Greening the Green

The complexities of “organic” cannabis

by: Taylor Haynes

The cannabis industry is getting greener in more than just one way. As demand has increased among consumers for more transparent business practices and growing techniques, so has the desire for all-natural or organic cannabis. Alongside wine aficionados or Whole Foods shoppers, cannabis connoisseurs are seeking out higher quality products — flower that is better, healthier and more environmentally-conscious than what was available a decade or even five years ago.

Anthony Franciosi, the founder of Colorado-based wholesaler Honest Marijuana, began as a health-conscious medical marijuana patient. As a consumer, he often found himself more seeking natural options on the market. As a business owner, he has turned toward smaller batches and natural techniques to cultivate what he believes is some of the best and safest cannabis.

Cannabis consumers, Franciosi thinks, are typically aware about what they are taking into their bodies—and what they are smoking should be no exception.
“People are already paying close attention to what they’re eating [and] they’re going to be conscientious about what they light on fire and inhale into their bodies,” says Franciosi. “If you know the cannabis hasn’t been tainted with anything that is going to be bad for you long-term or short-term, you’re going to feel better about it.”

While Honest Marijuana employs all-natural techniques to grow cannabis and usse organic soil, the final product is not organically certified. Even though cannabis has been legalized in some form in 27 states—over half the country—it is still federally considered a Schedule 1 drug, which places it legally alongside drugs like heroin and meth.

Conventional produce and livestock farmers may choose to apply for organic certification through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The organic sector of agriculture is quickly growing, and the federal endorsement reassures the buyer there was some sort of regulation during production. The USDA protects this certification and oversees operations that have been approved.

The term organic—beyond just being healthier without the addition of chemical fertilizers or pesticides—has come to represent a higher quality product within our collective consciousness. Undoubtedly, those involved in the cannabis industry would like to be organically certified, just as many food producers have been, which often appeals warier consumers. But, unfortunately for some, obtaining that organic certification from the USDA is virtually impossible while cannabis is still scheduled.

Despite the inability to receive federal certification, more cannabis companies, like Franciosi’s, are embracing natural techniques that basically mirror those of organically-certified operations.

Honest Marijuana employs relatively simple tactics, but ones that result in a big difference. Some of these methods include using “living soil,” or soil that has beneficial probiotics and microbes already living in it; the organisms help the plants process nutrients so fertilizer isn’t needed. Other methods include spraying a blend of essential oils—predominantly rosemary and thyme—to fend off pests during the early vegetative stage.

“On a base level, it has to do with what you’re feeding the plants and what you spray on them,” Franciosi says.

Furthermore, Franciosi described how he and his employees work to keep everything extremely clean to prevent any sort of invasion from outside pests or diseases, which has earned them the nickname “plant janitors.”

Larger enterprises also have options to make their companies safer and more environmentally friendly. Natural Order Supply, also based out of Colorado, offers technologies that can help companies take the extra step toward a more efficient cannabis industry.

One of the company’s most successful products is a coco coir soil replacer. Coco coir is a biodegradable byproduct of coconuts. The coir, which is made from the discarded husks of coconuts, retains water extremely well. This quality is especially desirable in the water-intensive cannabis industry. The company is currently working to obtain organic certification for the coco coir through the Organic Material Review Institute (OMRI), an international non-profit.

“The way I look at it is right now, is I think the cannabis industry has an opportunity to create a paradigm for building new industries for moving forward because it’s origins are from a grassroots movement,” said Mike Bologna, the founder of Natural Order Supply. “Social benefit is a prerequisite to financial success.”

Even if cannabis companies could receive federal organic certification, Bologna is skeptical of the term.

“We’ve steered clear of using the world organic because it has so many meanings to different people,” Bologna says. We focus in on being environmentally sustainable and socially conscious …Organic is a very difficult word to define and even harder to rely on if you don’t research the body that is certifying it as organic.”

If a company is operating under sustainable and ethical standards, does it matter if the federal government recognizes it as so? This isn’t the first situation states and the federal government have been left at odds regarding cannabis; currently, the Drug Enforcement Agency doesn’t recognize cannabis as medicine, yet voters have voiced their support of comprehensive medical marijuana laws.

USDA organically-certified cannabis is far from being a reality. But all-natural, sustainable and environmentally-friendly cannabis is the next big thing on the market.

Learn more about Green Lion Partners here.

Learn more about Honest Marijuana here.

Tagged in: > > > > > > >