California Department of Food and Agriculture Lights a Fire Under Organic Cannabis


In June 2017, the California Legislature passed SB 94 which made the recreational use of cannabis products legal for adults over 21 years of age.  Since cannabis is an agricultural product, it was left to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to stand up the regulations.

Buried deep inside the hundreds of pages of text was a clause that mandated CDFA to create an organic cannabis program by 2021.

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CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing is the division of CDFA that handles the licensing and regulating commercial cannabis cultivators in California. They also manage the state's track-and-trace system, which tracks all commercial cannabis and cannabis products—from cultivation to sale. CalCannabis is organized into three branches: Licensing, Compliance and Enforcement, and Administration.

California Cannabis being greenhouse cultivated.

The newly formed “OCal” project is a four-person team inside CalCannabis dedicated to establishing an organic Cannabis program comparable to the National Organic Program (NOP). 

Currently, NOP only certifies agricultural products and since cannabis is classified as a Federal Schedule 1 Drug, it isn’t considered an agricultural product that can be certified to the organic standard.

Organic Ag Products - Leaderboard

And with NOP owning the USDA organic logo, it will not be available for California organic cannabis labeling. OCal will be the official certification and logo mark for organic cannabis in California but it will take time to create an organic cannabis program.

From now until March 2019, OCal will gather as much information as they can by visiting organic producers and cannabis growers. From April 2019 until August of next year,  OCal will be evaluating resources and soliciting input from stakeholders.

The next step, from September 2019 through April 2020, will be dedicated to drafting the regulations, and as with formal rulemaking processes there will be an opportunity to provide public comment. Once the regulations are adopted, the program will be created so that organic certification can begin in 2021.

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Ultimately CDFA will be looking at the NOP and how it fits into the CalCannabis regulatory environment. The intent is to craft the program that will make for a seamless transition to the National Organic Program, once cannibas is legalized on a federal level.

Further, California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) has met with CalCannabis to work on allowing an organic producer to use their organic certification agent to certify cannibas to the California organic standard.

Kelly Damewood, director of policy and government affairs, CCOF

“Right now CCOF is focused on ensuring that OCal maintains the integrity consumers associate with organically grown crops as well as streamlining this certification opportunity as much as possible for USDA organic growers who may want to incorporate cannabis into their operations,” said CCOF’s Kelly Damewood, director of policy & government affairs.

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In the end organic cannabis cultivation can make a distinguishing mark to organic growers competing with the increasing production greening the state.  Taxes from the sales of organic cannabis will enhance and invigorate rural communities.  Cancer patients and all medical cannabis users deserve to be guaranteed access to a certified product free of toxic carcinogens. 

As Phil LaRocca from LaRocca Vineyard advocated “Organic is the only way to go! No matter what the crop is, cannabis included!”

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