Whether or not you’re an imbiber of weed, you’re likely familiar with the battle of organic versus non-organic – the grocery store alone is full of fruits and vegetables labeled as such. But, when it comes to cannabis specifically, the term “organic” isn’t a black and white matter. This is because it doesn’t mean much of anything at all. At least not in the world of cannabis.
Marijuana is illegal on the federal level (just in case you haven’t heard) despite its legality in a handful of states. Since organic standards are regulated at this federal level, non-organic growers can feasibly market themselves as organic and Uncle Sam will shrug his shoulders and plead indifference. But members of the pot community are working to remedy this.
The Failed Organic Pot Bill
In Colorado, according to The Cannabist, the Senate rejected a bill in early 2016 that would have created a government-backed system for certifying marijuana as organic: this bill advocated for a product label asserting the plant had been produced without pesticides (and up to other natural standards).
The proposal failed 4-3 in committee, mainly because lawmakers argued that an “organic” marker would mislabel marijuana as healthy
Never mind that it is and never mind that all sorts of foods are deemed “organic” whether they’re healthy or not: you can literally buy organic lard.
Still, some members of the government didn’t want to put their stamp of approval on anything they deemed a bit too controversial. Others worried about interference from the US Department of Agriculture.
The Need for Regulation
The refusal of lawmakers to set forth organic regulations because of their fear that weed is unhealthy is ironic: it’s not the weed, but the lack of regulations, that are detrimental to health. According to the Denver Post,
Colorado issued a major pot recall after a state investigation found high levels of insecticide in commercial cannabis
A testing lab in Oregon came across a similar problem: 12 percent of flowers and concentrates contained pesticide levels above federal guidelines. It’s become so problematic in legal states that officials in Washington even warned citizens to refrain from smoking or ingesting weed if they were concerned with pesticide exposure.
The Prevalence of Fake Organic Weed
The absence of set regulations regarding organic weed is damaging, particularly to medical marijuana patients who can certainly do without the chemicals used in non-organic farming. But recreational smokers are at risk of not getting what they paid for too. You don’t want to shell out the cash for organic bananas and take home a bunch covered in chemicals and you don’t want your pot to claim to be something it’s not, either. Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens a lot: according to some estimates, around three quarters of “organic” weed actually isn’t.
The reason for this is simple: organic weed is a hotter item
People are willing to pay more for the benefits involved in natural farming and sellers know this. “Organic weed” is much more marketable than “herbicide herb.”
In the Meantime….
The government will someday set forth regulations clearly dictating what weed can and cannot bear the organic label. But, as most of us know, sloths are speedier than bureaucracy so the process will take months to years to who knows when. In the meantime, those who truly want to ingest organic weed have options.
One of these is the Clean Green Certified Program
The way this program works is similar to how the US Department of Agriculture functions: inspectors from the organization visit pot farms, they walk the rows looking for signs of pesticides, and they take soil samples and ship them off to labs. They can’t test the flowers and leaves because you can’t ship weed across state lines.
Clean Green has worked to certify pot since 2004 and is based in Crescent City, California. They don’t technically certify weed as “organic” (as that’s the legal term used by the government), but they do provide a seal of approval.
This seal of approval attests that the plant has met several qualifications, including:
- Passed on-site inspections and third-party lab testing of the whole life cycle of the plant
- Passed analysis of soil, nutrients, seed selection, harvesting, and processing
- Passed pesticide testing of each operator every year
- Formed a carbon footprint reduction plan, established water conservation measures, and adopted fair labor practices
The Argument for Organic
Marijuana aside, the organic or non-organic argument has always been controversial; some people claim organic is healthier, others see it more as a way of adding two dollars to the price of an apple. A 2014 study in the British Journal of Nutrition points to validity: it found that organic crops have higher concentrates of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds.
The reason for this is that organic crops are exposed to more stress. Take insect attacks, for instance. In non-organic farming, pesticides are used to fend off attacks from beetles and gnats and whatever else. In organic farming, the crops rely on themselves and they form compounds to help them adapt to the increase in stress. These compounds are beneficial to the health of humans.
Per NPR, a carrot attacked by an insect will produce polyacetylenes, which are bitter tasting to flies. When ingested by us, carrots high in polyacetylenes help reduce inflammation and (as a result) cancer risk.
Organic crops also get less nitrogen than those farmed the more conventional way. The outcome? They grow slower and produce higher numbers of secondary plant metabolites – something else that promotes wellbeing when ingested through diet.
In regards to weed, the above applies: pot left to its own devices allows it to grow as Mother Nature intended. But there’s other benefits too:
Organic plants typically have better flavor, aroma, and consistency (though some people don’t find this to be true – different tokes for different folks)
It’s also without toxins and other additives and, importantly, much better on the environment. Many people who get involved in the marijuana industry do so because it’s natural; organic weed keeps it that way.