OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) is preparing to create a voluntary certification program for marijuana production now that legislation has been approved authorizing the agency to develop such a program. ESSB 5131 provides for WSDA to establish standards for the production of marijuana that would be consistent with the requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Organic Program (7CFR 205). It is the first such bill anywhere in the U.S. The bill specifically prohibits anyone from labeling any marijuana product as “organic” because that term has specific legal meaning under federal organic regulations.
The process of creating the new WSDA program is anticipated to take several months to develop the details of the program, including the marketing claim that may be used for qualifying products. No certifications are currently available.
The bill approved this week authorizes WSDA to develop rules that include a fee schedule sufficient to sustain a marijuana certification program. Regulating such a program is likely to include an application process, inspections, sampling, testing, a public awareness campaign and enforcement to ensure compliance with established guidelines.
Only those operations certified as participating in the WSDA program will be allowed to label or claim the designation that their products were produced in accordance with the established standards.
WSDA currently has an Organic Certification Program for organic crops, organic livestock and handlers of organic products. WSDA’s program is the largest state run certification agency in the country, established more than 30 years ago. Program staff have extensive experience certifying organic operations statewide, as well as providing extensive education and support.
WSDA officials will begin the rule making process for the new program after the bill goes into effect. The process will include opportunities for public comment. Anyone wishing to participate as part of an advisory board should contact the WSDA Organic Program at [email protected] for consideration.