issues with growing organic cannabis

Organic Cannabis Searches for Its Niche

It’s been more than six months since California voters legalized the sale and use of recreational marijuana. Proposition 64 outlines more than a dozen different types of licenses, which cover everything from mixed-light cultivation to transportation and testing.

These licenses, however, don’t regulate or differentiate organic from non-organic cannabis.

Growers and stakeholders alike, particularly in the Emerald Triangle (Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity Counties), are looking for ways to distinguish organically grown cannabis by highlighting its advantages to cannabis users and the environment.

More specifically, cannabis growers hope an organic certification process will make organic cannabis a viable competitor to non-organically grown cannabis, especially in the medicinal market.

One Humboldt County farmer says her biggest challenge is buyers won’t pay more for organic cannabis, even though it’s considerably more expensive to produce.

“Growing organic is much harder than growing conventional,” says Siobahn Darwish, co-owner of Blessed Coast Farms, the first licensed cannabis farm in Humboldt County. “We believe with the farm-to-table movement gaining momentum that consumers will become more aware of their medication and seek out organic.”

Organic cannabis growers like Darwish also take sustainability measures to ensure water isn’t wasted and less energy is used during cultivation.

“We pride ourselves on being a sustainable farm,” continues Darwish. “Everyone who works here lives on-site; we reuse all plastics, recycling what we cannot.”

David Bronner, grandson of Emanuel Bronner and the Dr. Bronner brand of organic consumer products, is fronting some of the financial costs of establishing a marijuana industry standards group called the Cannabis Certification Council.

“We are committed to making socially and environmentally responsible products…,” says Bronner. “Food, supplement, and body care products laced with chemicals and synthetic ingredients are increasingly on their way out. People want to buy products they know are good for their bodies, their families, and the earth. Cannabis is no different.”

Non-organic grows may use a variety of chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers that don’t align with the medicinal ethos many farmers profess.

For boutique growers, growing organically is a way to differentiate product and provide a healthy alternative to unregulated grows.

Organic farmers face a number of challenges, but there are ways to increase yield and quality while maintaining a healthy relationship with the environment. In particular, light-deprivation techniques have become more popular among organic farmers. Many farmers can double or triple annual harvests with the proper schedule and planning.