As cannabis cultivation, possession, and use becomes legalized within state lines, it is important for states to address the biological and agricultural concerns of these industries. State-supported pesticide regulation for the cannabis industry marks the industry as a serious endeavor that state governments are as invested in as their constituents.
As legalization of recreational and medical marijuana efforts at the state level are becoming more and more successful, the regulatory bodies charged with regulation within the states have become objections of national focus. The aspects of regulation are varied, ranging from the taxation and revenue stream issues to legal selling and use to safe and environmentally-friendly cultivating practices.
The cannabis plant supports a diverse array of insects that are both harmful and beneficial to the state’s ecosystems. There are also several pathogens and diseases that can have an impact on plants. Due to the plant’s recent (and partially, current) history of restricted study and openness, there is not a comprehensive and specific knowledge base regarding these concerns yet. However, states are working diligently with federal collaborators as well as expert academic and technical institutions within their state borders to begin constructing this repository of information.
Pesticide Regulation: A Vital Part of the Legalization Structure
A pesticide is a substance used to prevent, destroy or repel an organism. This category can include substances such as herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. Pesticides are considered an integral and important player in the agriculture business, but are definitely a highly regulated practice when it comes to crops that are destined for human consumption.
The landscape of pesticide regulation is comprised of each state’s approach to not only ensuring compliance of its growers on the state and federal levels, but also providing advisement, recommendation, and support for businesses in the industry in order to strengthen and bolster the state’s constituents as they make the transition into commercial cannabis cultivation and production.
We will focus on four states on the west coast that have been the objects of national attention in recent years: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and– the latest state of the four to legalize recreational marijuana– California.
State Regulatory Bodies
State regulatory bodies such as the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) or the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) are not just regulation-wielding overseers charged with catching violators. Though it is paramount for such governmental bodies to exist as more and more states in the nation vote to make the transition into decriminalized marijuana use and cultivation, an important note often overlooked by the public is a state’s emphasis on providing services, resources, and guides to the agricultural and commercial businesses who are most affected by the legalization effort.
States and the regulatory bodies which have the responsibility of management delegated to them by the federal government publish their own state-specific guidelines, recommendations, and programs to help growers and other cannabis-related business owners to stay within federal laws and state laws alike.
The federal laws which all states must adhere to are handed down by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and include the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The EPA also defines the roles and responsibilities of a state governing body. The ODA and DPR, for instance, each have their own internal state directives dictating how their state’s regulations should be followed and enacted. These include additional licensing and/or regulating requirements, and can vary from state to state depending on the law.
The State Transition Effort Towards Legalization
However, what’s interesting is that many state published resource and guide pages explicitly state that their lists of pesticides for use on cannabis are not endorsements nor are they recommendations of these products, and are meant to assist growers in their cultivating decisions. Each state’s published list does not come with assurances of their safety or effectiveness, and the state regulating bodies are not responsible or liable for any such use.
In keeping with this mission for assistance and protection of the workers and consumers, states have established lists of pest alerts and the recommendations for how cultivators should deal with such threats. States also make themselves (or partners) available for services such as pest identification and quarantine. States are clearly going beyond their regulating delegations to truly support their businesses and root for their success. State regulatory bodies don’t only want to publish resources for their growers and leave individuals to work on their own — the ODA and DPR, for instance, emphasize the importance of correct identification of pests in the field in order to prevent launching a “futile program for a mite or insect that isn’t a pest.” Correct identification informs the correct and most efficient management strategy, and states are prepared to work with certified entomologists to assist their agricultural businesses in optimizing their operations.
Laboratories of Democracy: A Collaborative Approach
Additionally, states often point growers and businesses to other state resources for more information. This atmosphere of collaboration and knowledge sharing across state lines is an extraordinary instance of state legislation across borders which has the potential to impact federal legislation later in history. States have been deemed “laboratories of democracy” before, and this label seems to describe the approach that state lawmakers and regulators are taking as they venture into a new political, social, and regulatory environment around cannabis cultivation and use.
States are publishing resource materials establishing government contacts on the local and state level to not only assist growers and businesses with making the transition into a new political and regulatory environment, but also to provide governing transparency and assurance to state and local constituents. As each state ensures that their own regulations are within federal compliance, they look to their neighbors for assistance in providing resources to cannabis businesses. Information that is crucial for transmittal across state lines include pest population notices, data regarding safety and long-term effects of certain pest management practices, and best practices across the board. The pests to look out for in cannabis plants vary according to the strain of crop, whether the plant is grown indoors or outdoors, and the geographic region where a plant is grown, so the sharing of this information between states will be crucial to the cannabis industry’s success at the state level.
State-by-State Pest Management Regulations
The first states to pass initiatives legalizing recreational marijuana cultivation, possession, and use were Colorado and Washington in 2012. That same year, President Obama–speaking for himself and his own administration this time– came out with a revised policy position concerning recreational marijuana: “We’ve got bigger fish to fry. It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal.” With a new federal position paired alongside two states literally taking the initiative, it was only two years later in 2014, that two more states, Alaska and Oregon, followed suit and legalized recreational marijuana in their own state jurisdictions.
To read more about the pest management programs currently in effect on the west coast, check out our state-specific articles on Oregon, Washington, California, and Colorado.