Pesticide Regulation- When Agencies Agree to Disagree

On November 10th we are hosting an Oregon Department of Agriculture lunch and learn. And, we want to thank ODA for participating, they have been easy to work with and the staff is great.

This is all policy commentary. The staff don't pick the policy. The policy being implemented by ODA is super challenging and I want to share what we have learned over the last two months about pesticide standards, investigations and the consequences for this very fragile new industry.

1. The Oregon Department of Agriculture regulates pesticide use in Oregon. Along with OSHA, but that is another post.

2. The OLCC and OHA have set acceptable thresholds above zero for a lab test of product to be considered passing and for that product to enter the stream of commerce.

3. If your test fails the lab MUST report you to the regulating agency, OLCC or OHA, and that agency WILL report you to the ODA who then, most certainly, will launch an investigation.

4. That investigation with start with a detainment where ALL of your plants, finished material, even your entire facility, will be on lockdown. Even if you have a bunch of passed tests or tests with zero trace of pesticides. Nothing will move into the stream of commerce.

5. ODA has a different standard than OLCC and OHA for pesticide tolerance. That threshold is zero. Meaning, from the ODA’s perspective, you can have NO trace of pesticides, even some OMRI certified ones, on your material.

6. If there is any trace of pesticide on any of your material, plants, product, it must be destroyed.

7. This process will take a long time. And, during the investigation ODA, maybe alongside OSHA or OHA, will visit your facility, take samples, evaluate everything pertaining to potential use of pesticides, application logs and more. Again, while detaining your entire facility.

There are a number of serious challenges here.

First, OHA and OLCC have a consistent standard for acceptable pesticide tolerance. However, ODA has a different standard. That means that different regulating agencies have contradictory thresholds making it impossible for a business to know which one they need to comply with. This also means that similarly situated businesses are being treated differently by two state agencies.

Second, it is patently unfair to detain an entire facility, even if there are separate rooms, buildings, greenhouse, and not allow producers and processors to release material that has tested at zero or passed the OHA/OLCC testing standard to be sold.

Third, neither Colorado nor Washington have taken this approach. Washington has outright said that the licensing agency and their department of agriculture must have the same standard and , ironically, has adopted, by both agencies, our threshold limits. Colorado has said that their department of agriculture should not have jurisdiction and has kept them out of the process.

I am not advocating for drenching your plants in Eagle 20, I am arguing that agencies should have consistent regulatory standards and that the ODA should not detain passing product and product that tests at zero. I am asking that Oregon have some serious cohesion in the way they are regulating cannabis- this is hard enough. I am asking that Oregon not apply an inapplicable federal standard to cannabis. I am also asking that the State recognize that this is not a field of potatoes and that detaining (and potentially destroying) an entire crop is, basically, destroying a business. Finally, I am asking the state of Oregon to comply with the Cole Memo by not pushing people back into the black market who have had their entire legal operations shut down.