New Colorado bill would create guidelines for organic marijuana

New Colorado bill would create guidelines for organic marijuana

The bill, scheduled for its first hearing Friday, would inspire Colorados department of agriculture to make certification rules for pesticide-free cannabis

Colorado marijuana consumers will be able to buy pesticide-free, certified organic weed if lawmakers pass a new bill aimed at creating special labels for the states legal cannabis industry.

This is going to be the Whole Foods version of cannabis, said Jonathan Singer, a Democratic state representative sponsoring legislation to establish state-approved organic pot. This is just the next natural step in construction sure marijuana is treated similar to alcohol. Weve get organic beer and organic wine.

The bill, scheduled for its first hearing on Friday, would inspire Colorados department of agriculture to generate specific guidelines for a pesticide-free cannabis certification program.

The legislation could help resolve some of the disputes and disarray surrounding pesticide use that have beset the industry since voters approved recreational marijuana in 2012.

City officials in Denver last year ordered a hold on some marijuana plants at multiple facilities after was found that the growers may have improperly utilized pesticides. Denver health authorities also recently seized thousands of marijuana plants from growers suspected of using off-limits chemicals.

This would create an incentive for businesses to create better practices and focus on growing cannabis in a more organic way, said Larisa Bolivar, executive director of the Cannabis Consumers Coalition. She said it would also help support more high-end craft cannabis growers comparable to microbreweries and craft beer manufacturers.

It gives consumers more options, Bolivar said.

There are, however, a number of logistical challenges in creating a government labeling system for organic weed in Colorado. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, which entails Colorado cannot use US department of agriculture labels or are dependent upon national certification rules for cannabis.

Instead, the state will have to implement its own guidelines and process to determine what constitutes organic marijuana. Thats the Colorado way, Singer said. Were blazing our own trail.

Without formal regulations governing organic cannabis, legal growers and even those still illegally selling weed on the black market in Colorado have been free to call their products organic even if they arent actually pesticide-free, supporters of the bill note.

The fact remains that anybody can publish a label out. Black marketers are already operating illegally whats going to keep them from falsifying labels? Bolivar said. Having the certification makes more consumer confidence.

Singers bill directs the state to come up with the specific standards for certification and annual reporting and would allow officials to establish fees for this process. In its current draft, the bill does not apply to medical marijuana, though Singer said he is considering whether to expand the labels to medicine.

Since there arent any existing specific rules about organic weed and pesticide use in the industry, there isnt reliable data on how often growers are employing chemicals and what pesticides are common.

If the bill passes, the labeling likely would not begin until 2018, Singer said. And once organic pot reaches the market, the strains will likely be pricey. Its going to be considerably more expensive, just like buying your organic peaches, he said.

The legislation is already attracting a diverse mix of critics. Anti-marijuana groups, which have opposed legalization from the start, have already expressed concerns about the bill, according to Singer and Bolivar. Those foes are arguing that an organic tag could imply that the weed is healthy and promote more use.

They dont want anything that attains it seem like marijuana is good for you, Singer said, adding that theres no proof to suggest that selling organic beer and wine has led to increased consumption.

There are lawmakers who did not want marijuana legal and they are going to make it harder for us, added Bolivar.

Bolivar said she expects that Colorado will lead the way nationally in creating organic labels as more states move forward with legalization. Im speaking to people across the country looking to standardize the industry as a whole so we do have quality control and quality assurance.

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