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Organic: An Outlawed Word in the Cannabis Industry

A Brief History of Organic in the Cannabis Industry

The cannabis industry uses “organic” in the same way as other agricultural industries. “Organic” refers to a system of farming that relies on natural inputs. Compost and cover crops instead of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Organic agriculture values sustainability, conservation, and ecological diversity. The goal is to reduce the use of synthetic inputs and maximize the use of natural resources.
 
The organic farming movement emerged around 1940-1950. Many had concerns about the negative environmental and health impacts of industrial agriculture. In 1972, the USDA established the National Organic Program (NOP). Their task was to develop national standards for organic agriculture. These standards updated in 2000. Today the NOP handles certifying organic farms and products and enforcing organic standards.
 
In the cannabis industry, the use of the term “organic” has become more important. As legalization has spread and demand for high-quality, sustainable products has grown. The legality of cannabis at the federal level has complicated the issue of organic certification. Some states have created their own certifications, but have not been accepted nation-wide. The USDA has not yet established federal organic standards for the crops.
 
As a result, the term “organic” is often used in the cannabis industry in a more informal sense, to refer to products that are produced using sustainable, environmentally friendly, and pesticide-free practices. To ensure the quality and safety of cannabis products, many states require testing for potency and contaminants, regardless of whether the product is labeled as organic or not. Overall, the use of the term “organic” in the cannabis industry reflects a growing consumer demand for sustainably produced, environmentally friendly products.

Why Can’t the Word Organic Be Used in Legal Cannabis?

The word “organic” cannot be used to describe cannabis products in the United States because cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. This classification makes it illegal to grow, sell, or possess cannabis in any form, including for medical or recreational purposes.

As a result, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not have the authority to regulate or certify cannabis as organic. The USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) sets the standards for what can be labeled as organic, and only products that are grown and processed in accordance with these standards are eligible to bear the USDA organic seal.

In order for cannabis to be considered organic, it would need to be legalized at the federal level, which would allow the USDA to establish standards for the organic production of cannabis and certify products as organic. Until this happens, the term “organic” cannot legally be used to describe cannabis in the United States.

While the absence of a federal organic standard for cannabis has led some growers and producers to use alternative labels and certification programs, it is important to be aware that these labels may not be recognized by the USDA or have the same level of credibility as the USDA organic seal.

Cannabis in the Sunlight
Cannabis in the Sun / David Garbric

Organic Cannabis & Legalization

The word “organic” is tied to cannabis legalization in a few ways:

Organic cannabis cultivation is becoming more popular as legalization expands: With the legalization of cannabis in many states, there is a growing demand for organic cannabis products. Many cannabis growers are choosing to cultivate their plants using organic methods in order to meet this demand and appeal to consumers who prioritize organic products.

Organic cannabis products are subject to regulation: In some states, cannabis products that are labeled as “organic” are subject to regulation by state organic certification programs. These programs ensure that organic cannabis products meet specific standards for organic production, such as the use of natural inputs and the avoidance of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

Organic cannabis cultivation can be seen as aligned with the goals of cannabis legalization: The legalization of cannabis is often framed as a way to promote a more natural, plant-based approach to medicine and recreation. Organic cultivation methods align with this goal by prioritizing the use of natural inputs and promoting soil health and biodiversity.

Overall, the word “organic” is becoming increasingly tied to cannabis legalization as consumers seek out natural, sustainable products and growers respond to this demand by using organic cultivation methods.

How to Find Weed Grown With Organic Practices in Oregon

In Oregon, there are several certifications for cannabis that signify healthy and organic growing practices. Some of the most recognized certifications include:

Clean Green Certified 

This certification is based on the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) standards and is specifically designed for the cannabis industry. It verifies that the product has been grown using sustainable, natural and organic practices.

Certified Kind

This is a soil-to-oil certification program that verifies that the product is grown using organic and sustainable methods. The certification is based on a set of rigorous standards that cover every aspect of the cultivation process, from seed to harvest.

