If you’ve been confused by seeing the terms “organic marijuana”, “organic cannabis” or “organic pot” lately, you are not alone.
After all, Reuters, one of the most respected news agencies in the world, not only came out with this headline above last year, it followed up by saying:
Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed a bill that paves the way for the state to create what is believed to be the first system in the United States to certify marijuana as organic.
How could this be?
How could a state bypass the federal government, which regulates the word “organic”, and create an independent organic certification for marijuana?
Yet, when you look at the State of Washington’s press release that came out one day before the Reuters article, it clearly states the following:
ESSB 5131 provides for The Washington State Department of Agriculture to establish standards for the production of marijuana that would be consistent with the requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Organic Program (7CFR 205). It is the first such bill anywhere in the U.S. The bill specifically prohibits anyone from labeling any marijuana product as “organic” because that term has specific legal meaning under federal organic regulations.
Michelle Muth Person, a spokesperson at the USDA, confirmed this when she told Organic Insider that “marijuana may not be certified organic under the USDA organic regulations. Marijuana is a controlled substance at the federal level, and organic certification is reserved for agricultural products.”
Interestingly, the Washington State Department of Agriculture, which is an approved organic certifier as per the USDA’s National Organic Program, will also be overseeing the state’s marijuana certification program.
When asked whether these certified cannabis products will be allowed to use “organic” or “grown organically” on the back panel of the packaging, Hector Castro, communications director for the Washington State Department of Agriculture, reiterated, “The details of the labeling requirements have not yet been developed, but marijuana cannot be represented, sold, or offered as an ‘organic product’. Marijuana is not a federally recognized agricultural crop.”
Reuters’ incorrect headline and assertion that the state is developing a system to “certify marijuana as organic” only adds unnecessary confusion to the marketplace.
Yet, it was precisely this misunderstanding that led Chris Van Hook to start Clean Green Certified in 2004, which has become the country’s largest certification for cannabis using sustainable, natural and organically-based cultivation practices.
As a lawyer, long-time organic certifier and now an auditor for organic certifiers, Chris Van Hook recognized the need for Clean Green Certified because he was acutely aware that using “organic” alongside cannabis was illegal but saw the need in the marketplace for a label that represented cannabis grown using environmentally friendly methods.
Given his long-time involvement and expertise in both the organic and cannabis industries, he, too, has seen plenty of misuse of the word “organic”.
“Marketing cannabis as ‘organic’ was much more widespread before, but you are still seeing it in some dispensary advertising. While most states recognize that this is illegal, they don’t necessarily have the enforcement in place. This is disappointing because they would take action if someone were selling organic tomatoes without certification,” said Chris Van Hook.
With President Trump having said last week that he will likely support a congressional effort to end the federal ban on marijuana, the term “organic cannabis” may soon become widespread. And legal.
Have a great day!
Max Goldberg, Founder
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* Several weeks ago, I gave an analysis on Organic Insider of how the proposed farm bill from the U.S. House of Representatives would impact organic.
* On many levels, it was extremely damaging, particularly the elimination of the cost-share program for organic certification — something that would drive farmers out of the organic program. As it stands now, we have far too few organic farmers and less than 1% of American farmland is organic. Hence, we are forced to import an enormous amount of our organic food.
* The recently released farm bill from the U.S. Senate is much more favorable to organic and includes full funding for the organic certification cost-share program and permanent baseline funding for the Organic Research and Extensive Initiative (OREI) program.
* We will keep you posted on the latest developments with the farm bill.
* If you will be in NYC this Saturday night, please come to the screening of Poisoning Paradise, which was awarded “Best Documentary” at the 2017 Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival. The film shows how the major GMO/chemical companies are using Hawaii for their testing ground and putting the state’s citizens in danger.
* Afterward, there will be a panel discussion featuring producer/director Keely Brosnan and Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. The trailer and information about the screening can both be found HERE.
* Former Whole Foods Co-CEO Walter Robb and his son Chris Robb, a founder of New Barn and Summermade, discuss entering the CPG world in an omnichannel age.
* In cryptocurrency news, there is an ICO called Organicco, which “is a blockchain-based project that seeks to develop next-generation green technology solutions that will help minimize the accumulation of organic waste.”
* Apparently, Los Angeles-based Juice Served Here may live on after all.
* New York City is cracking down on activated charcoal and is banning it from all food and drink.
* Star vegan chef Matthew Kenney just keeps on rolling. His Double Zero pizza concept is set to expand to Boston, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles.