Since the beginning there has seemed something obscene about people using medical marijuana for health reasons that has been doused in potentially harmful synthetic pesticides. Those consumers who went the extra mile (and paid the extra costs) to seek out ‘organic’ medical marijuana often did so on faith alone. With no national system of regulations or oversight on organic claims there has been little assurance beyond the growers’ word that what they were paying for (and ingesting/inhaling) was genuinely organic and free of unwanted synthetic pesticides.
Over the past few years the organic weed landscape has started to improve. A few years ago we posted a piece about a chemist in California who was conducting independent analyses of medical marijuana testing for synthetic pesticide levels, and a couple years ago we posted another piece about an ex-attorney turned independent certification specialist who also offered independent analyses of growers’ claims that their product was ‘organic’. But both of these services were small scale and only serviced a limited area and customer base. Since then some municipalities have begun to require dispensaries to obtain independent testing to assure medical marijuana consumers that the product is free of synthetic pesticides and other additives. But as with the previous examples, what has continued to be lacking is a national standard for what constitutes ‘organic’ marijuana and a system of oversight to assure adherence.
Finally, however, the long process of creating standards and a system to regulate and assure consumers that when they purchase ‘organic’ marijuana, that is what they are truly getting, is now underway. And, in addition to offering patients a product that will not compromise their health conditions with questionable synthetic pesticides and insecticides, the new system is set to reward growers for sustainability practices that will also be far better for the environment…
A lack of standards
…medical marijuana use is legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Despite that expansion, this line…remains relevant:
“The disconnect between the willingness of some states to regulate, sell, and tax marijuana and the federal reluctance to allow research to progress leaves an increasing number of people without the knowledge to make informed, science-based choices.”
-National Geographic Editor-In-Chief Susan Goldberg
This lack of information is evident in the relatively lax process of cannabis testing, compared to prescription drugs or foods. Marijuana growers are testing less than 0.01% of their product for potency and microbial growth. Few facilities choose to test more often, seeing it as an unneeded expense.
(In cannabis-friendly Colorado, the rule of “process validation” means that a facility is able to check their growing process by taking just one sample from six harvest batches, each one week apart. Then they are not required to test for a full year.)
The solution is more required testing
…problems may be solved if cannabis were legally treated like a more typical medicine or food product—with closer to 1% of all product being tested.
But cannabis is still considered a federal Schedule I drug as a result of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, and that makes it a challenge for researchers at universities or other institutions to get permission to study or test it. Other drugs in this category include heroin, peyote, and the club drug ecstasy.
In mid-April, Florida House of Representatives members Matt Gaetz and Darren Soto proposed a bill to move marijuana down to a Schedule III substance, which would put it in the same category as Vicodin, and would make it much easier for laboratories to conduct testing…
The lack of cannabis testing makes it harder for the industry to do quality control. But some professional growers are doing what they can.
[Even when growers offer] “100% clean cannabis”, [because] the crop is not legal federally, growers can’t take advantage of official organic certification from the USDA, such as poultry or corn.
This can make it harder for growers…to make a distinction for their customers.
“There is no real, national, universal seal of organic certification. It doesn’t exist right now…In the absence of organic standards and organic certification, there’s no real way for the consumer to tell the difference.”
-Amy Andrle, a founding member of the Organic Cannabis Association
But that’s exactly what the Organic Cannabis Association is trying to develop…
In early June, the Organic Cannabis Association merged with fellow non-profit the Ethical Cannabis Alliance. A result was the formation of the Cannabis Certification Council (CCC), which hopes to independently certify cannabis products as “Organically Grown” and “Fairly Produced.”
…they will be working from USDA and European organic standards and will then review the guidelines with a technical advisory council. After that comes a national pilot program.
“Producers and processors will have a way to differentiate themselves from competitors who are not taking the extra steps for ethical cannabis production. Additionally, the certification will give consumers a way to be assured that what they’re putting into their bodies is safe, clean, and supporting their local communities.”
-Ashley Preece, newly appointed Executive Director of the Cannabis Certification Council (CCC)