It would be a travesty for most cannabis enthusiasts to find out that their bud was grown in a toxic way. Consumers want products that are natural and safe, but sometimes cannabis consumers get something tainted.
Tens of thousands of cannabis plants were seized in Colorado last year because they had been treated with pesticides outlawed for use on cannabis. Lawmakers in Colorado are now pushing to create “pesticide-free” labeling for cannabis products so consumers can be more aware of how their product was grown. In addition to labels, certifiers would be brought in to assess individual growing operations in the state.
Chris Van Hook thinks this is a great move. Van Hook is the program director of the Clean Green Certification Program, which inspects cannabis based on the standards set by the USDA National Organic Program. Though authorities have been cracking down on pesticide use, he believes it is still an issue in Colorado and beyond. “There’s a lot of pesticides used in these large indoor warehouse grows,” he said.
Cannabis cannot be labeled as “organic,” since the term is controlled by the federal government, and the federal government does not accept cannabis as a legitimate crop. “It’s important for the consumer to know that when people are telling them their marijuana is organic, they’re really saying to the world, ‘We know nothing about the organic program,’” Van Hook said. As a USDA accredited organic certifier, he should know.
The legality issue is also one of the reasons many pesticides are not supposed to be used for cannabis cultivation, as the EPA hasn’t approved any pesticides for cannabis.
Clean Green does everything an organic certifier would do, but they can’t get a cannabis cultivator the true organic certification. The company inspects everything from how the cannabis is grown and processed to how it’s labeled.
“I would like to see [cannabis] fall under the same category that all organic produce falls under,” said Tim Cullen, the CEO of Colorado Harvest Company. He knows that won’t happen anytime soon, so he agrees this is a step in the right direction. His products are currently labeled as “naturally grown,” since “organic” isn’t an option yet.
“Consumers [in Colorado] reached a point where they’d like to have a deeper level of understanding about what’s in and on the products that they’re buying,” Cullen said.
There is a multitude of natural solutions for deterring pests from cannabis. Van Hook recommends using predator mites and ladybugs to prevent pests from ruining cannabis plants. He said once you can see pests with your naked eye, you’re pretty much screwed.
Cannabis cultivators should be careful not to bring trimmings from an outside grow to their growing area without quarantining and treating them first. Van Hook said people make this mistake a lot, and it can cause pests to get into their grow. He recommends treating the trimmings with amine oils, Safer Soap, or Organocide. He also said it’s important to maintain very clean trays, pots, and other surfaces that will come in contact with the plant.
Colorado isn’t the only state where organic growing is a major factor for cannabis growers. Michael Sassano of Nevada’s Green Cross of America said all cannabis grown in the state is done without pesticides. “Colorado is a little behind the newer states like Nevada, where it’s automatic that [cannabis] has to be pesticide-free,” he said.
Interestingly enough, Sassano said growers will try to get away with using harsh pesticides. “It doesn’t matter, technically,” Sassano said, “if there was pesticide on the cannabis before, because once you burn it or turn it into liquid, nobody’s ever going to know.” One of the biggest concerns among some growers is what could happen if cannabis was legalized federally and bigger corporations started getting into cultivating it. “Monsanto could suddenly decide they’re going to modify strains and get into doing what they did to the American food source,” Sassano said.
“I think the larger corporations, the Philip Morrises, could care less about the industry, and they would be looking for delivery devices and just getting it into hands,” he said. “And they’d probably be enhancing it with multiple chemicals, like [they do with] their cigarettes.”
Until the federal government accepts cannabis and allows it to be labeled organic, current policies will be approached in a patchwork fashion, with each state making its own rules. Luckily, Colorado cannabis consumers are on their way to getting some idea of what’s going in their bodies. The last thing you want when you’re getting high is to be paranoid about toxic chemicals—or Monsanto.