Over the past several weeks two states that were pioneers in sun grown organic Cannabis have turned against their organic and sun grown communities in a clear move to favor corporate Cannabis. Washington State has ‘discovered’ trace amounts of DDT from soil residuals in organic flower and shut down an entire community of growers, and Oregon Health Authority has suddenly ‘discovered’ Aspergillus fungus in organic Cannabis, 40+ years after the original science on Aspergillus in Cannabis (and Tobacco) was published, and both states are arbitrarily and without scientific justification imposing requirements that cannot be met by organic growers.
No surprise – the only way to grow Cannabis without risk of residual DDT from the soil or without Aspergillus in the compost and environment is to grow indoors using artificial media, chemical fertilizers, and electric light – in other words, Corporate Cannabis.
I want to raise awareness in the organic and sun grown Cannabis community of unrecognized facts that I believe clearly demonstrate that the states are illegally discriminating against, and failing to provide equal protection under the laws for organic growers, and are simultaneously failing in their duty to protect the health and safety of cannabis and tobacco smoking and vaping citizens.
When it comes to setting Cannabis pesticide regulatory limits and standards – the states are making it all up. There is zero science on the health impact of single inhaled pesticides, much less the inhaled fusion of multiple pesticides, that would support the pesticide residue level restrictions that the states impose on Cannabis growers.
When you think about it, there are only two ways that people regularly inhale fusions of multiple pesticides – by smoking and vaping Cannabis and Tobacco products. That’s it. All other pesticide exposure is dietary or occasional through environmental, occupational or accidental, and it almost always involves only one pesticide chemical, not multiples.
Tragically, Cannabis and Tobacco products are also the only two ways that unborn children are continuously exposed throughout fetal development to multiple inhaled pesticides in their mother’s placental blood. This exposure would be completely preventable if mothers had access to pesticide-free Cannabis and Tobacco products and the knowledge they need to make the right decisions.
Although Cannabis products are heavily regulated for pesticides, Tobacco products are not, although an intricate legal smokescreen has been carefully erected over many years to conceal that simple, profound fact.
Further, no state that regulates pesticide residue levels in Cannabis products on the premise of protecting the health of smokers and vapors provides equal protection by also regulating pesticide residue levels in Tobacco products, despite knowing that Tobacco product pesticide residue levels are not regulated at the Federal level or by any other authority at any level, and despite understanding that they have a constitutional (14th Amendment) duty to provide citizens with equal protection of the laws.
Regarding OHA and Aspergillus, no state that imposes limits on fungal and microbial contamination of Cannabis in the interests of public health and safety imposes equally protective limits on fungal and microbial contamination of Tobacco products, despite knowing that there is zero Federal regulation of fungal and microbial contamination of Tobacco products and also knowing that in the absence of Federal regulations, states have a constitutional (14th Amendment) duty to provide citizens with equal protection of the laws.
In addition, as the guy who founded Santa Fe Natural Tobacco and created American Spirit organic cigarettes I can promise you that if OHA tested organic American Spirit, and any other non-organic tobacco product, they would find plenty of Aspergillus and a wide range of other fungi and microbes. Fungi and microbes thrive on the rich sugars and proteins of tobacco plants – one of the reasons the Cartel growers use pesticides so heavily. So there’s no question that OHA is making and enforcing discriminatory regulations against the Cannabis community while abdicating its duty to protect citizens from a known source of inhaled Aspergillus in Tobacco products. No surprise there.
The 14th Amendment is relevant here
“The Constitution gives states inherent “police power” to protect public health and safety, and the Fourteenth Amendment gives states all powers not specifically given to the federal government, including the power to make laws relating to public health.”
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
The 10th Amendment also applies
” The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
The power to regulate public health is not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by the United States to the states, and in the case of the threat to public health presented by inhaled pesticides from both Tobacco and Cannabis products, and with the absence of regulation in the interests of public health by the United States, the states have the responsibility to act and regulate against the threat, fairly , equitably, and comprehensively.
The hidden issues of discrimination and unequal treatment
Here’s a fact that you won’t hear from any state agency regulating pesticides in Cannabis: not one of the costly pesticide residue level standards they enforce on growers is supported by direct evidence, and the indirect evidence they cite is demonstrably irrelevant to pesticide exposure by inhalation. State regulators are simply making it all up.
There have been precisely zero published studies on the health effects of chronic inhalation of any single pesticide, much less an inhaled fusion of multiple pesticides, either in the smoke of Tobacco products or by smoking or vaping Cannabis – the only two ways this happens. There is no data. The states have no factual scientific basis for setting inhaled single or multi-pesticide residue level safety standards, and the limits they do set are probably far too permissive in many cases, especially for the newer neonicotinoids and some of the exotic fungicides.
