Is Your Cannabis Really ‘Organic’?

Organics are no longer a fringe part of the food market — they’re even available from the house brands at mainstream grocery stores. But while the farm-to-table movement transforms our food supply, inserting organic practices into cannabis’ ‘seed-to-sale’ model has proved to be tricky for cannabis cultivators.

How your food becomes organic (according to the law)

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic means that the contents of the food item should be 95 percent or more certified organic. Organic food must be free of synthetic additives like pesticides, chemical fertilizers and dyes, and must not be processed using industrial solvents, irradiation or genetic engineering.

Unfortunately, those rules don’t apply for cannabis, because cannabis isn’t recognized by the federal government in the way that food is.

Legally, cannabis cannot be called organic, regardless of how environmentally safe and natural the cultivation process may be. The term is federally regulated and the USDA doesn’t recognize cannabis as a legitimate agricultural crop. Cannabis is still classified as a schedule 1 narcotic, which blocks the USDA from creating programs, services and certifications for cannabis cultivators.

This creates a unique situation; not only is organic cannabis deemed illegitimate, but non-organic growers are calling their cannabis organic without consequence. The lack of organic labeling is a growing concern, misleading consumers about what they’re actually buying and consuming.

So how will cannabis actually be regulated and held to a higher standard?

Enter the “Clean Green” movement

In the federal government’s absence, third-party programs have stepped in to fill the gap. Rather than wait, the cannabis industry is developing its own standards to market pesticide-free and environmentally friendly cannabis. It’s called the “clean green” movement and it’s helping hack the system of organic labels.

Clean Green Certified, for example, is a program that holds farmers, processors, wholesalers and retailers accountable to the highest standards in the industry. It offers certification for sustainable, naturally-grown agriculture that brings cannabis as close as it can to being called “organic.” Envirocann, another third-party certification organization, also focuses on quality assurance of cannabis.

Efforts like these empower farms to add transparency to their cannabis production and back it all up with objective, scientific data that holds cultivators accountable. But these programs can only do so much, since cultivators have to take it upon themselves to actively adhere to established best practices, and it will take time for certification programs to become recognized and demanded at the consumer level.

Cultivators can begin by understanding and implementing the principles of the government’s National Organic Program (NOP), and utilizing only the “minimum risk” pesticides that are considered acceptable for organic cultivation.

The complicated nature of using the word “organic” is becoming less tricky as new certification options for the cannabis industry establish standards that qualify as organic, minus the federal label. In years to come, the cannabis industry could set the standard of organic excellence throughout the entire agriculture industry, even without federal influence or labeling.

Nicolas Gonzalez-Podesta serves as the Director of Science and Education at Weedmaps, the world’s first and largest cannabis technology company, where users can search for medicinal cannabis products. With 15 years of experience in the cannabis industry, Nicolas has done everything from operate a large mixed-light cultivation facility to serving as a consultant to help scale large industrial distillation facilities.

36 comments

Megan S
Megan S2 months ago

just grow your own if its legal where you are lol

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Winn A
Winn A3 months ago

Noted

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Winn A
Winn A3 months ago

Thanks

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Lisa M
Lisa M3 months ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M3 months ago

Noted.

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Margie FOURIE
Margie F3 months ago

Thank you

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Julie W
Julie W3 months ago

Chrissie R, total nonsense! As an organic grower, I have used natural pest control, and nothing has ever been toxic.

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Anne M
Anne M3 months ago

Eat edibles, and you won’t have to worry about it...

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heather g
heather g3 months ago

In B.C. medical cannabis has become mainstream and also the CBD products. Unfortunately, people are wanting to spray with pesticides instead of keeping it organic - particularly the medical side..

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Angela J
Angela J3 months ago

Thanks

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