Pesticide Management

Pesticide Management for Cannabis

It is clear that pesticide testing failures have plagued this burgeoning industry. Classical agricultural management strategies will not fit the standards of rigorous analytical screening. Steep Hill Labs, Inc. found that 84% of samples submitted in California tested positive for pesticide residue. Steep Hill estimates that roughly 50% of all cannabis tested contains pesticides. The Cannabis Horticultural Association (CHA) is compiling data on individual states, assessing the parameters, and building their Integrated Pest Management Protocol to fit one authoritative model for plant management.  Pesticide use is directly related to plant health and preventative maintenance. We are gathering a database of ecologically sound management practices for our members.

Pesticide Regulations for Recreational States

Below are links to the official state lists for allowable pesticides used for commercial cannabis.  States can and do update this information so it it the responsibility of the individual to cross reference the links provided herein. For more questions on pesticide use for individuals and commercial farms, consider joining our membership.

What is a Pesticide?

“The word ‘pesticide’ is sometimes confusing and many people don’t know that there are multiple types of pesticides that exist to target various problems.

A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances used to prevent, repel, mitigate, or destroy (kill) any pest. Pests include weeds, vertebrate pests, arthropods (i.e., insects, spiders, mites, etc.), fungi, and pathogens (i.e., bacteria, viruses, etc.). Pesticide is a general term that isn’t specific to the target, whereas more specific designations such as insecticide, herbicide, and fungicide deliver more detail as to the type of pest being targeted.

Insecticides are a class of pesticides that manage insects; herbicides are a separate class of pesticides that manage plants (i.e., weeds); and rodenticides are yet another class of pesticides used to manage rodents. Many common household products are considered pesticides including cockroach sprays and baits, insect repellents for personal use (e.g., DEET), rat and rodent poisons, ea and tick sprays, disinfectants, and sanitizers. Table 1 provides a list of common types of pesticides and their uses.

Most pesticides create some level of risk of harm to humans, animals, or the environment because they’re often designed to kill or adversely affect living organisms. At the same time, pesticides combat disease-carrying organisms while ensuring that our global food securities are protected. Due to this, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made the registration of certain classes of low-risk pesticides faster and less expensive to pesticide manufacturers than other higher risk pesticides.

Low-Risk Pesticides

Pesticide products which are designated as “reduced-risk pesticides” or “bio-pesticides” by the EPA have a lower risk towards humans, animals, and the environment, while simultaneously acting as effective pest management tools. Pesticides are classified as reduced-risk or bio-pesticides due to sharing many qualities such as low impact on human health, low toxicity to non-target organisms, low potential for groundwater contamination, low use rates, and low potential for pests to develop a resistance to them. Bio-pesticides are derived from natural materials such as animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals.

Pesticides Approved for Organic Use

There can be confusion over what the term ‘organic’ truly means when it comes to pesticides. Many believe it means absolutely no pesticides should be used in a growing system.

Organic, according to the Webster’s New World Dictionary, 3rd World Edition, means “grown with only animal or vegetable fertilizers, bone meal, compost, etc.” Many interpret this to mean that select bio-pesticides can be used in organic systems. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) approves the use of select bio-pesticides for use on organic systems across the United States. There are over 2,300 OMRI-approved products that are certi ed organic under the USDA National Organic Program that can be used in growing organic products across the United States. These OMRI-approved pesticides can be viewed at”

By Cecil Tharp: Pesticide Education Specialist, Montana State University