Hawaii’s First Licensed Cannabis Lab Says Homegrown Weed is Full of Pesticides
Experts at Steep Hill Labs' Hawaii location say that 75% of the state’s Maui Wowie is tainted.
Published on October 30, 2017

It’s been less than three months since Hawaii finally opened its first state-approved medical marijuana dispensary, but that push to bring cannabis — or pakalolo as it is known locally — to the regulated mainstream is already making waves and uncovering dirt hiding beneath the surface of the island state’s seemingly idyllic homegrown bud. 

According to West Hawaii Today, researchers from the state’s first state-sanctioned marijuana testing laboratory spoke at a meeting of Hawaii’s medical marijuana legislative oversight group last week, and warned that “at least 75%” of the state’s cannabis grown by individual patients or caregivers is contaminated with a combination of yeast, mold and pesticides.

But while Hawaii’s mom and pop pot may not live up to its naturally tropical reputation, the same scientists were quick to point out that the state’s newly opened dispensaries have all been supplying expertly grown buds with no trace of the pesky pesticides or mold. 

“Local weed is super dirty, but dispensary weed is the cleanest in the nation,” said Dana Ciccone, the head of the Steep Hill Hawaii lab.

With locations in California, Washington, Alaska, New Mexico and more, Steep Hill Labs has cut out a niche as one of the legal weed industry’s most prominent testing companies, a reputation that should give Hawaiians some serious pause when it comes time to harvest that next batch of Maui Wowie.

“Growing cannabis in Hawaii is challenging with the humidity, so the easy way to deal with it is with pesticides,” said Brian Goldstein, president of Oahu dispensary Noa Botanicals to West Hawaii Today. “Some pesticides when burned result in carcinogenic compounds. Some people say, ‘I can get cannabis cheaper on the black market.’ We (the dispensaries) can’t use the pesticides that some people may use when they grow at home or outdoors. It might look the same. It might have the same name, but it’s not the same product.”

But because there are only a handful of state-approved cultivators and dispensaries currently operating in Hawaii, there simply isn’t enough dispensary dank to satiate the island’s steadily-growing demand.

At the end of September, Hawaii’s medical marijuana regulatory oversight group said that there were 19,190 patients registered to legally purchase and consume the all-natural medicine, a 31% jump from last year’s total.

Even with one more cannabis lab, Pharmlab Hawaii LLC, opening earlier this month and another, Aeos Labs, scheduled to start testing legal weed at the start of next year, legislation restricting the state to sixteen total dispensaries and production facilities still stands, suggesting that a year or two down the line there still may not be enough properly grown bud to go around.

Like legal weed product recalls that have already occurred in Oregon and Canada, the newly public contamination find is yet another example of how enforced regulations and testing protocols can create both safer canna-products and more informed consumers.

Now it will be up to Hawaii regulators to figure out how to update the state’s medical marijuana program to better serve the island’s tens of thousands of patients with the safe cannabis they’ve been promised.

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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