Chris VanHook had a vision to bring organic cannabis to consumers. To make this goal a reality, he founded the Clean Green Certified Program, the only nationally recognized third-party cannabis certification company.
As with many worthwhile endeavors, it posed its own set of unique challenges.
“In 2003, I was asked by the cannabis industry if I could certify its cannabis as organic,” VanHook explained. “California said yes, the USDA said no. The industry came back with ‘Can’t you develop a certification program for us, it is sorely needed?’” With that, the ball was put in motion to deliver a service to an industry deeply in need of compliance, organization, and regulation.
VanHook developed Clean Green Certified using a variety of models. His background as an attorney no doubt proved useful when creating an organic cannabis program requiring compliance and cooperation from an appreciative group of cultivators.
Those who participate in the Clean Green program want to go above and beyond typical cannabis production and join an elite category to serve discriminating consumers.
“(Clean Green) is based on the USDA National Organic Program as well as International organic and sustainable programs,” VanHook said. “We have a combined 100-plus years in both conventional and organic farming just in our main office staff alone.”
Meeting a Demand
Certainly, there was a strong desire for an organic cannabis alternative—the growing organic sections of most supermarket produce sections are proof-positive of that growing trend. Many food shoppers want healthy choices—and cannabis shoppers are no different.
VanHook recognizes that fact. “The crop producers and processors who come to the program are the ones who are well ahead of the regulations and current state of cannabis farming,” he said. “They are seeking to differentiate their product from the bulk of products out there.”
Clean Green fills the needs of those cultivators and takes their certification a few steps further. The program goes well beyond the USDA organic program. There’s a fair labor component, a carbon footprint reduction component, a legal water source requirement, as well as water conservation methods that must be in place.
Every Clean Green Certified farmer gets a soil sample run through a federally licensed lab to test for more than 150 brand-name pesticides each year. The USDA program requires testing of 5% of farmers each year. Clean Green tests every farmer every year.
“(Clean Green) confirms that their cannabis is grown legally in the state in which it is grown,” VanHook explained. “It confirms that the produce is grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. It is very easy—and of no great value—to say ‘I grow organically,’ but it’s entirely different to have a qualified third-party program come to your farm and confirm that it is.”
Elite Organic Status
VanHook remains in step with an industry serving individuals with strong opinions about a clean environment and healthy living. Products licensed to carry the CGC logo are reviewed using national and international standards for quality and sustainability.
The Clean Green review staff follows the recent guidelines of the California Department of Food and Agriculture as well as the federal Environmental Protection Agency for pesticide use on cannabis.
Displaying the CGC logo on your label is an excellent way to differentiate your product from the many already on the market. VanHook sees a successful future ahead of him.
“We continue to adapt the program to the developing regulations in each state and bring existing agricultural and food-handling regulations into the cannabis industry,” he said. “As these regulations develop, the program will adapt and continue to assist the cannabis farmer to move into the legal emerging markets.”