California state Senate Bill 94 made cannabis products legal for recreational use by adults over the age of 21, and also mandated California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) to create an organic cannabis program by 2021.
CalCannabis is the division within CDFA that handles the licensing and regulating commercial cannabis cultivators in California. The “OCal” project is the four-person team inside CalCannabis dedicated to establishing an organic Cannabis program comparable to the National Organic Program (NOP).
OCal has assembled an Organic Working Group made up of the four CalCannabis OCal staff and four members of the California Organic Products Advisory Committee (COPAC). The group is tasked with working out many of the details on how state organic cannabis regulations will work as they move towards draft regulations.
Federally, the NOP certifies agricultural products, but they may not certify cannabis because it is still considered a schedule one drug.
Jeremy Johnson, senior counsel, Traditional Medicinals
Jeremy Johnson, senior counsel at Traditional Medicinals, serves on COPAC and said, “I’m encouraged that CDFA has scheduled working group meetings with members of COPAC in developing its comparable organic standard for cannabis. Pending federal legalization, it is imperative that the state develop a standard that gives cannabis consumers choice and confidence in what they’re buying.”
That said, the national standard under the NOP has proven itself to function well and CDFA could, and should, use as a template for the comparable organic program. This would create consistency for farmers and processers that intend to operate in both the cannabis/non-cannabis space and create a smooth transition if/when cannabis falls under the regulation of the NOP.”
The “CalCannabis Comparable Organic Working Group” met for the first time on May 15th and focused on certifier accreditation for the OCal program.
CalCannabis verified that they will use existing NOP accredited certifiers for the organic program, and they wanted feedback on using non-NOP accredited certifiers as well.
Kaley Grimland, owner, Sol Seeker Farm
Kaley Grimland, owner of Sol Seeker Farm, serves on COPAC and the Cannabis Organic Working Group. “NOP inspectors need to be used. USDA already has a continuous learning and professional development program in place that should be either used or replicated to train, monitor and accreditation Organic CalCannabis inspectors, “she said.
The meeting last month addressed two other areas:
- should there be additional requirements for inspectors and certifiers to meet the NOP requirements?
- Should a cannabis expert who isn't familiar with organic agriculture perform organic certification?
COPAC members agreed that organic expertise is necessary.
“I would like to see the Organic CalCannabis program streamline to the closest extent possible with the NOP. This would enable an easy transition to certification to federal standard if and when cannabis becomes legalized,” Grimland said.
Phil LaRocca, LaRocca Vineyards
Phil LaRocca from LaRocca Vineyards also serves on the Organic Working Group. "Why rewrite the book when it is sitting right next to you? There is no need to rewrite the organic standards when they've already been written, accepted, and work,” the long-time organic grower said.
CDFA would not comment at this time but did encourage interested parties to stay involved by visiting CalCannabis.cdfa.ca.gov.
The Comparable Organic Working Group meeting dates and agendas will be posted at that site for those interested in attending the public meetings. They plan to meet three more times this summer to give advice on issues as CDFA works towards draft regulations.
The proposed regulations will be posted sometime in 2020 and there will be an opportunity for stakeholders to weigh in.