Karl Heinrichs inspects the buds on a marijuana plant before harvesting it on Thursday, August 13, 2015 at LivWell in Denver. The 2016 Colorado legislature will look at labeling pot plants as organic. (Denver Post file)

Bill proposes pesticide-free marijuana labeling program in Colorado

Consumers would know whether the marijuana or hemp they buy was grown without the use of pesticides under a bill proposed Wednesday in the state legislature.

HB16-1079 would require the Colorado Department of Agriculture to devise a program in which independent companies would certify which cannabis is pesticide-free, and it would require special labeling consumers can see.

Marijuana growers are forestalled from using the term “organic” for their product even if they use certifiable organic practices. That’s because use of the term and the certification necessary to acquire it is controlled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since cannabis remains illegal under federal law, no marijuana or hemp can be designated legally as organic.

“I’m all for a certification that ensures to consumers that the final product they’ve purchased truly is pesticide-free,” said Devin Liles, head of cultivation at The Farm in Boulder.

The issue, however, is confusing organic with pesticide-free, Liles said.

“As (the bill) is written, it runs the risk of perpetuating the common misconception that organic is synonymous with pesticide-free,” he said. “There are organic pesticides that are comprised of essential oils that are perfectly safe to use, not necessarily in (marijuana) flower development.”

The bill, introduced by Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, and Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder, would extend to pesticide-free facilities where cannabis is processed.

The Denver Post in September reported that Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s office was investigating marijuana business owners using the word organic in their name or advertising.

The concern was that consumers might be misled since the product could not be certified as such.

No details of the ongoing inquiry have been released.

David Migoya: 303-954-1506, dmigoya@denverpost.com or @davidmigoya

This story was first published on DenverPost.com