Organic Cannabis Certification?

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Date Published: 
July 17, 2017

As various states decriminalize or approve both medicinal or recreational cannabis, CCOF Certification Services is frequently asked to help ensure organic cannabis production. As an organization that envisions a world where organic is the norm, we would like to see cannabis production and processing meet organic standards. In fact, it is our understanding that the gray market nature of this production system has resulted in significant agricultural and chemical use issues.

Additionally, CCOF operations would like to consider cannabis or hemp as rotation, intercropping, or diversification options. An organic market and certification system for cannabis would offer incentives and ways to highlight the efforts of conscientious growers. In an effort to reduce conflict, CCOF will not decertify operations that grow cannabis on certified ground as long as they follow organic standards and provide full documentation and transparency, just as they would for any other crop.

At a federal level, cannabis and cannabis products remain classified as illegal drugs. Furthermore, the federal government has recently indicated an intention to aggressively enforce these laws.

As a certifier, we find ourselves in the middle of a states' rights versus federalism conflict. As a federal program, CCOF is accredited by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), which is answerable to the Justice Department and federal law and policy. As a result, at this time, CCOF cannot issue an NOP certificate to any product that is not federally legal. As a broad organization with many stakeholders, CCOF cannot risk negatively impacting all clients until the federal/state conflict is resolved or we receive clarification from the USDA.

Common questions include:

Will I be decertified if I grow cannabis on CCOF-certified organic ground?

No. CCOF Certification Services does not consider this crop to be a prohibited material. However, we cannot certify it or list it on your certificate. If you disclose all production methods and operate in compliance with your organic system plan, land used to grow cannabis may remain certified organic. This will support rapid listing of crops on certificates, should the matter be resolved, or should we receive instructions from the NOP allowing us to do so.

Can CCOF certify industrial hemp?

Maybe. The 2012 Farm Bill includes provisions for domestic production of industrial hemp under certain pilot or research programs. The NOP has established guidance that supports organic certification of hemp produced in compliance with farm bill criteria. There are some commercial registration programs nationally that may or may not meet the farm bill or NOP criteria. Because hemp is a potentially valuable rotation crop, CCOF supported a state law in California to allow production of industrial hemp, but it failed to pass. Moving forward, contact CCOF if you wish to produce organic hemp under farm bill research or pilot programs.

Can CCOF certify cannabis edibles or CBD?

No. Cannabis edibles or CBD oil remain classified as illegal drugs by the Justice Department. As such, we cannot provide USDA NOP certification.


Want to learn more? Download the recording of our October 3, 2017 webinar, "Certified Organic Pot? Find Out Why Not!".