Cannabis leaf under the glow of indoor LED grow lights.

Rory Savatgy

Washington’s Liquor and Cannabis Board is going to begin randomly testing cannabis products for banned pesticides, the Associated Press reports. The agency is paying the state Department of Agriculture more than $1 million to hire two full-time employees and buy new equipment to conduct the tests.

According to a Seattle Times report, Washington will become the first state to mandate randomized testing of cannabis products.

Rick Garza, the LCB director, said the move “will send a strong message” to producers using illegal pesticides, who will be subjected to “significant penalties” including license revocation if caught.

“Testing for pesticides is a complex and costly process,” Garza said in a statement. “Labs need specialized equipment and highly trained staff to carry out the tests. This agreement will satisfy those obstacles.”

Since the first legal cannabis cultivation licenses were awarded in 2014, the board has conducted 45 investigations into the use of pesticides outlawed under the law – but only after receiving complaints from the public about alleged misuse. The new equipment will allow 75 samples to be tested per month for more than 100 unapproved pesticides. According to John Scott, pesticides program section head at the Department of Agriculture; Colorado has conducted more than 100 investigations into pesticide use this year, finding that about 40 to 45 percent were not in compliance with the law.

Agriculture Department spokesman Hector Castro said growers using outlawed pesticides are “on notice.”

“This should be a real game-changer for the industry in terms of public safety,” he said.

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