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n July 24 in Sacramento, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) held its fourth meeting with cannabis farmers. The working group is developing a statewide “almost organic” cannabis certification standard, similar to the USDA organic label. Because cannabis remains a Schedule I narcotic under the federal Controlled Substances Act, it cannot be certified organic.

According to Cannabis Wire, the state government is trying to model its standard—called “OCal”—as closely as possible after those of the USDA. The hope is that when cannabis becomes federally legal, cultivators will easily be able to transition to receive federal organic certification.

OCal would create standards around levels of pesticides, heavy metals and toxins used by farmers. But the working group is also seeking to address the financial burden that organic certification typically imposes on farmers. Normally, farmers who want to be certified organic have to hire a USDA-accredited certifying agent,who will inspect their farm and growing techniques. Farmers have to pay fees anywhere between a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

CDFA is considering whether it would grant cannabis farmers exemption from similar fees if they pose a financial difficulty. Cannabis representatives stress that many small growers do grow their plants organically, but may not be able to afford getting certified due to low profit margins. CDFA is also determining whether and how OCal cannabis farmers would be required to track plant additives.

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