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Fair Trade Fatties 

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I'm adamant that the cannabis I consume is organic. Which, thanks to stringent testing requirements in Oregon for cannabis sold in dispensaries, is far easier to verify than it's ever been. But, that's really only one part of the complex equation about supporting what you believe in when you buy your weed.

Simply because a grower uses organic methods does not mean they are producing cannabis in a manner that matters to me, beyond the nutrients and additives used. The grower could be using Rudolph Steiner-approved biodynamic growing methods, but be a horrible misogynist who refuses to hire women for executive positions, or may be paying a sub-living wage to workers. (Yup - it's going to be one of those columns.)

Which is why I seek out coffee beans and chocolate that are organic but also fair trade. Knowing the labor involved didn't get screwed over matters to me, and there are third party organizations that research and certify that my buying dollar is working to that end.

But what about cannabis?

Once again, Oregon is taking the lead in important cannabis work with the formation of a new third party certification non-profit: the Cannabis Certification Council (CCC). The group is the result of a merger between Denver's Organic Cannabis Association and the Portland-based Ethical Cannabis Alliance.

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Seed funding and a matching grant come courtesy of David Bronner, a long-time drug policy reform advocate and CEO of the soap with labels you read in the shower until your fingers prune: Dr. Bronner's. The company has a long track record of support for establishing ethics and sustainability practices in various industries, and Bronner says, "The CCC, with its unique mission, is a perfect vessel for to support our values in the cannabis space."

The executive director of the CCC is long-time Oregon cannabis industry figure Ashley Preece, who was co-owner of Cascadia Labs and co-vice President of the Portland Chapter of Women Grow before starting the Ethical Cannabis Alliance. I asked her how the CCC plans to roll out this Certification program.

"We're launching with 'Organically,' which will include robust labor standards, as well as standards that go beyond the USDA Organic label. The USDA standard is watered down, and we want to expand on proper horticultural practices so it relates directly to cannabis producers." says Preece, who explains that they will start by pulling from fair trade and organic standards, then forming a Technical Advisory Committee comprised of multi-stakeholder professionals from the cannabis and agricultural industries to advise and revise the new standards as needed. From there, they'll launch a pilot program to work with cannabis producers abiding by the required standards. When the pilot phase is complete, final adjustments will be made before bringing the certification to the marketplace.

Far from simply being an Oregon-centric exercise in certification, the CCC is working with multi-tier stakeholders in other U.S. states, and eventually will reach out globally. "We need to engage each different community to make sure this is applicable on a national level," says Preece, who plans to have the labor certification of "Fairly Produced" based upon a number of Fair Trade practices. "That will include living wages per community, and taking options of ownership into consideration, including different business models where employees might have shares or partial ownership," says Preece. "As we know, this industry has come from the illicit market, where we saw a lot of inappropriate working environments, gender relations and pay schedules. So we want to ensure that workers have contracts in place, they are treated fairly just as any other industry and we want to mitigate any strange encounters that might have seeped into this regulated market."

The standards are currently being drafted, and Preece hopes to have them tested this summer and ready for release later this year. She's excited about merging with the Organic Cannabis Association and the work they have already done toward this goal. "This is a huge step for the cannabis industry," says Preece. "Our collaboration reflects the priority of the mission ingrained in both parties, and together we will immediately be greater than the sum of our parts."


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