Staffers at Gobi Analytical in Denver test marijuana for pesticides on Aug. 20. (Mahala Gaylord, The Denver Post)

Editorial: Colorado can’t overlook pot pesticides anymore

It is understandable that Colorado was overwhelmed when it set up a regulatory framework for retail marijuana — a first for any government in the world. And we can see why the state in the beginning may have overlooked enforcing its regulation on pesticide use.

But nearly two years into what Gov. John Hickenlooper called this “great social experiment,” the state can no longer be given a pass on lack of enforcement.

Even the severest critics of pot legalization presumably don’t want users ingesting dangerous pesticide residues. And consumers expect a regulated market will meet certain safety standards.

And yet when The Denver Post’s David Migoya and Ricardo Baca sent concentrated marijuana products in for testing, they found problems. One sample contained pesticide levels six times the maximum allowed by the federal government and 1,800 times the highest amount accepted by Denver when it quarantined marijuana plants earlier this year.

Indeed, Denver picked up part of the regulatory slack earlier this year when it started cracking down on unapproved pesticides, giving notice to the state that it isn’t doing its job.

Denver food safety section manager Danica Lee called the findings a “significant public health concern.”

State law does, in fact, require marijuana businesses test for pesticide residues. But that requirement has not been enforced because the state has yet to certify any labs to do the required analysis.

And that goes for medical marijuana, too, which has been available in dispensaries since 2010. Five years!

Though there may be little scientific evidence that medical marijuana does what it is supposed to do, no one wants a substance billed as a “medicine” to contain dangerous pesticide residues.

Critics who are fundamentally opposed to marijuana have had plenty to grouse about since the legalization of the drug. But now pot consumers should be irate as well that the state has fallen down on regulating pesticides in both retail and medical marijuana.

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