The Washington State Department of Agriculture

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) is getting involved in cannabis regulation, and that could mean a new program for state-licensed producers to certify their cannabis as organically grown. Branding is critical for cannabis business owners, not only to differentiate themselves from other companies, but to assure consumers of the quality of their products. We’ve seen many in the industry grow frustrated by the lack of accountability for pesticides and contaminants in products, and by the inability of business owners to tout their cannabis as organic.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (the “Board”) has already contracted with the WSDA to regulate and test for pesticides and potency, and the WSDA’s budget proposal, submitted to Governor Jay Inslee, includes seeking legislative approval for a state-level, self-supporting organic cannabis certification program. The certification would not use the term “organic,” and would need an “alternative marketing term” due to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) monopoly on setting organic labeling rules.

Labeling a product as “organic” requires a certification, and that certification is granted and regulated by the USDA. Congress set forth general organic principles in the Organic Foods Production Act, and the USDA defines specific organic standards. Although alternative certifications do exist for cannabis and cannabis products, none are approved by or affiliated with the USDA, and they therefore are not your typical “organic” certification. Because cannabis is still federally illegal, the USDA will not undertake to certify cannabis and cannabis products as organic. And stating that a product (cannabis or otherwise) is “organic” without this certification amounts to illegal false and misleading advertising.