A bipartisan pair of congressional lawmakers has refiled a draft law meant to address the growing problem of illicit cannabis plantations on federal land. The lawmakers framed the legislation as a much-needed tool for the government to rein in illegal cannabis grows that are polluting the environment and risking marijuana consumers’ health.
Although dozens of states have launched medical and recreational cannabis markets, America’s illicit cannabis market is still thriving. Licensed sellers struggle to compete with the illicit market as high taxes, and rigid rules have made legal cannabis several times more expensive than black-market marijuana.
As a result, the illicit market regularly outsells the legal market by a wide margin, robbing states of tax revenue and feeding billions of dollars into the criminal enterprises behind the illicit cannabis market. Furthermore, illegal cannabis grows often use toxic banned pesticides and herbicides, which can leach into the ground and contaminate water sources. Cannabis consumers who use illicit cannabis also face the risk of contamination and adverse health effects from consuming low-quality or contaminated cannabis.
The Targeting & Offsetting Existing Illegal Contaminants (TOXIC) Act is about environmental protection and consumer safety, said Representative Scott Peters. He noted that no consumer should unknowingly take cannabis that is adulterated by dangerous pesticides and stated that he and Representative Doug LaMalfa tabled what was known as the Toxic Act to combat the scourge of illegal cannabis grows on federal land.
For years, reform advocates have argued that the best way to reduce the risk of consuming contaminated cannabis products and ensure consumer health is to launch regulated marijuana markets that subject products to standardized testing and compliance policies.
Illicit sellers don’t comply with any testing or compliance protocols. While this allows these sellers to price their products much cheaper compared to legal cannabis, it significantly increases the risk of entering contaminated products into the market and harming consumers.
Peters also noted that these illicit cannabis grows don’t just impact the end user; they also endanger several species and put the Forest Service agents tasked with clearing federal lands at risk of contamination.
Both LaMalfa and Peters represent California, which is home to the one of largest illicit cannabis markets in the United States ($8.7 billion in 2019). Their bill would provide the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) with funding of up to $250 million over a five-year period to increase penalties for people who use banned dangerous pesticides and to remediate areas where these pesticides were used.
If more of these illicit cultivators became licensed participants in the regulated cannabis market, they could benefit from new technologies such as the microgardens sold by Advanced Container Technologies Inc. (OTC: ACTX) to grow cannabis in an environmentally responsible way.
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