished oil… or it may concentrate it, depending on how volatile the contaminants are relative to cannabinoids. This would depend very much on volatility of the particular pesticide in question, and the efficiency of the distillation apparatus (number of theoretical plates). The effect of distilling cannabis oil to reduce pesticide residue levels has not been extensively tested, and should not be regarded as an effective means of removing pesticide residues. In fact, we have tested many distillation samples and found very high concentrations of pesticides, well over the limit.

The safest bet is to only run material you know is clean – with a pesticide residue certificate of analysis – and to regularly clean all parts of your extraction system that could contaminate your product.