A large mound of freshly brought dirt was at Terry Taylor's marijuana farm located in the high desert of north-central Washington state. Each hole where a new plant will be placed is filled with clean soil.
Garden cloth was recently laid over large tracts of soil and soon the dirt paths on his property will be covered with gravel to prevent contaminated dust from rising up and covering crops.
Taylor's cannabis farm is one of several that have resumed operations after state control authorities shut them down in April because, they said, tests of their product had returned unacceptable levels of chemicals related to DDT, a synthetic pesticide. banned half a century ago.
The affected growers did not use the pesticide at all, but are located in a five-mile (8-kilometer) strip of fruit orchards along the Okanogan River where the pesticide was heavily used, contaminating the soil.
The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board announced last week that it had ended the shutdown and farms are now trying to take action with state financial backing to keep residual pesticide at bay and restore confidence in their brands.
The board said it will increase testing of the pesticide on marijuana grown in the area.
“I haven't sold any product since April,” said Taylor, who holds two cannabis grower-processor licenses: Okanogan Gold and Kible Junction. “It just destroyed us. Nobody wants to buy.
Taylor, 58, said she has lived off her savings since April. Her income was reduced to one twentieth of what she had. During normality she had six full-time employees and 20 seasonal workers, but now she only has two.
The presence of pesticides in cannabis is a concern for regulatory authorities and consumers in states where marijuana is decriminalized in the country, especially since the plant is typically consumed by smoking or extract. The latter can increase pesticide levels in the final product.
Authorities in Vermont earlier this year recalled pesticide-contaminated marijuana at five retail stores after a customer reported feeling ill, and authorities in Nevada issued an advisory about the wide availability of products possibly tainted with an unauthorized pesticide.