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California Cops: Wash Your Weed?!

Most of the time, when you hear a dire warning issued by police about marijuana, you know it’s going to be a farce. Maybe not this time.

Marijuana PlantIn a typical effort to scare stoners away from their favorite drug, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department issued a warning in May that might actually make some sense: Wash your weed.

We all know it’s wise to wash your other greens before you eat them: peas, green beans, broccoli. Parsley, asparagus, zucchinis. But why cannabis?

The announcement came after sheriff’s deputies raided an illegal marijuana farm with 20,000 plants they said were growing dangerously close to a property with “toxic chemicals, insecticides and pesticides,” the Modesto Bee reported.

Seized marijuana may contain pesticides

“We encourage everyone not to ingest marijuana,” a department spokesperson said. “If you choose to break the law and put yourself in danger, please at least wash the marijuana before using it.”

It is illegal to grow marijuana for any reason in Stanislaus County thanks to a vote by public officials in January. That despite a statewide law that explicitly allows medical marijuana cultivation on private land.

The 20,000 plants that were uprooted in May were found growing near the San Joaquin River and contained carbofuran, among other chemicals. Carbofuran is an extremely toxic pesticide so potent it was previously used to kill off hyenas.

Effects of inhaled carbofuran unknown

Spraying Marijuana for PesticidesIt’s unclear what effect this chemical has on users when they inhale it, just as it’s unclear how much of it actually makes its way to consumers. It’s also unclear whether a simple washing could effectively remove dangerous pesticides.

It isn’t a terribly common sight – a pothead running her supply under a cold tap. You typically want your product dry when you smoke it. But some users do like to soak their pot in a jar, repeatedly strain it through coffee filters, and then give it an extensive drying. They say the process can make the smoke smoother. And if nothing else, it makes you think your cannabis is cleaner.

Pesticides can be a common problem on commercial marijuana. Officials in Colorado and elsewhere have recalled large batches of cannabis after the bud tested positive for banned chemicals. Most recently, in March, officials there recalled a large batch of legally grown pot after two samples tested positive for imidacloprid, a common pesticide banned for use on marijuana plants.

The effects of cannabis pesticides are not fully understood. Most regulated pesticides are eaten rather than smoked, so a treatment that is safe for one type of crop may not be appropriate for inhaled cannabis. Pot growers are currently prohibited from using many mainstream pesticides.

What do you think? Does it make any sense to wash your pot before you smoke it? Why?

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on and

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