Although cannabis brands may proclaim themselves “pesticide-free” or call themselves “organic,” cannabis isn’t certified the same way an organic apple is. As it stands right now, “organic” is just another buzzword for growers to use in advertisements rather than the tightly regulated government seal of approval.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certifies fruits and vegetables as organic when they contain less than 5 percent additives, as outlined on the USDA website. But cannabis isn’t eligible for the same certification since it’s still considered an illegal, Schedule I substance by the federal government. Until cannabis is fully decriminalized, growers won’t be able to use the USDA organic seal or partake in any organic farming incentive programs.
In the meantime, cannabis-centric organizations like the Cannabis Certification Council (CCC), are pushing for more organic and sustainable cultivation practices while also educating consumers about what goes into their weed. The CCC focuses on fair trade and just employment practices in addition to sustainable, eco-friendly cultivation.
The #WhatsinMyWeed campaign urges consumers to look beyond the THC content and into the production of the weed they purchase. Think of the CCC as the stoner’s answer to the Fair Trade Commission or B-corp Certification.
To the casual consumer, the only difference between “organic” and conventional marijuana is the cost per ounce. But does the is the pesticide-free pot worth the price?
A report by cannabis analysis firm, Steep Hill, found that over 80 percent of cannabis sampled contains pesticides. The most common pesticide detected was a “general use” chemical called myclobutanil which is typically used on grape, almond and strawberry crops in California.
Other pesticides commonly used on cannabis crops include imidacloprid which has been shown to harm bees and other pollinating insects, not to mention the farm workers exposed to the chemicals and crops.
A recent study published in the Journal of Toxicology suggested that people who smoke cannabis are exposed to a host of potentially toxic chemicals. The study identified three chemicals – pesticides, bifenthrin, diazinon, and permethrin – analyzed how much of each pesticide was present in cannabis smoke. The authors note that the chemicals are all commercially available to cannabis growers. The study concluded that “chemical residues present on cannabis will directly transfer into the mainstream smoke and ultimately the end user” and may have harmful effects.
The California Department on Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) states that no pesticides are federally registered for use on cannabis crops. Despite this caution, the CDPR has a flowchart on which pesticides may be used on crops. But this vague chart doesn’t seem like a promising way to ensure growers are using the safest possible chemicals on their crops, not to mention home growers or black market farms.
There is little research on how pesticides may change when treated cannabis is smoked and which, if any, pesticides are safe for consumption. As with many issues in the cannabis industry, more research needs to be completed on how to safely grow and sell cannabis.
So, is “organic” cannabis worth the cost? Since there isn’t a clear standard for pesticide-regulation in the cannabis industry it can be difficult to tell just how “clean” your cannabis is. That being said, paying a little extra for less potential pesticide residue seems like a worthwhile investment.