Advancing Despite Federal Prohibition

Departments - From the Editor

February 3, 2017

Federal prohibition continues to present a host of challenges to what has been cited as the fastest-growing industry in the country. If you’re operating a cannabis cultivation business, you are no stranger to those challenges, and I don’t need to outline them here.

One aspect of federal prohibition that has hindered many cultivators’ business and marketing goals, however, is the inability to use the term “organic” on their products because it’s a certification that falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But, despite this seemingly insurmountable hurdle, industry groups are working on creating programs that would enable cannabis businesses to label their products “organic.”

As Ben Gelt, founding board member of the Organic Cannabis Association (OCA), explains in this issue’s Guest Column, the OCA is generating global support for cannabis-specific organic standards. The OCA will be presenting in the 2017 Colorado legislative session a bill that will allow third-party organizations to certify organic cannabis with the blessing of the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Gelt also has confirmed what Jian Malihi, co-owner of Clarity Farms, said in this month’s “10 Questions With … Jian Malihi” interview about the Washington Department of Agriculture working on a program to certify cannabis as “organic.” Malihi says the program should be rolling out in about a year.

Another movement underway pertains to sustainability. The Resource Innovation Institute (RII) is working to quantify energy and water usage in the cannabis industry in order to move the industry and its supply chain toward low-carbon and water-wise outcomes. Within the next few weeks, the RII should be publishing the first version of its peer-reviewed “Competitive Facility Checklist,” which aims to help cannabis businesses evaluate their facility’s or planned project’s environmental impacts and to provide insights into how to make improvements.

While the RII will be offering its checklist as a benefit of RII membership, RII Founder and Executive Director Derek Smith will share tools and tactics from the checklist with attendees at our Cannabis 2017: Cultivation Conference ( in the session, “Ensuring a Competitive Future: Tools for Constructing a Profitable and More Environmentally Sustainable Facility.”

While much of the industry remains uncertain of what the future will hold for us under the new administration, we shall continue to move forward and develop this great venture into an industry that can compete on a more level playing field with other commercial markets. As the Huffington Post reported in January 2015 (citing a report released at that time from The ArcView Group), “if the trend toward legalization spreads to all 50 states, marijuana could become larger than the organic food industry.”

I, for one, can’t wait for that day to come, but in the meantime, I am excited by the progress the industry is making, despite the federal laws that hinder it time and again.

Noelle Skodzinski, Editor

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