Dragonfly Earth Medicine

This certification is based on regenerative farming practices that focus on building healthy soil, reducing waste, and conserving water. It verifies that the product is grown using only natural inputs and no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.

Oregon Tilth Certified Organic

This is a USDA-accredited certification that verifies that the product has been grown using organic methods. It covers all aspects of the cultivation process, from seed to harvest.

Sun+Earth Certified

This certification verifies that the product has been grown using regenerative and sustainable practices. It focuses on the use of renewable energy, conservation of water and soil, and fair labor practices.

By seeking out cannabis products that carry these certifications, you can be confident that the product was grown using healthy and sustainable methods.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

What Are Oregon’s Cannabis Testing Requirements?

Oregon has strict testing requirements for cannabis products sold in the state. Here are some of the key requirements:

Pesticide Testing 

All cannabis products sold in Oregon must be tested for pesticides. This includes both inhalable and ingestible products.

Potency Testing 

Cannabis products must be tested for THC and CBD levels to ensure that they meet state requirements.

Microbial Testing

Cannabis products must be tested for certain types of bacteria and fungi that can be harmful to human health.

Moisture Content Testing

Cannabis flower and other plant material must be tested for moisture content to ensure that it is safe for consumption and does not contain harmful levels of mold or other contaminants.

Water Activity Testing 

Water activity testing is required for edible and other cannabis-infused products to ensure that they are shelf-stable and safe for consumption.

Residual Solvent Testing 

Concentrates and other cannabis products that are made using solvents must be tested for residual solvents to ensure that they do not contain harmful levels of these substances.

Terpene Testing

Optional terpene testing is also available, which can provide additional information about the flavor and aroma of cannabis products.

All testing must be performed by a licensed laboratory that has been accredited by the Oregon Health Authority. Products that fail to meet testing requirements may not be sold in Oregon dispensaries.

Overall, these testing requirements are designed to ensure that cannabis products sold in Oregon are safe and free from harmful contaminants.

Do Testing Requirements Protect Consumers From Non-Organic Material?

In Oregon, cannabis testing requirements are designed to ensure that all products that reach the market are safe for consumption and meet certain quality standards. These requirements include testing for potency, pesticides, microbial contaminants, and residual solvents.

However, while testing requirements can help to identify and prevent the sale of products that contain harmful chemicals or contaminants, they do not specifically prevent non-organic cannabis from going to market. For example, a product that has been grown using synthetic pesticides or fertilizers may still pass testing requirements if the levels of these chemicals fall below the allowable limits.

To ensure that you are purchasing cannabis that has been grown using organic practices, it is best to look for products that carry one of the certifications mentioned earlier, such as Clean Green Certified or Certified Kind. These certifications provide an additional level of assurance that the product has been grown using sustainable and natural methods.

Not Everyone Agrees On Testing Accuracy

There is disagreement in the cannabis community about the accuracy of testing for several reasons. First, cannabis is a complex plant with numerous chemical compounds that can affect the results of testing. For example, THC and CBD levels can vary widely depending on the strain, growing conditions, and harvesting techniques.

Second, there is a lack of standardized testing protocols and quality control measures across the industry. Different labs may use different methods and equipment, which can lead to variations in results. In addition, there is currently no federal oversight or regulation of cannabis testing, which can contribute to inconsistencies and inaccuracies.

Third, some members of the cannabis community have expressed concerns that testing may be biased or inaccurate due to financial incentives. For example, some labs may be incentivized to report higher THC levels in order to command higher prices for their testing services, or to boost sales of certain strains. Check out our blog on other reasons why THC percentage doesn’t show the whole picture here.

Finally, there is a general lack of education and awareness among consumers about how to interpret and understand lab test results. This can lead to confusion and skepticism about the accuracy of testing, particularly when results differ from consumers’ expectations or previous experiences.

Overall, the accuracy of cannabis testing is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires ongoing research, standardization, and education to ensure that consumers have access to reliable and trustworthy information about the products they are consuming.