Here’s another fact – the same states that impose pesticide residue level standards on Cannabis in the vital interests of public health fail to require that Tobacco products sold in the state adhere to the same standards for the same public health reasons. However, the states know that those Tobacco products are unregulated regarding pesticide residue levels at the Federal level, so they know that nobody is protecting Tobacco product smokers & vapers in their state from pesticide inhalation. Knowing this, states fail to provide equal protection to Tobacco smokers and vapers when they impose pesticide residue level standards only on Cannabis.
Here’s a final fact you won’t hear from any state agency proposing to regulate Aspergillus in Cannabis – the presence of Aspergillus in both Cannabis and Tobacco, the only two widely used, inhalable smoking products, has been known since at least 1983. There have been many studies on the health impact of inhaled Aspergillus rom. wide range of sources, with significantly varying results. Outcomes appear to depend on the individual and the exposure, and Aspergillus is only one of many mycotoxic organisms in the environment.
Not only could state regulators have moved generations sooner to address this potential but poorly understood health issue, but the state is choosing to be concerned about Aspergillus in Cannabis smokers/vapers but not in Tobacco product smokers/vapers. This is despite the fact, known to state regulators, that Cannabis and Tobacco using populations overlap as much as 80%.
Again – state regulators are making it all up. They have no basis in fact for any of the pesticide limits they impose on Cannabis growers. If you read any of the documentation on the processes used by states like California, Oregon and Washington carefully, you’ll find that the regulators know that they are simply guessing, and you’ll also see that they unquestioningly accept the legitimacy of federal raw tobacco residue standards as a reasonable basis for their ‘estimates’ in placing limits on inhaled pesticide residues in Cannabis.
Every state-level pesticide standard is based on federal standards for allowable pesticide residue limits on US-grown raw tobacco leaf, not US manufactured Tobacco products, and those limits are based on dietary and dermal exposure testing, not on inhalation exposure.
Furthermore, those limits are predominantly based on EPA’s acute toxicity tests and give zero data on chronic exposure by any route. In some few cases EPA pesticide registration testing involves lab animals to determine how much of the pesticide chemical it takes to kill that lab animal. But more frequently, live animals are not used at all (too expensive) so acute toxicity levels are determined using cell tissue in lab dishes – in vitro.
There is zero chronic toxicity by inhalation testing by EPA of any of the pesticides for which states set limits on Cannabis, and there has never been any testing of the long-term health effects of exposure by either Cannabis or Tobacco smoking or vaping. It’s not like there’s some science, but it’s questionable or inadequate. There is no science.
There has also never, and I mean never, been any investigation during EPA registration testing of the health effects of chronic multi-pesticide fusion and inhalation, which is the real world of Cannabis and Tobacco product inhalation.
Still further, since it’s becoming well-established that Cannabis has powerful medicinal properties, particularly against inflammatory processes and diseases, even if there were pesticide inhalation standards set for Tobacco products, which there are not, those standards wouldn’t apply 1:1 with Cannabis because the Nicotine in Tobacco has only minimal medicinal properties compared with the established medicinal properties of Cannabinoids and Terpenes that are inhaled with Cannabis smoking and vaping. This means that state regulators are setting difficult and expensive standards for Cannabis growers that may not apply at all. Who knows – Cannabis may protect its smokers and vapers against harm from inhaled pesticides and mycotoxins. We know that the nicotine in Tobacco appears to protect smokers against Parkinson’s, so perhaps it isn’t so far-fetched to look for protective qualities against pesticides in Cannabis.
While states have a legitimate interest in protecting public health, they have a duty to be honest and transparent about their regulations and an obligation to base those regulations on revealed facts, not questionable assumptions. In the case of Cannabis pesticide regulations, states can’t point to any facts that establish the hazard limits, if any, of chronically inhaled pesticides on Cannabis
Regulated US-grown Tobacco is rarely used in manufacturing unregulated US Tobacco products.
All the federal agencies with relevant jurisdiction know that pesticides that are tested by EPA for dermal and dietary, but not inhalation exposure, are used in US Tobacco production and are regulated by USDA. While no federal agency tests for or regulates Tobacco products for pesticide residues, USDA tests Tobacco leaf for pesticide residues in “raw tobacco” field and post-harvest.
The regulation makes US-grown Tobacco highly desirable in those EU countries where pesticide contaminants in Tobacco products are regulated. Consequently, very little US-grown Tobacco goes into manufacturing US Tobacco products – most goes to countries where there are at least some pesticide standards for Tobacco products.
However, most Tobacco products manufactured, sold, and smoked in the US use highly-contaminated, cheap foreign-grown tobacco waste and scrap coming from Tobacco manufacturing operations in countries like Brazil and India where heavy use of banned pesticides like heavy metals and DDT on Tobacco crops is commonplace.
US manufacturers have lobbied intensively over many years to ensure that there’s no federal testing for or regulation of pesticides in Tobacco products, only on Tobacco in the field. Smokers and physicians have been deliberately kept uninformed.
The only existing legislation that references Tobacco manufacturing and requires reporting on pesticide contamination references only importers of foreign Tobacco used by US tobacco product manufacturers. This is the deceptively worded 2009 “Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act” (see below for some relevant excerpts)
The bottom line of this Act is that importers are required to certify that their imported Tobacco contains no residues of pesticides that are allowable in the US on raw Tobacco but that are in excess of standards set by USDA for those residues on raw Tobacco. This is voluntary reporting and refers only to pesticides that are legal to use on Tobacco grown in the US with no requirement to report residues of the most toxic, banned pesticides shown to contaminate US manufactured Tobacco products like DDT, Paraquat and Carbendazim, none of which are allowable and are not legal for use on US Tobacco. And neither US nor foreign-manufactured Tobacco products are ever tested for pesticides, period.
Uniqueness Of Inhalation Exposure
All federal agencies with relevant jurisdiction know that pesticide exposure involves serious hazards and a clear risk to human health, and they know that that chronic pesticide exposure leads to disease. A large and growing body of research identifies specific diseases known to be caused by or strongly associated with specific pesticide exposures.
The three routes of pesticide exposure are dietary, dermal, and inhalation. I would add a fourth for the unborn – placental exposure. People are widely exposed to pesticides through ingestion and skin, but they are chronically exposed to pesticides by inhalation in only two ways – by smoking or vaping Cannabis products and Tobacco products. Add ‘placental exposure’ in the case of a mother who smokes. There are no other routes of chronic multi-pesticide inhalation. There can be episodic or irregular inhalation exposure in residential, agricultural or industrial environments, but Tobacco and Cannabis products are the only routes for chronic inhalation.
No Federal government agency or entity tests for or regulates pesticide contaminants in Tobacco products, nor is any research on the health effects of the pesticides that are inhaled in Tobacco product smoke. There is significant federal funding for research on pesticide contamination of Cannabis products, but no federal regulation. That is left up to states where Cannabis is legal.
States Have A Duty To Protect
In the absence of such federal research and regulation, and without any intervention by states exercising their duty to protect public health, manufacturers of Tobacco products are free to distribute and sell tobacco products without inspection or regulation of potential pesticide residue.
Individual states have determined that setting standards, testing for and regulating pesticides in all Cannabis products, including Cannabis flower, a processed Cannabis product, is a public health priority, These states base their health risk assessment on a variety of sources, including federal standards for pesticide residue on US-grown, unmanufactured Tobacco leaf.
Cannabis growers process and sell Cannabis flower in various forms as regulated commercial Cannabis products, a precise equivalent of Tobacco manufacturers growing, processing and selling Tobacco leaf in various forms as regulated commercial Tobacco products. These two sets of products are the only two ways that people are chronically exposed to a fusion of multiple pesticides by inhalation, but the regulation of pesticides and the burdens on the growers/manufacturers is not equal nor is the protection of the health and lives of smokers and vapers of Tobacco and Cannabis products on which that regulation is predicated.
As mentioned above, federal Tobacco pesticide residue level standards are only for permitted levels of pesticide residue on “raw tobacco leaf” and are set by EPA and USDA without reference to testing by inhalation but only by dermal and dietary exposure testing by the manufacturers, and a preponderance of the testing is not on live mammals but performed ‘in vitro’. Inhalation testing is very rarely performed on any pesticide by EPA or USDA, and then only to establish acute toxicity levels, and never using simultaneous multiple pesticide exposure or any other inhalation protocol that resembles exposure by smoking or vaping.
Relevant sections of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act
To protect the public health by providing the Food and Drug Administration with certain authority to regulate tobacco products, to amend title 5, United States Code, to make certain modifications in the Thrift Savings Plan, the Civil Service Retirement System, and the Federal Employees’ Retirement System, and for other purposes.
FAMILY SMOKING PREVENTION AND TOBACCO CONTROL ACT
NOTE: Notice how this clause exempts pesticides from regulation as an ‘additive’, effectively shielding them from inclusion under the law.
‘‘SEC. 900. DEFINITIONS.
‘‘In this chapter:
‘‘(1) ADDITIVE.—The term ‘additive’ means any substance the intended use of which results or may reasonably be expected to result, directly or indirectly, in its becoming a component or otherwise affecting the characteristic of any tobacco product (including any substances intended for use as a flavoring or coloring or in producing, manufacturing, packing, processing, preparing, treating, packaging, transporting, or holding), except that such term does not include tobacco or a pesticide chemical residue in or on raw tobacco or a pesticide chemical.
