Cannabis Industry Needs Leadership, Not Pesticides

By Ben Ward

In this op-ed, Ben Ward, CEO of Maricann Group, gives licensed producers (In Canada and US) a piece of his mind.

The medical cannabis sector is currently attracting increased attention, as patients, doctors, regulators and investors take a closer look at our industry. There is a lot for them to learn and to benefit from as our industry matures under the glare of the proverbial spotlight. And there’s a lot for those of us in the industry to be proud of. We’re helping patients manage pain, for example. We’re helping them get their lives back.

But that same spotlight is also revealing some problems in our industry.

Take ingredients for example. When I look at the ingredient list in my natural medicines, I don’t expect to see Myclobutanil, Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin, Bifenezate, and Avermectin listed. Yet, that’s exactly what some licensed producers of cannabis in Canada and some cultivators in California have been selling to their patients. You have to ask yourself why, when pesticides are the only toxic substances released intentionally into our environment to kill living things. Patients don’t take cannabis to harm themselves. They do it to improve their quality of life.

Yet some cannabis companies have violated their patients’ trust in supplying them with something that could harm them. Indeed, recalls for cannabis, unfortunately, are now becoming somewhat commonplace on both sides of the border. These licensed producers – audited and approved by government – are entrusted to produce safe, reliable, consistent medicine for patients. They are entrusted to put safety at the core of their business at all times. But that is clearly not the case in certain circumstances.

In the past year, a few of the 52 licensed producers in Canada have been found to have pesticide contamination in their cannabis products. From what I can see, the explanations given for the presence of these pesticides don’t make sense. Pyrethrin, for instance, has been found on some medical cannabis products shipped out of certain growing facilities. However, pyrethrin does not naturally appear on plants. It has to be intentionally applied, accidentally or otherwise.

That means, in cases where this pesticide has been found on products after they left the growing facility, two things had to have happened. First, someone introduced it onto the plants to deal with an insect infestation. And second, lax quality control standards – perhaps influenced by a short-term focus on profits over patients – allowed infected products to enter their supply chain and, in many cases, to be consumed by patients.

When revealed, those responsible for companies using pesticides such as pyrethrin say they are “shocked”, publicly declaring that they have no clue as to how these toxic substances entered their cultivation processes. The fact is, if you don’t test your inputs, if you fail to test your outputs, and if you manage your business for short-term profits, you shouldn’t be producing cannabis.

There’s no place in healthcare for people who disregard a patient’s well being, because – from a patient’s perspective – what you don’t know could hurt you. No one who grows something can absolutely guarantee that a mistake will never be made, granted. But as the cannabis sector expands, experienced cannabis firms know there’s a direct correlation between attention and leadership: as the world pays more attention to our sector, the onus on us to be stewards in and for our industry also rises.

That means putting patient safety at the centre of everything we do. And that means ensuring patients are consuming safe cannabis produced by licensed companies that are committed to the long-term health and prospects of our growing industry.


  1. Bruce Ryan

    These issues are endemic to the entire cannabis industry across the board. Usually due to spider mite infestations which then quickly spiral out of control. I would suggest that the vast majority of products on the market would fail pesticide testing.
    The only long term solution I’ve found is a rigorous regime of clean inputs, controlled conditions and using biological controls (i.e.: predators) to eliminate the problem. Pesticides, in the long run, do not work. The entomological cycle simply breeds resistant bugs!

  2. awesomesound

    I am a licensed patient and personal grower, I would never give one cent to these Fat wallet corporate criminals, for one thing the money I spend on cannabis is a medical expense, I will not put this in the pockets of some fat wallet US investor, when we have a public healthcare system in Canada, I will only buy from local medical dispensaries where I know my money will be earned and spent locally, I suggest all Canadian users stop buying from greedy Stockmarket Producers, whose only reason for being is to retire on your healthcare dollars, DON’T LET THEM !!!

    PS There are 3 lawsuits against these greedy LP’s for using illegal toxic pesticides on Canadian patients medicine, poisoning them alone the way, If you know what these corporations do to your cannabis you would be suing them to !!

    Grow Your Own, its Safer, its Healthier, and it’s Cheaper !!!

  3. David Egerton

    The problem is deeper than you know. I work for a Cannabis laboratory, and more than half of the samples we receive have some level of pesticide contamination. This, however, is reflective of agriculture in general ( As growers wake up to the new reality of mandatory testing we have noticed a downward trend in the frequency of failures, but I suspect it will never be eliminated entirely. In the meantime, it’s up to regulators and growers to reach a compromise that allows for some controls without jeopardizing patient safety. Pyrethrins actually are listed as an organic product, and are generally safe to use within limits (made from chrysanthemum extract). Unfortunately, myclobutanil and bifenazate are another story altogether.

    This issue is rooted in two competing historical trends: As a black-market product with no EPA approved pesticides for use, outlaw growers have traditionally used whatever they found to work. On the other hand, many principled growers have long held to organic practices not seen in most agribusiness. Moving Cannabis into the mainstream will require regular QA to ensure the first trend doesn’t take hold over the long term, as it has in every other commodity.

  4. Paul Clark

    Hi Ben, interesting article! You have really brought to my attention an area of concern I was not previously aware! From my view, in light of your above article, it seems Health Canada really needs to start much more in-depth inspections of the cannabis industry.

    We here in Canada need to get this industry off to a good start by establishing a reputation for a high quality and trusted product!

    Happy to talk more about this ! Also, I’m in the process of planning some academic research in this industry – if you would care to talk more, please be in contact!

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