POTITICS: Organic Headache

As Colorado’s marijuana industry continues to grow and develop, the road hasn’t been all smooth and easy. Lawsuits from other states, deaths in which marijuana was reported as a factor, and armed robberies have all made the news in recent weeks and months. But one story that stood out to me as a cause for real concern (not that those others aren’t), is the proliferation of plants and products being confiscated, held, or destroyed due to the use of non-authorized pesticides, fungicides, chemicals, and other foreign substances.
Two weeks ago, Mahatma Concentrates had several of their products recalled by the state after lab tests showed that the amount of pesticides used on some of their products were “six times the maximum amount allowed by the federal government on any food product.” In some cases, the growers who sold plants to Mahatma used “1,800 times the level [of pesticides] Denver officials allowed to be on released plants it had quarantined earlier this year over pesticide concerns.”

Back in April and May of this year, about 10 commercial grows – who supply many dispensaries along the Front Range – were investigated by the City of Denver, and their plants were put on hold due to the discovery of banned pesticides. The most prominent dispensary at the front of this story was Livwell, who had about 60,000 plants put on hold.

In a world where people like to know what they’re putting in their bodies, and aren’t usually fans of chemically-doused products, this issue has shot to the forefront. Last week, Colorado’s attorney general Cynthia Coffman announced that her office is going to start investigating various marijuana businesses, grows, and dispensaries who use the word “organic” or “organically-grown” to describe their products.
Interestingly, the use of the word “organic” is federally regulated. The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) is the only entity allowed to certify that a farm is complying with federal organic regulations. And since marijuana is still a Schedule I controlled substance in the eyes of the federal government, marijuana companies have no authority to claim their products are “organic” or “organically-grown” since the USDA has not granted them that status. For a product like marijuana to be labeled “organic,” the change would have to come from the Colorado Dept. of Agriculture. But they are not going to put themselves between a plant and the federal government, so the department has remained understandably silent on the matter. Furthermore, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot step in and say which pesticides or chemicals are safe for use on a crop that is still technically illegal.

So here we are. The consumer is once again at the mercy of bureaucracy, federal provisions, attorney squabbling, lengthy discussions, and outright greed. The feds can’t weigh in too much on the matter due to our old friend ‘drug classification.’ Regulations are literally being made up on the spot to try and develop a framework for how to handle this industry. Marijuana businesses are either naïve as to what they’re putting on the plants and the long-term health effects of those chemicals, or are purposefully placing quarterly profits ahead of the health of their customers. I guess we all knew that starting a new industry wouldn’t be easy, and there would be certain speed bumps like this. Either way, when it comes to product safety and long-term health, something’s gotta give.

Want to ask a question or suggest a topic to cover? E-mail the author at: potitics@weedstream.net