Selecting Sustainably Cultivated Cannabis


May, 2017

I walked up to a budtender in Victoria BC, and asked if she had any organic Cannabis. Her answer was pleasantly refreshing “I don’t know”. My team and I have been in dispensaries across the US and Canada and budtenders tend to answer “yes” when asked if they have any organic Cannabis.  But is it true? How can we know if the Cannabis we are purchasing is organic?

Below we will explore the current Cannabis climate in North America and learn how to be assured you are purchasing sustainably cultivated, toxin free Cannabis.

Health Canada is working hard to clean up the Canadian Cannabis industry after Licensed Cannabis Producers had to recall product because it was tainted with banned toxins, including myclobutanil, which produces hydrogen cyanide upon combustion. As of May 2017, there are 17 registered pesticides approved by Health Canada for use on Cannabis that is produced commercially indoors.

One of the approved pesticides is Actinovate SP, a Fungicide, sold by Monsanto. The active ingredients are listed as 0.0371% Streptomyces and a 99.9629 per cent “other ingredients.” As a consumer that does not give me a lot of confidence. As a former intern at Vandana Shiva’s Earth University Bija Vidyapeeth part of the Navdanya network, I do everything I can to NOT support Monsanto, who have caused 200,000 farmer suicides in India since 1997.

In the United States, Cannabis cannot be Certified Organic because the term is federally regulated and the USDA does not recognize cannabis as an agricultural crop.

It is a dream of mine that one day all cannabis will be grown sustainably without the use of harmful chemicals – but that day has not come yet.

The Emerald Cup is an annual Cannabis festival and a contest that only accepts organic, sun-grown Cannabis. In 2016 several contestants were disqualified for pesticides use including some of the winners. This really exposed how rampant the problem of Greenwashing is in the Cannabis industry.

Sure, some of the dispensary owners might know the grower, a friend of theirs, a good person living the granola lifestyle that swears they would never spray their crops with toxic chemicals. But what happened last fall when the crop was infested with mites? Did their Integrated Pest Management system allow for quick isolation and elimination of the infested plants or did they freak out, concerned they were about to lose their entire crop, spray everything with toxic chemicals and then flush plants hoping to eliminate the toxins? Unless cannabis is certified by a trusted Certification body and each batch has been tested in an approved lab, dispensary owners and consumers just don’t know what is safe.

Why are so many organizations claiming to cultivate organic Cannabis when in fact they are not?

In short ,the demand for organic products is on the rise and Cannabis companies want to meet that demand. Without third party assurance, those claims are not always accurate. Organic cultivation requires grower knowledge and diligence. Not all cultivators are up to that challenge. That is why as consumers it is important we not only request organic products but seek out products that have been certified by a third party.

Sustainable, toxin free Cannabis does exist and we should request it from our dispensaries and support those cultivators.

There are many Cannabis Cultivators that are doing wonderful things and are cultivating sustainably. They are growing Cannabis under the sun or are transitioning to LED lights, they are diligent with their IPM and are acutely aware of every ingredient that is input into their Cannabis. They purchase their products wisely to reduce future waste and are able to compost or have creative uses for the excess plant material once the flower and trim have all been harvested. They employ watering technologies that respond to soil moisture automatically and prevent overspray and runoff. They are the future, they are working to make the world a better place fo7pillarsr all of us and they should be celebrated for their efforts.

As a consumer how can you be assured the cannabis you purchase is free of harmful toxins and was cultivated sustainably? You choose Cannabis that has been certified by a third-party. The Cannabis Conservancy’s Certified Cannabis assures consumers they are not inhaling toxic chemicals that were sprayed onto the Cannabis and that the plant was cultivated using sustainable methods that adhere to TCC’s Seven Pillars of Sustainable Cannabis Production.

It is important to do your own research and follow the four steps to becoming a savvy Cannabis Consumer and supporting your community.

  1. Do your research
  2. Be skeptical
  3. Ask plenty of questions
  4. Minimize greenwashing by being diligent about what you tell others.

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