Elizabeth Hamill October 5, 2022

A bill introduced this month by Congress members Scott Peters (D-CA) and Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) is attempting to combat environmental damage and health hazards caused by banned pesticides used in illegal cannabis growing operations on public lands. The so-called Targeting and Offsetting Existing Illegal Contaminants (TOXIC) Act would increase fines to a maximum of $250,000 and prison sentences up to 20 years for the use of these banned pesticides frequently seen in illicit cannabis grows.

Illegal marijuana grows have brought dangerous cartels into our rural towns, terrorizing residents and decimating our landscape. The banned pesticides they use on their product seep into the soil and watershed, poisoning wildlife and endangering residents who inadvertently consume it. Everyone; outdoor enthusiasts, nearby residents on their own land, wildlife, Forest Service and law enforcement personnel are all at risk. The TOXIC Act is necessary to criminalize those who cause damage to our public land with banned chemicals and helps remedy the environmental impacts.” – Rep. LaMalfa.

The TOXIC Act would authorize 250 million dollars to the US Forest Service to combat the environmental damage caused by illegal marijuana grows on public lands. The introduction of the bill highlights the growing concern about the environmental impacts of cannabis production, both legal and illegal. Because of the dichotomy between state legalization and federal prohibition, there are no federal standards on acceptable standards for pesticides on cannabis even though more than 40 states have legalized some form of cannabis use.

Since the federal government does not recognize any legal cannabis grows, the EPA has not approved any pesticides as safe for use on cannabis plants, as it does for other commercial crops. This also means there is no standard set of federal regulations across the cannabis industry, and no consumer protections that can be applied across the board. Each state must make individual decisions for what pesticides to approve at what levels. The TOXIC bill would crack down on the use of highly toxic federally illegal pesticides, but does not create any standard rules for which pesticides are permitted in cannabis cultivation and in what amounts. Currently, the result of a patchwork of state laws means that the pesticides found in a legally grown cannabis product can vary widely from state to state.

Federally legalizing cannabis cultivation would have a positive impact on the environment and on the health of consumers as it would lead to national standards in pesticide use and more robust research surrounding cannabis cultivation.