EPA Seeks Public Comment on Pending Applications to Amend Existing Registrations to Add Hemp as a Target Site  

On August 23, 2019, the U.S, Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) published a notice seeking public comment on ten pending applications to amend existing registrations of agricultural pesticides to add hemp as an approved target site. See 84 Federal Register 44296 (August 23, 2019)

Interest in hemp has grown enormously since the enactment of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, colloquially known as the Farm Bill. Hemp is simply another term for the cannabis plant, also known as marijuana. The Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of and interstate commerce in hemp, defined as the cannabis plant containing less than 0.03 % THC [delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol; the psychoactive constituent of cannabis]. Plants containing above 0.3% THC remain classified as an illegal Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

The legalization of what is also known as industrial hemp has been greeted with great interest by the agricultural community. In some areas, such as upstate New York, hemp is seen as an alternative crop that might help save failing dairy farms. It is also seen as a natural corollary to increased cultivation of hops to meet the demands of the burgeoning craft brewery industry.

EPA has received applications to amend the registrations of ten products from three registrants:  Agro Logistic Systems, Inc. of Diamond Bar, California; Marrone Bio Innovations of Davis, California; and Hawthorne Hydroponics of Santa Rosa California. Hawthorne Hydroponics is a subsidiary of Hawthorne Gardening, itself a subsidiary of Scotts Miracle-Gro. Hawthorne is Scott’s vehicle for creating a space servicing the cannabis industry.

The ingredients in question are mostly biologic pesticides, and all hold exemptions from the requirement for a food tolerance. The proposed use patterns are within those already approved for the products in question.

EPA acknowledged that these proposed amendments do not meet the minimum standards of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (“FIFRA”) for required public notice of pending applications. Nonetheless it stated that sufficient public interest in hemp justified seeking public comment at this initial stage, but would not continue to publicize the increasing number of applications which it expects to receive.

Comments are due September 23, 2019, and can be filed at www.regulations.gov