Legal cannabis products are generally considered safe, but there are some potential risks and concerns that consumers should be aware of. While regulatory frameworks for cannabis production, distribution, and sale vary by state, most legal cannabis products undergo some form of testing for potency, contaminants, and other quality control measures. However, as noted earlier, the accuracy and consistency of testing can be an issue in some cases.

To minimize risks and ensure that you are consuming legal cannabis products safely, it is important to educate yourself about the products you are using, read product labels and lab test results, and follow dosage and usage guidelines carefully. You should also purchase cannabis products from reputable and licensed dispensaries or retailers, and be wary of products that make unsubstantiated health or therapeutic claims.

What is Biomagnification & What Does It Have To Do With Cannabis?

Biomagnification refers to the process by which certain toxins or chemicals become increasingly concentrated as they move up the food chain. In the context of cannabis products, biomagnification can occur as the plant material is refined into concentrates or extracts.

When cannabis is grown using pesticides or other chemicals, these compounds can become concentrated in the plant material. When this material is processed into concentrates, the levels of these chemicals can become even more concentrated, resulting in potentially harmful levels of exposure.

In addition, cannabis plants can also absorb heavy metals and other toxins from the soil or water in which they are grown. As with pesticides, these compounds can become concentrated in the plant material during the refining process.

To minimize the risk of biomagnification in cannabis products, it is important to use organic and sustainable growing practices and to carefully monitor the levels of toxins and contaminants throughout the cultivation and refining process. Additionally, third-party testing and certification can help to ensure that cannabis products are safe and free from harmful levels of contaminants.

Read Up On Organic Cannabis Growing Practices

Here are some books that cover organic cannabis growing practices:

The Organic Grow Book by Karel Schelfhout and Michiel Panhuysen

This book covers organic growing practices for a wide range of crops, including cannabis.

Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis

This book provides an in-depth exploration of the soil food web and how to create a healthy soil ecosystem for optimal plant growth.

The Cannabis Grow Bible by Greg Green

This comprehensive guide covers all aspects of cannabis cultivation, including organic growing practices and techniques.

True Living Organics: The Ultimate Guide to Growing All-Natural Marijuana Indoors by The Rev

This book provides detailed instructions for growing cannabis using organic methods and materials.

Organic Marijuana, Soma Style: The Pleasures of Cultivating Connoisseur Cannabisby Soma

This book covers organic cannabis growing practices from a personal perspective, with a focus on cultivating high-quality, connoisseur-grade cannabis.

These books can provide a wealth of information and guidance for growers interested in organic cannabis cultivation practices. It’s important to note, however, that regulations and best practices for growing cannabis can vary by region, so it’s important to do additional research and consult local experts to ensure compliance and success in your particular area.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the word “organic” cannot be used in the cannabis market in the United States due to the conflicting regulations and legal framework surrounding the term. While the USDA has established a national standard for organic certification, cannabis remains illegal at the federal level. As a result, the use of the term “organic” in the cannabis industry is not regulated or recognized by federal agencies, leaving the door open to misrepresentation and fraudulent claims. As the legal landscape surrounding cannabis continues to evolve, it remains to be seen whether federal agencies will establish clear guidelines for the use of the term “organic” in the cannabis market.

We got you!

The world of legal cannabis is a constantly changing environment. Fortunately our staff is highly educated and our marketplace specifically strives to buy products grown with organic and sustainable practices. Stop in at any of our shops to learn about some of Oregon’s local cannabis brands that use these techniques. Shop any of our store’s menus and see what we have in store!

Substance offers online ordering and curbside pickup for dabs and other fine products at all dispensary locations throughout Bend, OR and now at our newest location in Cottage Grove, OR.

More Reading:

Cannabis Cultivation Grow Styles: Indoor, Outdoor or Greenhouse?

Cannabis Genetics: Exploring the Past and Shaping the Future

Make Your Own Cannabis Edibles: Cooking Tips and Recipe Ideas

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