The Wild West of Marijuana Pesticides

A side effect of a federal drug law has left legal pot farmers without any approved pesticides—and as a result, many have turned to harmful chemicals to protect their crops.

Growing marijuana takes vigilance, even when it’s legal. Like any crop, cannabis plants are prone to pests and disease—from tiny leaf-sucking spider mites, which can spawn a new generation in less than a week, to powdery mildew, a fungus that forms a talcum-like coating on leaves and spreads rapidly through greenhouses. For every other agricultural product, there is a relatively clear solution: Find a pesticide labeled for the specific plant or setting, and apply it according to the instructions.

Not so with pot. Discrepancies between state and federal laws have left cannabis farmers without any pesticides approved for use on their crops—and as a result, some growers have taken the matter into their own hands, treating their plants with alarmingly...

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