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Post: A new threat to cannabis users: Smuggled Chinese pesticides

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A new threat to cannabis users: Smuggled Chinese pesticides

In coordinated raids last September, multiple California agencies stormed a network of illegal cannabis-growing warehouses across Oakland while state cannabis regulators singled out a salmon-colored warehouse complex surrounded by 7,000-volt security fencing.

The warehouse building — home to two licensed cannabis operations — was “highly-likely” the conduit that illegal growers used to ship their product into the legal market, a state agent told a judge. Inside the rooms, inspectors found 43,000 plants growing beneath high-intensity lights. None had the tracking tags required to be placed on legal plants.

But the surprise was what was found in the men’s room.

Beside Hot Shot insect foggers and jugs of familiar chemicals were mylar bags labeled in Chinese. Inside each were cellophane packets of wood shavings soaked in unknown pesticides.


The same kinds of packets had been found earlier that year on illegal farms in Siskiyou County, where lab tests had revealed a cocktail of dangerous insecticides and fungicides that when burned would emit a cloud of pest- and mold-killing smoke. Among the unusual substances was isoprocarb, which is not permitted in the United States; profenofos, an organophosphate so harmful its use here was discontinued in 2016; and fenpropathrin, an acutely toxic insecticide that is fatal if inhaled.

Additional tests would show the warehouse plants were tainted with some of the same pesticides.

Contraband Chinese pesticides present a new challenge for California cannabis regulators as they struggle to keep harmful chemicals out of licensed products. Some of the poisons are so unfamiliar that few chemical analysis labs in the state would be equipped to test for them if California required it.

A Los Angeles Times investigation based on confidential state records, public files, online sales and social networks found that in the last three years, the use of contraband Chinese pesticides on cannabis farms has spread across California.Yet officials have not issued warnings to alert those working on cannabis farms about the dangers of these chemicals, or mandated cannabis products sold to the public be tested for them.But their presence has prompted multiple warnings to law enforcement personnel, including by the state Department of Pesticide Regulation, the California National […]

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