Cannabis legalization has brought about a new age of cultivating where cannabis is meeting commercial agriculture.  Prior to legalization, the majority of cannabis was being grown in basements, garages, and closets.  Now we are seeing cannabis being grown in state of the art cultivation facilities that have high-quality systems in place to ensure environmental control, nutrient delivery and a regulated standard of cleanliness that is tested and safe for the consumer.  Legalization has elevated consumer protection and gives consumers the information needed to make educated choices about products purchased at the dispensary.  Despite the access to this information, many consumers don’t know how to use this information to their advantage.  In this article, we will discuss the various ingredients used in cultivating cannabis, how they are used, and what to look for to ensure you are buying the cleanest product available.

Nutrients

If you know anything about cultivating cannabis you know that it is one hungry plant.  Cannabis requires an immense amount of resources to grow to its fullest potential.  For all plant life on this planet, the three main nutrients needed to grow are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K).  Apart from Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, there are fourteen essential elements need for plant growth.  If a grower is feeding their plants a complete line of nutrients, all these essential elements will be present in the nutrient additives and therefore will be present in the plant.  Although all these nutrients are also important for human growth and development, many of them are harmful to the human body when combusted and inhaled.   To rid the plants of the excess nutrients, responsible growers will utilize a technique called flushing in the last 10 to 14 days of the plant’s life/flowering cycle.  During the flushing process, growers give their plants reversed osmosis filtered water without any nutrients to encourage the plant to use up the rest of the excess nutrients left in the growing medium and the fan leaves of the plant.  By ridding the plant of the excess nutrients the grower is creating a better end product.  Cannabis that has been flushed will burn to clean white ash, have a smooth smoke and good flavor.  If you have ever smoked a bowl that burned to black instead of white, burned harsh and tasted like chemicals, that’s due to the grower not flushing their crop before harvest.  Smoking cannabis with excess nutrients can give you a headache, so make sure you’re getting cannabis from a grower who has best growing practices.  How do you do this?  The answer might be simpler than you’d expect.  Talk with your budtender about the cultivation practices used when growing the product that you are buying.  The staff of high-quality dispensaries should know the basics of how their product is being grown.  Since legalization, the vast majority of growers flush their product to ensure the quality.  If you ever run into any un-flushed product, forgo purchasing from that dispensary again.

Pesticides

 You probably didn’t know that the cannabis you smoke is treated often with pesticides during its life.  When cultivating cannabis there are many different pests that a grower has to manage to have a successful crop.  There are bugs like spider and russet mites, molds like powdery mildew, and bacteria like salmonella that can grow on the cannabis plant.  Cultivators all have their own Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs that include a series of pesticide sprays during the plant’s life cycle.  Fear not, legalization has brought around legislation that has helped to limit the use of toxic pesticides in cannabis cultivation.  Here in Colorado, we have strict rules and regulations about what pesticides can be used to cultivate cannabis.  On top of that, pesticide applications are recorded and tracked, so if there ever was an issue, the state can go through records and investigate what went wrong.  Pre-legalization pesticides use in cannabis cultivation had no restrictions.  Cultivators were using pesticides like Eagle20 (myclobutanil) and Mallet 2F T&O (Imidacloprid) which are toxic to the human body when consumed.  Now that we have made the switch to legal cannabis, regulations have forced growers to step their game up and use pest prevention methods that are less toxic and better for everyone involved.  The state has also mandated that all cannabis products be tested for residual pesticides in a state regulated lab as a final safeguard for consumer safety.  Apart from pesticides, all product is tested for potency, as well as microbial (molds and bacteria) contamination.  To air on the side of caution, many growers in Colorado are using organic pesticides like essential oils mixed with water, or beneficial bugs to help quell pest outbreaks.  Overall, legalization in Colorado has made cannabis safer with regard to pesticide consumption, however many of the new emerging markets around the U.S. do not yet have these regulations in place.  If you are traveling, check the ingredient labels of the cannabis products you buy, and if you see any of Colorado’s banned pesticides, steer clear of those products.

Plant Growth Regulators (PGRs)

Have you ever heard of plant growth regulators?  If you said no, you’re not alone.  Many cannabis consumers have never heard of PGRs and are unaware that they have been used in cannabis cultivation for a long time.  Plant growth regulators are a set of compounds that help to regulate the growth of a plant through manipulating the cell growth within the plant.  Although there are some advantages when using PGRs like shorter more controlled growth, denser fruits, and greater resistance to molds and bacteria, there is substantial evidence that these compounds can cause cancer, infertility and liver damage in human beings.  Prior to legalization, the only way to know if PGRs were used in cultivation was to ask the grower. Post-legalization, we can look at the ingredient labels on our products to determine what has been used during the cultivation process. When looking at a label steer clear of the following PGRs; ancymidol, chlormequat chloride, daminozide, ethephon, flurprimidol, paclobutrazol, and uniconazole.   Many growers are becoming more conscious of PGRs use and have completely removed them from their cultivation practices.  This is the right move for consumer protection, however, these compounds are not regulated in our industry so some growers still elect to use them.   Refuse to buy product grown with these chemicals when you find them on the ingredient lists.  Once consumers become more aware of PGRs and stop buying product that was cultivated with them, growers will be forced to stop using them altogether.

Since legalization, cannabis has become safer for consumers which we can all agree is a good thing.  Bringing cannabis out of the black market and into the mainstream has opened doors for new technologies to come forward and help us to cultivate this plant to its fullest potential in a way that is more beneficial to the end consumer.  As consumers, we have the responsibility to learn about the products we buy and to choose the ones that are cultivated without the use of toxic chemicals.  Now that cannabis is legal, consumers can also communicate with the government about banning certain chemicals that can be harmful.  Legalization has created an environment where we can now demand a higher standard for cannabis and that standard will continue to rise as consumers educate themselves on the plant, how it’s grown, and the effects it has on their bodies.  The legalization of cannabis is the best thing that has happen to cannabis consumers.  We now have the necessary information to guarantee the cannabis we consume is clean.

Continue your education on talking with your doctor about your cannabis use in our next blog, Why You Should Talk to Your Doctor About Cannabis

For a deeper dive into the cannabis plant, its various compounds and the industry that surrounds it, call and book your private educational experience with City Sessions today.  720-250-8828