The continued legalization of cannabis and hemp in many states is proving to be a conundrum to regulatory agencies nationwide. Since both plants are listed by the federal government as Schedule 1 narcotics, there are no federally registered pesticides that are labeled for use by growers in states where cannabis is legal. That said, any product used as a pesticide must conform to established regulations. In Oregon, a pesticide producer was fined by the state for failing to disclose the presence of the insecticide/miticide abamectin in a product labeled as all natural. In Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health suspended the license of a medical marijuana grower when tests detected the presence of the insecticide bifenthrin. Neither abamectin or bifenthrin has cannabis listed as a crop on their labels.
“In announcing the indefinite suspension, DPH said, “Following the failed test report, Healthy Pharms immediately quarantined all affected product containing pesticide as required by state regulations,” DPH will be coordinating with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, the agency responsible for pesticide enforcement and regulation in Massachusetts, to further look into this issue. We want to ensure that Healthy Pharms takes the appropriate corrective action to prevent this from happening in the future,” said DPH’s chief toxicologist Marc Nascarella.
Of note, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is neither the Lead State Agency nor the statutory authority regulating pesticides in the Commonwealth, that is the Massachusetts Pesticide Board and the Division of Crop Services within the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR). While Dr. Nascarella serves with the DPH, he is also the department’s designee to the Massachusetts Pesticide Board. The fact that these plants are illegal at the federal level and legal at the state level make it both very difficult and very interesting for state regulators to walk a fine line legally.