The phrase “clean cannabis” easily conjures up a bucolic vision of rolling hills, puffy clouds and beautiful, lush green plants which will ultimately become something healing, delicious, and/or joyously fun.
In reality, clean cannabis actually refers to a three-tiered approach which takes into account not just the landscape, the plants, or the final product, but the entire system of cultivation and processing.
Overall, the word “clean” refers to the verified absence of any contaminants in the product, and in everything used along the way - from the soil through post-harvest handling.
Who Defines Clean?
There are a number of organizations involved in vetting and certifying products, including Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), California Department of Farming and Agriculture (CDFA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Each entity uses similar metrics to determine that a product doesn’t contain any harmful residues from herbicides, pesticides and/or insecticides, and to verify that no portion of the product contains any genetically engineered components.
What Needs To Be Clean?
In considering whether or not we can call a product clean, the first variable we have to examine is the inputs, which include the soil itself, as well as any nutrients, herbicides, and/or pesticides used in cultivation.
It’s important to note that any growing medium - be it bagged or native soil - is considered an input. Because cannabis has a well-documented capacity to remove contaminants from the soil, anything in the soil is going to end up in the plant. So, we have to start with a soil test to determine our levels of not only nutrients, but heavy metals and any persistent herbicides or pesticides.
Then, any substances being used to provide nutrition, inoculate the soil, or as a foliar spray to deal with pests, must also be certified organic (whenever possible).
Diseases and pest infestations will also impact the final quality and health of the plant.
Pests and disease are also always potential issues, and given the right conditions, will rear their ugly heads and cause serious problems.
Cannabis cultivated outside will invariably have some insect presence, and will more likely be challenged by disease. Not only do we need to pay attention to the substances we’re using to manage those issues, but it’s important to remember that diseases and pest infestations will also impact the final quality and health of the plant.
Post harvest, third party full panel lab testing verifies that the cultivation and drying process was clean as well. This can be the difference of drying in an old moldy barn, versus drying in a washable non -porous surface. This is also the difference between USDA and Clean Green.
Why Lab Testing?
Even though we think we’ve grown our cannabis as cleanly as possible, many potential points of contamination aren’t visible to the naked eye, and can only be detected through microscopic inspection and culturing.
Just as we can’t see heavy metal build ups in the roots and flowers, we can’t see mycotoxins on the leaves and flower surface. Testing is the only way we can truly determine if our plants are truly free of contaminants.
Full panel labs vary some from lab to lab, but in general, labs test for heavy metals, pesticides, mycotoxins, biologicals, and if a product has been processed, any residual solvents.
The Big Picture
Clearly, clean cannabis makes the best, most potent medicine, doesn’t aggravate pre-existing conditions, and won’t cause any additional problems in vulnerable patient populations.
But in the big picture, anything bad for people and plants is also bad for the world. Clean cannabis protects our air and water quality and helps keep our already-struggling ecosystems a little more intact.
While some growers and makers might resist the additional expense or labor involved in ensuring the cleanest possible cannabis and cannabis products, at NurseGrown Organics, we’re here to serve both people and the planet. Keeping our products clean and green may be a little extra work, but it’s truly a labor of love.