I’m adamant that the cannabis I consume is organic. And, thanks to stringent testing requirements in Oregon for dispensary-sold cannabis, it’s far easier to verify than it’s ever been. But that’s really only one part of the complex equation about supporting what I believe in when I buy my weed.
Simply because a grower uses organic methods does not mean that they’re producing cannabis in a manner that matters to me. The grower could be using Rudolf Steiner-approved biodynamic growing methods, but also be a horrible misogynist who refuses to hire women for executive positions, or pays less than a living wage to workers. (Yup—it’s going to be one of those columns.)
Which is why I seek out coffee beans and chocolate that are not only organic, but also fair trade. Knowing the labor involved didn’t get screwed over matters to me, and there are third-party organizations that research and certify that my buying dollar is working to that end.
But what about cannabis?
Once again, Oregon is taking the lead in important cannabis work with the formation of a new third-party certification nonprofit, the Cannabis Certification Council (CCC). The group is the result of a merger between Denver’s Organic Cannabis Association and the Portland-based Ethical Cannabis Alliance.
Seed funding and a matching grant come courtesy of Dr. David Bronner, a seasoned drug policy reform advocate and CEO of the soap with labels you read in the shower until your fingers prune. The company has a long track record of support for establishing ethics and sustainability practices in various industries, and Bronner says, “The CCC, with its unique mission, is a perfect vessel to support our values in the cannabis space.”
The executive director of the CCC is longtime Oregon cannabis industry figure Ashley Preece, who was co-owner of Cascadia Labs and co-vice president of the Portland Chapter of Women Grow before starting the Ethical Cannabis Alliance.
I asked Preece how the CCC plans to roll out this certification program. “We’re launching with ‘organically,’ which will include robust labor standards, as well as standards that go beyond the USDA Organic label,” she says. “The USDA standard is watered down, and we want to expand on proper horticultural practices, so it relates directly to cannabis producers.”
Preece further explains that they’ll start by pulling from Fair Trade and Organic standards, then forming a technical advisory committee comprising multi-stakeholder professionals from the cannabis and agricultural industries to advise and revise the new standards as needed. From there, a pilot program will be launched to work with cannabis producers abiding by the required standards. When the pilot phase is complete, final adjustments will be made before bringing the certification to the marketplace.
Far from simply being an Oregon-centric exercise in certification, the CCC is working with multi-tier stakeholders in other US states, and eventually will reach out globally. “We need to engage each different community to make sure this is applicable on a national level,” says Preece, who plans to have the labor certification of “Fairly Produced” based upon a number of fair trade practices. “That will include living wages per community, and taking options of ownership into consideration, including different business models where employees might have shares or partial ownership.”
Preece continues: “As we know, this industry has come from the illicit market, where we saw a lot of inappropriate working environments, gender relations, and pay schedules. So we want to ensure that workers have contracts in place [and] they are treated fairly just as any other industry. We want to mitigate any strange encounters that might have seeped into this regulated market.”
The standards are currently being drafted, and Preece hopes to have them tested this summer and ready for release later this year. She’s excited about merging with the Organic Cannabis Association, and building on the work that organization has done already toward this goal. “This is a huge step for the cannabis industry,” says Preece. “Our collaboration reflects the priority of the mission ingrained in both parties, and together we will immediately be greater than the sum of our parts.”