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Sungrown Cannabis Overview: Essential Info on New Jersey Organic Cultivation

ByTrichome Team

January 19, 2022

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Garden State is greening up. Outdoor cannabis cultivation is officially approved in New Jersey for grows both large and small. What’s more, according to the regulations adopted by the CRC, outdoor cannabis cultivators can also label their products as organic if they meet the organic program requirements—an important move in a changing market that sees more and more consumers turning to organic cannabis options (which they’re willing to pay more for).

Outdoor cultivation and organic practices represent the next phase of New Jersey’s blossoming cannabis economy. Here’s why these moves matter, and what challenges may be ahead.

Outdoor Cannabis Cultivation in New Jersey

Growing cannabis outdoors has its share of challenges, but from an environmental perspective, it can’t be beat. In Colorado, for example, indoor cannabis cultivation accounts for 1.3% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions—only slightly behind the coal industry’s 1.8%.

Growing outdoors reduces cannabis cultivation’s environmental impact in a significant way. And it also reduces barriers. Without the mandate to build out a greenhouse or indoor cultivation facility, cultivators with less up-front capital investment can enter the industry more easily. The regulations also allow for microbusiness licenses, which can mean more craft or specialty cannabis, smaller operational footprints and a greater diversity of cultivation approaches in New Jersey.

Organic Cultivation in New Jersey

“Organic” as a movement has transformed grocery store offerings, supply chains and land-use practices. According to Statista, nearly two-thirds of Americans make at least one organic purchase every month.

But in recent years, the organic designation in its ubiquity (and frequent use) has lost its teeth. Such designations don’t necessarily take into account soil health, pesticide drift or the overall aspects of transportation—certainly important factors when considering an agricultural commodity’s impact on the environment.

Beyond that, until the federal government legalizes cannabis like it did with low-THC hemp, USDA organic certification remains out of reach for producers. But the recently issued personal use regulations made it clear: “A cannabis cultivator may label cannabis it cultivates as “organic” if the cannabis cultivator meets the organic program standards as defined at N.J.A.C. 2:78.”

Operations that call cannabis “organic” simply because they grow “with organic practices” take away from the validity and strength of true organic certification. If you’re interested in earning New Jersey organic certification for your outdoor cultivation operation, we highly recommend pursuing a third party certification through a reputable organization such as Clean Green. If you are growing other crops in addition to cannabis, you can even pursue an official partial organic certification through NOP accredited certifiers for those crops, such as NOFA-NY. While high-THC cannabis is still off the table for the USDA, hemp and other crops can be certified USDA organic.

Challenges With Outdoor Cannabis Cultivation

As previously mentioned, whether you pursue an organic certification for your outdoor cannabis grow or not, pesticide drift is a major factor to consider.

Like any plant, cannabis and low-THC hemp can be affected by pesticides throughout their growing cycles. Pesticide contamination can have a host of detrimental effects on product quality—as well as consumer health. Thus, it’s important to conduct regular testing to have an accurate understanding of exactly which pesticides (if any) are present on your plants and in what quantity, particularly if mitigation is needed.

Next up: soil health. Cannabis is an efficient bioremediator and has a high uptake capacity for metals. So, if there are heavy metals in your soil, you can just about guarantee that they’ll be present in your plants. To that end, we recommend soil testing analysis to understand your soil’s composition and avert any issues with potential contaminants.

Lastly: yeasts and molds. For all its environmental benefits, outdoor-grown cannabis can be easily contaminated by yeasts and molds. The culprits range from the direction of wind to the moisture content of the air to extended periods of precipitation. Taking steps to understand potential sources of yeast and mold contamination, as well as nipping any contamination in the bud quickly, is important to the health of any outdoor cultivation operation (not to mention consumer health).

New Jersey is continuing to shape its cannabis industry, and we see exciting things on the horizon for sungrown cannabis and outdoor cultivation in the state. If you have questions about soil health, heavy metals, pesticide use, state certifications or any other topic covered in this article, contact the Trichome Analytical team anytime.