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Colorado considers ‘Organic’ certification for marijuana

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DENVER — Colorado lawmakers are considering an organic-type certification for the state’s most famous crop: Marijuana.

Lawmakers and regulators have been clamping down on outside substances found in marijuana, typically pesticides and fungicides used by growers to control mildew and insect infestations. In Colorado, many growers use the description “organic” to market their products, even though they aren’t certified organic — or even necessarily produced that way.

Last year, Denver health inspectors seized thousands of marijuana plants grown by a company calling itself Organic Greens, even though the company’s owner admitted to using pesticides on his plants. Health inspectors also forced multiple recalls of pesticide-contaminated marijuana products over the past several months.

A legislative committee will hear a proposal Friday to create a new type of contaminant-free certification system for marijuana. Organic certification is generally overseen by the federal government, and since the federal government considers marijuana illegal, marijuana cannot be certified as “organic.” The proposal under consideration instead creates a “pesticide-free” certification program that growers could use in their marketing and labeling.

“Just like we have with beer or wine or any other product you’re getting off the shelves, you have a right to know what’s going into your food before you put it in your body,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat who authored many of the state’s marijuana laws and regulations.

No pesticides are formally cleared for use on marijuana, because the federal government controls pesticide labeling and won’t approve its use on what it considers an illegal product. Further complicating matters: some pesticides are approved for use on organic products, forcing Singer to draft new language that hasn’t yet been made public.

“The cannabis question has been a really sticky wicket for regulators,” said Bradley Gore, the lab director for Nevada-based Steep Hill Labs, which performs marijuana-contamination testing for the state’s medical-marijuana program.

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