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.