In 2015, tens of thousands of marijuana plants have been quarantined in Colorado due to concerns they were doused with toxic chemicals. Protesters picket some Colorado dispensaries claiming consumer health is at risk. And business owners are claiming that if the status quo continues, crops worth hundreds of thousands of dollars could sicken and die.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is stepping in and offering a process by which pesticides could be approved for marijuana in states where medical or recreational marijuana is legal. By applying to register certain marijuana-related products as a “Special Local Need” as defined under section 24(c) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the marijuana industry could have a comparatively swift and cheap way to obtain appropriate pest control options without running afoul of federal law.
“I think it is a very positive sign,” says Mitch Yergert, director of the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA)’s Division of Plant Industry, who received the letter from the EPA detailing the process on May 19. “It allows us to move forward in a very normal manner on pesticides for marijuana, just like any other crop. I think it is a huge step forward for the EPA, the industry and us.”
But until marijuana pesticides are thoroughly vetted and fully registered by the EPA as safe for use, the 24(c) process is a stopgap measure at best. It remains to be seen whether pesticide makers will be willing to wade into the marijuana industry and attempt to register any of their products for marijuana use under 24(c) – and, if they do, whether the EPA will ultimately sign off on those attempts.