Law Makes Washington First State To Run Government Organic-Certification Program For Cannabis

Producers can now legally certify their cannabis as organic. Reuters reports that Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill into Washington state law on Tuesday.

The law institutes the first U.S. organic certification program for cannabis. This measure comes as constituents have called for pesticide-free weed in the state.

Republican Senator Ann Rivers sponsored the bill that aims to allow sales of certified organic cannabis in roughly 18 months.

The Washington Agriculture Department will oversee the certification process. The system will be akin to what is performed to certify organic food products in the U.S.

Although the organic classification is owned and regulated by the federal government’s U.S. Department of Agriculture, this program will be the first organic certification program administered by a state government. Before this new law, cannabis providers could only be able to seek organic certification for their product through private organizations, like Clean Green Certified.

Modeled on national and international sustainability, organic and biodynamic program standards, the Clean Green program requires on-site inspections and third-party lab testing.

Clean Green ensures that organically certified cannabis is handled like certified organic food. The cannabis is tested to ensure it is free of toxic substances.

It also ensures its certified providers employ environmentally-friendly methods to grow their cannabis.

Program requirements include having a legal source of water, having runoff protection barriers to reduce harmful nitrogen-rich nutrient runoff into neighboring streams and creeks, and using natural pesticide control methods.

Washington’s Department of Agriculture is calling on the public for ideas on how it should set the rules for the certification program. The agency is also thinking of what to call cannabis that meets its standards, as it can not use the term “organic.”

People can email their ideas to organic@agr.wa.gov

Reuters quoted Senator Rivers explicitly expressing the state legislative body’s satisfaction with the increasing amount of government revenue collected from cannabis sales. Washington state will receive $768 million in tax revenues this year from pot sales. The state has received $401 million in cannabis excise taxes in 2017 so far. It collected $256 million in 2016; $129 million in 2015; and $16 million in 2014.

Senator Rivers also said that state lawmakers are motivated to vote for a bill that packages all measures that apply to cannabis use and trade. Representatives voted 56 to 44 percent to legalize recreational cannabis sales in 2012.

The new law lifted prohibitions on several cannabis-involved activities:

It is now legal to share cannabis with another person under the new law. The 2012 law prohibited the sharing of cannabis regardless of the quantity.

Patients who take medical cannabis can legally buy cannabis plants and seeds.

The new law also opens up the opportunity for researchers to investigate a way in which hemp can be grown in an industrial setting. It is currently illegal to grow hemp with industrial applications.

The law also mandates that the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board investigate the convenience of growing pot in homes.

Businesses are now prohibited from using cartoons and cannabis plants on billboards marketing cannabis.

Washington state will fight efforts by the federal government to crack down on legal cannabis

In mid-February, White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested that the Trump administration would bring a fight to states where the sale and use of recreational marijuana are legal. Washington state is having none of it, with Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson saying that he will defend the laws of his state.

The new administration’s focus on cracking down on legal marijuana supply is a stark contrast to the Obama administration. In the past, President Barack Obama stated that he would not bring a fight to any states that had legal marijuana markets, providing they kept them tightly regulated.

Obama agreed that recreational marijuana should be legal providing the states stuck to the laws laid out by the U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole. His memo indicated that it should be fine, providing marijuana was not sold to minors and steps were taken to ensure that the money from the sale of recreational marijuana was not filtered back into criminal gangs. Washington State has extreme vetting procedures in place to ensure that the latter does not happen.

The current administration’s focus on the crackdown on marijuana sales is a far cry from the platform on which President Trump campaigned. While on the campaign trail, he stated that he was okay with the use of medical marijuana. He went on to claim that the recreational sale of marijuana should be something left in the hands of the state and the federal government should play no role in it.

Earlier on in February, both the Washington Attorney General and Governor submitted a letter to U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions highlighting why Washington state should continue to have a regulated marijuana industry.

Their arguments are that the regulated industry is likely to earn the state an additional $272 million in taxes this year. The fact the police are no longer needing to ‘crack down’ on marijuana dealers, and smokers also help to free up the time of the police officers operating across the state. This allows police officers to focus on more pressing crimes.

Ferguson argues that a return to ‘full’ prohibition in the state would not stop marijuana being consumed. Instead, it is likely that the illegal consumption of marijuana will result in even more problems. The state does not have enough resources at its disposal to deal with this.
Washington State introduced the legalized possession of marijuana and selling it in November 2012. 56% of voters believed that this would be the best course of action. Since then, the state, along with other states that introduced legal marijuana consumption, has always been in a state of ‘worry’ as to whether the federal government would snatch the law away from them.
The sale and use of marijuana are still against federal law. As long as the law remains on the books, the states are going to be dealing with threats like this. It is unlikely that the Trump administration will make marijuana legal on a federal level.