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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it is taking public comments on 10 applications it received seeking to add new hemp uses to pesticide products already registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The 10 application amendments are the result of the 2018 Farm Bill, signed in to law on December 20, 2018, that removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and legalized commercial use and production of hemp that contains less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The 10 applications for label amendments are for products that contain active ingredients for which the EPA "has previously determined the residues will be safe under any reasonably foreseeable circumstances." Each active ingredient has an established tolerance exemption for residues on all raw agricultural or food commodities. If approved, these pesticides could also be labeled for use on hemp. Approving pesticide products for hemp is a major step in making hemp a commodity crop in the U.S.
To date, EPA has not registered any pesticides for use on cannabis, citing the illegal status of cannabis under federal law. And, as recently as 2017, the EPA had turned down efforts by certain states to approve “Special Local Needs” registrations under FIFRA Section 24(c) that would have allowed cannabis uses for pesticides within those states. With the legalization of industrial hemp under the Farm Bill, however, EPA now has an opportunity to consider approving nationwide, registered pesticide uses on hemp grown in full accordance with federal law.
In its notice, the agency says that it will review public comments and make final determinations on the applications by the end of 2019 “in time for use during the 2020 application and growing seasons.” The agency’s goal is “to help growers make informed purchasing choices for the upcoming growing season.” You can read EPA’s full announcement here.
The list of the 10 pesticide applications currently being considered can be found in the Federal Register.
By law, the EPA must review and approve pesticides for particular uses. In this case, however, the EPA says that FIFRA Section 3(c)(4) does not require EPA to provide notice and opportunity to comment concerning these 10 applications because hemp falls within the terrestrial outdoor and residential outdoor use pattern previously approved for the pesticidal active ingredients in question, and approval of the applications would therefore not involve "a changed use pattern," for which the agency would be required to provide notice and opportunity to comment. The EPA says that because it expects that “these initial applications involving hemp may be of significant interest to the public,” it is providing the public an opportunity to comment in order to “enhance transparency.” The agency says that it does not intend to provide notice or opportunity to comment for similar future applications to add hemp.
The public comment period closes on September 23, 2019.
Tips for preparing comments are available here.
Comments may be submitted in any of the following ways:
Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
Mail: OPP Docket, Environmental Protection Agency Docket Center (EPA/DC), (28221T), 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20460-0001.
Hand Delivery: To make special arrangements for hand delivery or delivery of boxed information, follow the instructions at https://www.epa.gov/dockets.
Be sure to identify your comments by “Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OPP-2019-0369.”