NOTE: Notice how this wording excludes any pesticide that is not at a level allowable for that chemical under Federal law. Foreign-grown Tobacco is heavily contaminated with pesticides that have not been allowed in the US for decades but that are still in use by Tobacco Cartel companies in friendly jurisdictions around the world.
These all wind up in US manufactured cigarettes and other Tobacco products. Wouldn’t that explain why the Cartel, Congress and the Federal agencies, have all worked so hard together over so many years to make sure that Tobacco products are not tested, while pretending to the few who have ever asked, like Congressman Henry Waxman in 2003, that the testing they do on raw Tobacco is sufficient.
‘‘SEC. 907. TOBACCO PRODUCT STANDARDS.
‘‘(B) ADDITIONAL SPECIAL RULE.—Beginning 2 years after the date of enactment of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, a tobacco product manufacturer shall not use tobacco, including foreign grown tobacco, that contains a pesticide chemical residue that is at a level greater than is specified by any tolerance applicable under Federal law to domestically grown tobacco.
NOTE: Notice that this clause gives “the Secretary” the authority to prescribe disclosure requirements for any ‘smoke constituent’, which means that FDA could, if it chose to, test for and report pesticide residue levels in Tobacco products.
Section 4 of the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (15 U.S.C. 1333), as amended by sections 201 and 202, is further amended by adding at the end the following:
‘‘(e) TAR, NICOTINE, AND OTHER SMOKE CONSTITUENT DISCLOSURE.—
‘‘(3) CIGARETTE AND OTHER TOBACCO PRODUCT CONSTITUENTS.—
“In addition to the disclosures required by paragraph (1), the Secretary may, under a rulemaking conducted under section 553 of title 5, United States Code, prescribe disclosure requirements regarding the level of any cigarette or other tobacco product constituent including any smoke constituent.
“Any such disclosure may be required if the Secretary determines that disclosure would be of benefit to the public health, or otherwise would increase consumer awareness of the health consequences of the use of tobacco products, except that no such prescribed disclosure shall be required on the face of any cigarette package or advertisement.
“Nothing in this section shall prohibit the Secretary from requiring such prescribed disclosure through a cigarette or other tobacco product package or advertisement insert, or by any other means under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.”
This provision of the law seems clear enough to call for asking why FDA has not said one word about the pesticide residue constituents of Tobacco products smoke. Surely knowing about the presence and health effects of these residues “would increase consumer awareness of the health consequences of the use of tobacco products”.
FDA has clear institutional knowledge of the exposure of generations of smokers to DDT and all the other organochlorine pesticides that were heavy contaminants of all cigarette brands from the 1950s through the 1970s.
Check this 2022 CDC document showing clear institutional awareness of DDT on Tobacco products as far back as 1961.
“Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). 2022. Toxicological Profile for DDT, DDE, DDD . Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service.“
Toxicological Profile for DDT, DDE, and DDD
“Djordjevic et al. (1995) assessed the chlorinated pesticide residues in U.S. and foreign cigarettes manufactured from the 1960s to the 1990s. Since 1970, the concentration of DDT analogues decreased by >98%.”
Concentration ranges of DDT-related compounds in samples of cigarettes manufactured between 1961 and 1979 and between 1983 and 1994 were:
(1961–1979 levels) 1,540–30,100 ng/g (Ed. note: 30,100 ng/g equals approximately 30.1 ppm.)
(1983–1994 levels) 12.6–99.7 ng/g;
(1961–1979 levels) 396–7,150 ng/g,
(1983–1994 levels) ND-19.0 ng/g;
(1961–1979 levels) 720–13,390 ng/g, (Ed. note: 13,390 ng/g equals approximately 13.4 ppm)
(1983–1994 levels) 19.7–145 ng/g;
(1961–1979 levels) 105–1,940 ng/g;
(1983–1994 levels) ND-88 ng/g;
(1961–1979 levels) 58– 959 ng/g,
(1983–1994 levels) 6.6–15.8 ng/g;
(1961–1979 levels) 92.7–2,110 ng/g,
(1983–1994 levels) ND–27.5 ng/g.
“The transfer rate from tobacco into mainstream smoke amounts to 22% for DDD, 19% for DDT, and 27% for DDE.” (p. 332)
“Until 1970, tobacco smoke contributed significantly to the intake of DDT by humans, but since then, the amount of DDT in tobacco has dropped markedly and today, cigarette smoke is a minor source of human exposure (Djordjevic et al. 1995).” (p 385)