Is There Such A Thing As Organic Cannabis?
Posted by Matt Leonetti (he/him), NurseGrown Organics co-founder and farm manger on 24th Feb 2022
The organic food industry has seen exponential growth over the last few decades as consumers want clean and safe products. Now, as legalization brings cannabis into both the national spotlight and people’s homes, the organic spotlight is starting to focus on the plant as well.
In legal markets, we’re seeing plenty of stores offering “organic” cannabis and cannabis products. But what many consumers don’t know is whether or not there’s any validity to an organic cannabis claim.
From a legal perspective, “organic” isn’t a word one uses lightly. The process which allows growers and product makers to use this labeling term is quite drawn out and involves adhering to numerous rules and regulations and keeping highly detailed records.
While of course there are plenty of high quality cannabis products out there, none are truly organic. This has to do with who regulates the term “organic.” In the United States, that means the United States Department of Agriculture and its National Organic Program.
The NOP is a federally managed and funded operation that oversees the regulation and compliance of the organic industry. The NOP is a labeling law first and foremost, and this is a big point to understand.
While of course there are plenty of high quality cannabis products out there, none are truly organic.
Anything labeled and sold as organic must meet basic criteria of compliance. There are steep penalties for misleading and falsifying claims of “organic” without a certification. It’s not a perfect system or program by any means, but it is a baseline to differentiate those going above and beyond.
So, what does this mean for organic cannabis? Well, since the program is run by the federal government, and cannabis is still federally illegal as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, it cannot therefore be regulated by the government. They don’t acknowledge any substances that are federally illegal and this includes cannabis.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t businesses cultivating cannabis using methods and practices that far outweigh the baseline USDA standards; there most certainly are. But from a regulatory perspective, and who controls the labeling of this term, cannabis cannot be labeled as organic. Unfortunately, it’s really that simple.
Hemp, on the other hand, is a different story. Hemp was officially legalized through the 2018 Farm Bill. This authorized the USDA to certify those hemp farmers who applied for an organic certification. So, if you’re looking for “organic” hemp, it simply doesn’t exist without a certification. Self-certifications don’t work and shouldn’t be trusted. Always look for a certifying label on a product claiming to be organic, and if it’s not there, it’s probably not an organic product.
Some of us have embodied and lived this life for decades.
Now, when the market has a void, the niche normally gets filled and that’s exactly what happened in the cannabis industry. The federal disconnect in regulating cannabis as a controlled substance has opened the door for 3rd party certifiers to step in and pick up the process.
The first organization to have recognized the need for a certification program for the industry was Clean Green Certified® in 2004. They are the largest nationally recognized certifying body for the cannabis industry. The 3 main pillars of the program are consumer safety, legal compliance and environmental stewardship – taking their standards above and beyond the USDA’s baseline requirements. Many other programs such as Kind Certified and EcoCert have stepped into this space as well, and each has a unique set of standards, using the USDA as the minimum.
Ultimately, organic sets itself apart from conventional agriculture. But, it’s worth noting that some producers have adopted the term specifically for marketing, and some take their deep organic ecology several steps further.
Some of us have embodied and lived this life for decades. We go far above the standards for a certification and truly live by the most responsible and sustainable practices.We pay attention to things like carbon footprint, focusing on obtaining products locally over products from 3000 miles away. We’re cognizant of the environment, our water and soil resources, and treading so lightly that our activities give back to the earth instead of taking from it.
This is why NurseGrown is proud to be Clean Green Certified®. We are devoted to both your health and the health of the planet, and we want all our choices and products to reflect that complete commitment.
Photo by Gabriel Jimenez and Bethany Szentesi on Unsplash