October 2, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Reps. Scott Peters (CA-52) and Doug LaMalfa (CA-01) introduced the Targeting and Offsetting Existing Illegal Contaminants (TOXIC) Act. As California and other states see the emergence of illegal cannabis cultivation sites on public lands, investigations show that growers frequently use banned pesticides to protect their crops. For buyers, consuming even small amounts of cannabis exposed to these banned pesticides could be potentially deadly. The problem also poses a serious health risk for the U.S. Forest Service agents who encounter the illegal crops and are tasked with removing them. The TOXIC Act remedies the environmental damage caused by banned pesticides to our public lands and ensures those who illegally grow cannabis on federal property using banned pesticides are subject to stricter criminal penalties. The idea for the bill came from a series of investigative stories by San Diego journalist J.W. August published in the Times of San Diego.
“Our wildlife, habitat and public health pay the price for the actions of illegal cannabis growers who often work with drug cartels,” said Rep. Peters. “These extremely dangerous and illegal pesticides can harm endangered species like pacific fishers and spotted owls, as well as Forest Service agents, and consumers who can be severely sickened by these toxins. The TOXIC Act will direct the federal government to use all available resources to fix the harm caused by banned pesticides smuggled across our southern border and increase penalties for their use on federal lands.”
This bill will:
- Authorize $250 million over five years for the Forest Service to use Superfund toxic waste remediation authorities to address environmental damages caused by the release of banned pesticides on federal lands for cannabis cultivation; and
- Raise the criminal penalties for using banned pesticides in illegal cannabis cultivation to maximums of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in criminal fines to establish parity with the criminal penalties for smuggling banned pesticides into the U.S. The U.S. Sentencing Commission would then be required to review and update its sentencing guidelines for these crimes.
“Illegal marijuana grows have brought dangerous cartels into our rural towns, terrorizing residents and decimating our landscape,” said Rep. LaMalfa. “The banned pesticides they use on their product seep into the soil and watershed, poisoning wildlife and endangering residents who inadvertently consume it. Everyone; outdoor enthusiasts, nearby residents on their own land, wildlife, Forest Service and law enforcement personnel are all at risk. The TOXIC Act is necessary to criminalize those who cause damage to our public land with banned chemicals and helps remedy the environmental impacts.”
In 2019, the San Diego-based Border Pesticide Initiative was formed with members of the Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Homeland Security, California Department of Toxic Substances Control, and the City Attorney’s Office. In 2021, the group announced it had prosecuted over 50 defendants and seized more than 1,000 containers of illegal pesticides.