It is well known that pesticides play a crucial role in agriculture by protecting crops from pests, diseases, and weeds. However, their use also raises concerns about environmental and human health impacts. To address these concerns, regulatory agencies like the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) categorize pesticides based on their potential risks and use restrictions, which the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) utilizes when setting the limits for pesticide use on cannabis crops. In California, labs are required to test for over 60 pesticides, which are classified into two categories: Category I and Category II. Understanding these categories is essential for cultivators, manufacturers, and consumers alike to better understand the overall safety and long-term effects they can have on cannabis crops. 

Category I Pesticides: Highly Hazardous 

Category I pesticides are considered highly hazardous and pose significant risks to human health and the environment. These pesticides are subject to stringent regulations and restrictions on their sale, distribution, and use. They typically contain active ingredients known or suspected to cause acute or chronic health effects, such as cancer, reproductive harm, or neurological disorders. In cannabis, these pesticide limits are set extremely low, even lower than most food products due to the added risks associated with combustion and inhalation of these pesticides. When testing for Category I pesticides, if any amount is detected then the product is considered to have failed the pesticides test and must be dealt with accordingly. 

Category I pesticides listed by the DCC: 

Aldicarb Fenoxycarb 
Carbofuran Fipronil 
Chlordane Imazalil 
Chlorfenapyr Methiocarb 
Chlorpyrifos Methyl Parathion 
Coumaphos Mevinphos 
Daminozide Paclobutrazol 
DDVP (Dichlorvos) Propoxur 
Dimethoate Spiroxamine 
Ethoprop(hos) Thiacloprid 
Etofenprox  
List generated from the current DCC regulations (Section 15719)

Category II Pesticides: Moderate Hazard

Category II pesticides are considered moderate in terms of their potential risks to human health and the environment. While they may still pose some hazards, they are generally less toxic or have lower exposure risks compared to Category I pesticides. However, Category II pesticides still have low limits set for the same reasons as Category I pesticides, and this is why limits can differ based on the matrix of the product being tested (inhalable versus non-inhalable).  

Category II Pesticides listed by the DCC: 

Abamectin  Clofentezine Imidacloprid Prallethrin 
Acephate Cyfluthrin Kresoxim-methyl Propiconazole 
Acequinocyl Cypermethrin Malathion Pyrethrins 
Acetamiprid Diazinon Methomyl Pyridaben 
Azoxystrobin Dimethomorph Myclobutanil Spinetoram 
Bifenazate Etoxazole Naled Spinosad 
Bifenthrin Fenhexamid Oxamyl Spiromesifen 
Boscalid Fenpyroximate Pentachloronitrobenzene Spirotetramat 
Captan Flonicamid Permethrin Tebuconazole 
Carbaryl Fludioxonil Phosmet Thiamethoxam 
Chlorantraniliprole Hexythiazox Piperonylbutoxide Trifloxystrobin 
Metalaxyl    
List generated from the current DCC regulations (Section 15719)

Both Category I pesticides and Category II pesticides are subject to specific regulations regarding labeling, storage, and disposal. 

Category III Pesticides: Low Hazard

Category III pesticides are classified by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) as low hazard and present minimal risks to human health and the environment when used according to label instructions. These pesticides typically contain active ingredients that are considered safe for most applications and have low toxicity levels. Category III pesticides are widely used in agricultural and residential settings for pest control with minimal adverse effects. 

While the DCC does not explicitly list required testing on Category III pesticides, it is beneficial to ensure that products do not contain excessive amounts of any pesticide for the safety of the consumer and reputation of the brand.

Conclusion

Understanding the differences between Category I, Category II, and Category III pesticides is crucial for ensuring the safe and responsible use of these chemicals in California’s agricultural and cannabis landscape. Category I pesticides represent the highest level of hazard and are subject to strict regulations, Category II pesticides are categorized based on their relative risks and exposure potentials, and Category III pesticides are not explicitly tested for by California compliance cannabis labs. 

By adhering to proper handling practices, following label instructions, and staying informed about regulatory requirements, cultivators, manufacturers, and consumers can mitigate potential risks associated with pesticide use while safeguarding their health and the health of the environment. If you need pesticide testing, or have any questions about pesticides in cannabis, give us a call to help!