California Prepares to Launch Country’s First “Organic” Cannabis Program

Cannabis Wire reports….

California’s cannabis industry will soon become very familiar with the term “OCal.” This will be the state’s version of the National Organic Program, which creates and enforces the rules and “uniform national standards” for any agricultural product grown for sale in the U.S. Official organic status is unavailable to the cannabis industry as it is a federal designation, and cannabis is illegal under federal law. But as organic practices in the United States become more common, many California cannabis producers and consumers want the option of organic cannabis.

So, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is in the process of building OCal, a “comparable-to-organic cannabis” program, and this week held their fifth and final working group meeting in Sacramento, California. The state’s OCal program will launch January 1, 2021, and will be available only to state cannabis license holders.

As part of the learning process ahead of the OCal program launch, CDFA visited more than 50 cannabis farms, met with other regulators in the state, and shadowed people conducting organic inspections. The Department also attended a number of conferences, including the California Certified Organic Farmers annual conference, the EcoFarm Conference, and California Organic Products Advisory Committee meetings.

At previous working group meetings, stakeholders asked a number of questions, like: what will the specific labeling requirements be, for example, for sun-grown or soil-less plants? CDFA’s answer: “Same” as the National Organic Program.

And what about farmers just starting out, without access to organic seeds or clones? The draft regs, as of November 4, read: “If organic seed or clone is not commercially available, a grower may purchase seed or clone from a non-organic source as long as it’s not treated with a prohibited substance.”

While the rules for the program are far from finalized, there are strong hints at what California’s cannabis industry can expect, based on how closely this program will mirror existing organic regulations. The major points will be similar, and will almost certainly cover, for example, areas like co-mingling of crops and contamination, and pest, weed, and disease management plans.

Cannabis cultivators meeting existing license requirements have a jumpstart on these regs, and will simply have to “enhance those practices,” saud Javed Iqbal, an environmental scientist with CDFA, during Monday’s meeting.

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Public Meetings

Resources From the USDA National Organic Program

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s OCal Comparable-to-Organic Cannabis Program will be comparable to the National Organic Program (NOP). The following NOP resources may be helpful to those who want to learn more about the program.

Tip Sheets

References and Resources

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