States May Be Trailblazers on Pesticide Use on Marijuana

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By Rachel Leven

Oct. 6 — States are likely to be the trailblazers when it comes to regulating pesticide use in growing marijuana, Colorado and California state officials said Oct. 6.

“States have to lead on this, because I don’t think the feds are going to step in,” Mark Bolton, senior deputy legal counsel for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), said at the American Bar Association energy and environment conference in Denver.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t authorized use of any pesticide directly on marijuana or marijuana plants, and it isn’t necessarily a high priority for the agency to do so, state officials said. In the absence of federal action, it would be important for states, potentially working with industry, to act, they said.

At least 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for some purposes, but the substance is still not legal nationwide. Even though the EPA has moved through actions such as developing an ad hoc group with states to address safety and other concerns on pesticides and cannabis crops, state officials appeared unconvinced that waiting for federal action on the issue is the right approach.

States Acting

Some states, including Colorado and California, have moved in to address which pesticides are appropriate for use already, Bolton said. For example, rules took effect in Colorado this year delineating pesticides criteria for use in cannabis growing.

But there is much more to be done and more to learn, John-Paul Maxfield, founder and CEO of sustainable farming company Waste Farmers, said. There is a dearth of research on pesticide use for cannabis, and that data could prove helpful to both the industry and states, he said.

“Until we get substantial research and data, I think any sort of action on pesticides is sort of CYA [cover your a--],” Maxfield said.

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