Clean Green Certification Wants To Be The 'Organic' Standard For Cannabis Growers

As ingredients and processes are streamlined within marijuana businesses, adequate certification practices are not. Requirements for testing potency and pesticides are developing faster than the written laws on how to perform those tests. We know we want pot that is chemical-free and made with environmentally-responsible methods, and plenty of growers claim "organic" practices, but we have no means of knowing if what we're smoking is actually organic.

Since the only entity permitted to certify anything "organic" is the United States Department of Agriculture, marijuana's illegal situation on the federal level continues to prohibit the option for growers to prove their legitimacy.

Chris Van Hook on an inspection. Photo provided by

Those truly making the effort to grow chemical-free and use resources efficiently deserve that recognition and merit prices that match the quality. On the other hand, those taking advantage of loose regulation are endangering customers and ruining the reputation of all cannabis farmers. Chris Van Hook, an abalone farmer turned environmentally-focused lawyer, saw this need for organic licensing in marijuana ventures and created the program known as Clean Green Certification.

After gaining experience as an accredited USDA Organic inspector, Van Hook developed a three part system: a legal compliance review per federal and state laws, a review of the manner in which the crop is grown (indoor or outdoor), and a standard agricultural crop inspection per commercial, non-marijuana standards.

As their website describes, "Clean Green inspects all inputs, from seed or clone selection, soil, nutrients, pesticides, mold treatments, dust control, and source of electricity, to methods of harvesting and processing."

Solventless Rosin sold at Calyxes Dispensary in Portland, OR; the first 100% CG Certified Establishment, from grow to processing to store operations. Photo provided by Calyxes Instagram.

Van Hook asserts that the people seeking Clean Green Certification are those who wish to be prepared for the possible rescheduling and federal legalization of marijuana. Although he acknowledges that it is not equivalent with USDA compliance, t hey follow the same procedures and protocols as the national organic program.

Business owners must pay for annual reviews that include on-site inspections and third-party laboratory testing. In other words, no average Jane can sweet talk her way to Clean Green Certification, no matter how deep her pockets.

That being said, however helpful Clean Green may be at improving processes and reducing the carbon footprint of marijuana producers, they may not be "organic" enough for certain smokers. Certain forms of pest control are permitted under their standards, including synthetic fertilizers, and artificial lighting doesn't negate organic practices. Marijuana growers who cultivate their crops indoors under artificial light may either purchase renewable energy (such as solar, wind or hydroelectric power) or install solar panels.

Artificial lighting at an indoor grow operation. Photo provided by

This doesn't mean CG certified weed is contaminated. It's a great place to start when shopping for safe, potent product that is grown and processed in a sustainable way. Those who wish to find plants that are never touched by chemicals or artificial lights will have to do their homework by talking to dispensary owners about their vendors. Even though branding and distribution can make a grow-op seem unapproachable, if you make the effort to contact them, chances are they'll make an effort to respond. Especially with medical growers, who are accustomed to providing for medical marijuana patients.

As more certification programs are established and we inch towards federal legalization, it's best for the concerned smoker to know who is behind the program and where their experience lies. Some may prove more worthwhile than others, depending on your demographic. Clean Green is not enough for stricter organic smokers, but it's an encouraging step in the right direction.

Image credit: Jahn Alexander Teetsov