Pubdate: Thu, 03 Mar 2016
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Column: Weed Between the Lines
Copyright: 2016 Boulder Weekly
Author: Sarah Haas


Considered dangerous drugs by the federal government, marijuana and 
industrial hemp are still listed in the Controlled Substances Act as 
Schedule I drugs. While the federal government has issued legislative 
promises to not spend money in prosecution of cannabis activity in 
states in which it is legal, it has been firm in withholding any 
actions of endorsement by federal departments, leading many to assume 
that an organic certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture 
is precluded by federal law.

But on Jan. 27, 2016, CBDRx, a Colorado-based hemp company, announced 
that it received two USDA organic certifications for its more than 
130 acres of industrial hemp, giving it two of only seven in the 
country and the only two in Colorado.

CBDRx Director of Quality Assurance Natalie Mondine oversaw the 
application process, which she says was no different than that for 
any other crop. She reached out to two third party National Organic 
Program (NOP) certifying companies, one of which declined to offer an 
endorsement for hemp, while the other, OneCert out of Nebraska, 
eventually granted the certification.

For CBDRx this is occasion for celebration.

"We pride ourselves on our quality, trying to be above everyone else 
in the industry," Mondine says. "So for us to get an organic 
certification for our farm is the coolest thing we could have done. 
And this sets us apart. The product that we are trying to make is 
really a health product, and you can't make a product like that and 
have it made with pesticides."

This isn't just an affirmation of the company's organic practices. 
Being the first farm in Colorado to get the certification offers a 
huge market advantage that distinguishes it from the competition with 
all of the brand power of "USDA Organic."

On Feb. 16, 2016 the USDA issued an instruction to NOP certifiers to 
stop issuing certifications to industrial hemp crops in the U.S., 
thus solidifying that market advantage. The instruction cites two 
reasons for ceasing certification: concerns about the safety of 
industrial hemp for consumption and its yet undetermined legal status.

Regardless, the USDA will continue to allow NOPs to certify 
international production of hemp to be imported into the U.S. for 
domestic processing. In a meeting a few days ago with the Accredited 
Certifiers Association board of directors, USDA staff asserted that 
hemp products coming into the U.S. that were certified in another 
country will continue to be acceptable.

Hemp has been imported into the U.S. for decades to the tune of $500 
million a year. All the while the USDA gave hemp its organic blessing 
as NOP companies granted certifications to both international hemp 
crops and to hemp products made in the U.S.

The USDA did not have the authority to sanction the certification of 
domestically grown hemp in the first place, and it is arguable that 
it has the authority to stop said certification, especially while it 
continues to offer them internationally.

As for CBDRx and the other farms with organic labeling, the USDA does 
not plan to meddle with what is already issued, at least until they 
have the opportunity to consult with federal partners to interpret 
the 2014 Farm Bill. For now, the first-to-market advantage for CBDRx 
and the five other farms, is better termed the only-to-market advantage.

The Farm Bill referred to by the USDA establishes the legal 
definition of industrial hemp as the plant Cannabis sativa with a THC 
concentration of equal to or less than .03 percent, distinguishing 
hemp from cannabis with a higher quantity of THC, which is defined as 

While the differentiation exists, it is yet to be applied 
practically. No interpretation of the Farm Bill will change the fact 
that both substances are federally illegal and, furthermore, are 
considered dangerous and addictive substances. That will take federal 

The USDA has created an unequal marketplace for domestic hemp 
producers, unfounded safety concerns about the use of industrial hemp 
and bolstered an international agricultural industry at the cost of 
one in their home country.

Why? Because of the politics of cannabis. It is time to remove 
industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.

It is also time to address the use of pesticides on marijuana in a 
meaningful way. Under-regulated pesticide use on the marijuana side 
of the cannabis family has posed a serious public health risk to 
consumers in Colorado. Last week the Colorado DEA issued a hold on 
marijuana due to pesticide use, the first time they have employed 
that option since it became available.

The same week, the Colorado Senate considered a bill to begin a 
state-sanctioned organic certification program for cannabis, as 
regulators look for ways to both fix the pesticide problem and to 
maintain the credibility offered to consumers in organic labeling.

In the midst of this maelstrom of safety concerns and legal gray 
areas, the need for a state-regulated organics program becomes clear, 
although it is regrettable that Colorado must spend the time, energy 
and money to re-create an asset that ought to already be available by 
way of the USDA.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom