Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

King County Considering Spot Checks For Pesticides In Cannabis Products

One of the promises of legalized marijuana was keeping it healthier through regulations. But some still worry about pesticides in pot products. King County is considering an ordinance that would implement spot checks on marijuana retailers, much like inspections in the restaurant industry.

The state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board has a long list of chemicals that are approved as pesticides for marijuana. Despite that, King County health officials recently acknowledged finding high levels of banned pesticides in some products.

“We heard in the board of health that there have been products containing upwards of 100,000 parts per billion of banned pesticides in this state,” said councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, chair of the county’s Health, Housing and Human Services Committee.

“Not a surprise in some ways, but very unfortunate that the state Liquor and Cannabis Board has not made it a priority to verify and ensure that I-502 marijuana products are safe for the consumer.”

She’s proposing a system of spot inspections. The results would be posted on a county web site that consumers could check. They could also be used by the state to suspend or revoke licenses. Kohl Welles says she especially wants to protect users of medical marijuana.

“I think bringing attention to the violations will pressure the industry and the Liquor and Cannabis Board to be accountable and deliver the safest and best products they can – especially critical, again, for the medically vulnerable, such as cancer patients,” she said.    

The county recently revised the ordinance to eliminate fines. The cost of the system would be covered instead by taxes on recreational marijuana collected by the state.

Business owners who attended the committee meeting to testify liked that change and mostly agreed with the need for more enforcement. But many said a piecemeal regulation would be a mistake.  Instead, they are asking for a work group where they could help set legislative priorities on the state level.

Erin Green is the operations manager at Vela, a new pot shop in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood that emphasizes education and transparency in the production process. She says they work with growers all over Washington.   

“So, if safety is the goal, then it needs to be regulated at the state level, because if it was just done city by city or county by county, you wouldn’t have jurisdiction over all of the producers where product could be coming from,” Green said.

But Kohl-Welles and others say the state isn’t making enforcement a priority, so even shining a light on the problem in one county could make a difference.

Her committee takes up the regulation once more on Sept. 20. 

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to