Some Colorado marijuana growers want specific organic cannabis designation

DENVER — Will marijuana users pay more for weed that is grown using organic production methods? Some Denver-area growers say yes and they want to see the state create a certification for cannabis grown without toxic or synthetic fertilizers, GMOs or artificial preservatives or colors.

“Consumers deserve to know that there is organic and conventional,” said L’Eagle Services dispensary owner Amy Andrle. “Not that there’s anything wrong with conventional, but some people want to make that choice.”

Andrle said her dispensary near 6th Avenue and I-25 in Denver uses organic growing and production methods and she explains this to customers. However, she said she feels growers who use such methods would benefit from the state creating a set of rules to follow and a specific organic-like designation.

“I would love it if the state came up with a designation that recognized organic efforts,” she said.

Andrle and a handful of other growers and industry trade groups are pushing the idea. Currently, some private companies offer the designation but having a state-wide designation would be powerful, growers have said.

She said in growing marijuana, pesticides are important to keep in mind and customers should ask a grower or dispensary what is used.

“There are a lot of pesticides out there that are harmful. When you ingest them it can be OK but when you’re combusting them it isn’t,” she said. “All of the nutrients that we use are rated by the Organic (Materials) Review Institute.”

The Organic Materials Review Institute is an organization that independently reviews fertilizers, pest controls and other products to determine if they fit the organic production requirements, according to its website.

Registered dietitian Jill Ellsworth, who has a master’s in food science, said studies are mixed on whether organic foods have significant health benefits.

“There are a studies out there that support organic consumption of food and there are studies that support conventional foods,” Ellsworth said. “Some say organic food is superior in nutrition and that you’re not exposed to certain pesticides, contaminated and impurities from the growing process. The conventional side says that you’re still exposed to pesticides from drift at a farm.”

Ellsworth said she believes smoking a plant grown with pesticides may be more dangerous than eating it.

“You have all of the systems in your G.I. track to remove impurities and to help you digest. You have an immune system. However, when you smoke pesticides in cannabis, that goes right into your lungs,” she said. “The bigger concern is medical patients that may be immunocompromised.”

The state has agreed to create an organic-like designation.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment told Denver7 the state bans dozens of pesticides from use in growing cannabis and requires testing for the 13 most common substances.

It’s unlikely the growing process would be called organic since it's a term used by the USDA and federal law still makes growing marijuana illegal in nearly all cases.

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