Are You Smoking Raid?
A Local Farmer Shows What it Takes for Pot to be Truly Green
A consistently cited value for marijuana is that it is clean and organic so that people aren’t just smoking chemicals. But recent revelations have shown that Oregon pot isn’t as green as it has been advertised.
A chemical analysis conducted by The Oregonian in early June revealed that many of the marijuana strains believed to be “organic” by medical dispensaries fell short of state and federal standards. Ten different concentrates from dispensaries throughout Portland were purchased and sent back to the lab for testing. By law, there are a handful of pesticides that labs are required to test for before passing a batch of medical marijuana, but The Oregonian asked for those tests to be rerun, and then some. While a few passed with flying colors, multiple products failed in the retest, not only for the state requirements, but also for ingredients found in common roach killer and other even discontinued chemicals banned from use by the federal government. They included a chemical used to keep golf course grass looking pretty, which is not approved for human consumption.
Is there any non-toxic hope for for the almost 70,000 medical marijuana patients who turn to cannabis as an “all-natural” alternative to mainstream pharmaceuticals? Or even for the newly christened recreational users seeking non-poisonous use?
A local medical cannabis grower for Green Source Gardens, invited The Messenger to see what real marijuana cultivation can look like, and it turns out, it is pretty simple: No tilling. No potting soils. No fertilizers. No store-bought products.
“In order to know how to do something, you need to know how to do it without going to the store,” he says. “We don’t source anything from the stores.”
Where many marijuana growers utilize pesticides and other chemicals to keep insects and mold away, along with animal byproducts like blood and bone meal as fertilizers, GSG uses only what they grow on their farm—including animal manure, chicory, dandelions and comfrey.
“Comfrey is a big cannabis companion,” he says. “We take care of it more than we do the cannabis.”
However while the grower was quite open about his techniques, he asked to keep his name private because of the still-evolving social climate surrounding marijuana. We will just say he has the expected dreadlocks and inviting manner, but his educated fervency is not the demeanor of the stereotypical pot-grower.
As we walk down the rows of plants, he breaks off the large leaves of a comfrey plant, something usually seen as a weed. He places the leaves at the base of thriving cannabis stalks. The walkways and the garden beds are covered with a thick layer of wood chips, which he says is actually the only thing they have brought in from the outside, and the more variety, the better. He digs into the wood chips and soil surrounding the adolescent plants with his bare hands, unearthing rich, black dirt teeming with worms. He even dug into the walkway between the plants, revealing the same healthy soil.
Organic certification isn’t really a goal for Green Source Gardens. They are Clean Green Certified, “a qualified third party non-conflicted agricultural certification program that supports sustainable practices and environmental stewardship.” GSG has even gone so far as to create their own class of grower, “Ecodynamic No Till Soil Stewardship.”
“Everyone wants to put us in a category,” he says. “But there are too many misconceptions about what those things are, even when I agree with those stipulations.”
GSG maintains a strict adherence to “no till agriculture,” which means exactly what it sounds like—they don’t dig up the dirt.
“We don’t mess with what is going on. That starts you back at point A,” he says. “When you till, you disturb the ecosystem, which then has to be rebuilt. The integrity of a plant is completely determined on the health of the soil.”
After the Oregon House Bill 3460 passed in 2013, which made it legal for approved marijuana gardens to grow for medical dispensaries, GSG has been cultivating product for four seasons. They supply local medical marijuana dispensaries, along with a few other Oregon dispensaries in Corvallis, Bend and Portland.
GSG’s grower says that they pass pesticide tests due to their high standards (check out the results at their website greensourcegardens.com), and he blames the misconceptions about what is truly “organic” for the failures listed in the Oregonian’s investigation, which floored dispensaries and growers when their learned that their products were severely tainted.
“People say they aren’t using anything that isn’t ‘organically certified,’” he says. “We need to raise our consciousness about what ‘certified organic’ means. Ultimately, it was written by corporations that want to make money. Cannabis farmers are all claiming that they are organic, which is fine, but there are so many things on ‘the list.’”
“The List” that he refers to is the list of acceptable products allowed by OMRI, Organic Materials Review Institute.
“Their list is over 3,000 products long, including synthetic products,” he adds.
But even water can be a problem. Back in March, California Governor Jerry Brown allotted a $1 billion emergency drought fund, which included $2 million to curb water diversions for pot growing in Northern California, a piracy that has been blamed for loss of streams and their habitats. A weeklong series of raids in Mendocino County in June yanked more than 85,000 pot plants from the ground for draining 500,000 gallons of water a day from a section of the nearby Eel river that is now stagnant and moss-ridden.
GSG on the other hand, says that with his techniques he only needs to water once per week.
“Our main work and input is what we feed our animals,” he says. “We pay close attention to what hay we feed our animals, which in turn nourishes our plants.”
He says that the farm’s other crops are his priority, which in turn, grow the marijuana plants. From goats to chickens to rabbits to apple trees to tomatoes—the weed is a bit of an afterthought.
“We don’t see ourselves as weed growers as much as we see ourselves as social stewards,” he says.
What conventional cannabis growers spend on products to manipulate their plants, he says would be better spent as time watching them.
“Intuition in the garden is lacking,” he says. “I use the moon as my guide as to what to pay attention to. I go out every day and watch and observe the garden to find out what I am going to do that day; I don’t have a set system. There are a lot of backwards ways that people look at agriculture. Instead of controlling, we are about supporting the natural process, especially the soil ecosystem. I don’t think there is a need to put anything on your plants. If your soil is intact, why do you need to do anything? It is trying to make up for a mistake somewhere else.”
He even likens the process of growth to a religious practice.
“Caring is my religion; it comes from the heart,” he says. “That is our job as stewards. We have to make sure the soil is fed. If we don’t, it will be fine on its own, but we are conscious beings and we need to know our role in it. If we expect to get something, we have to give something.”
Photo Credit: Green Source Gardens