Consumers need to know what’s in their cannabis. #Whatsinmyweed? is a marketing campaign and PSA highlighting the connection between organic specialty food and cannabis.

Bart and Annick, both teachers, have two small girls and live in hip downtown Brussels, Belgium. They bought their apartment 10 years ago – pre-gentrification – and now have a marvellous fourth floor view overlooking a trendy square, complete with shady tree-lined avenues, statues, water features, an ancient church, expensive chocolatiers, boutique coffee stores and rustic bars selling hundreds of Belgian beers.

Everything A Cannabis Consumer Needs To Know

I met Bart whilst I was giving a talk – Everything A Cannabis Consumer Needs To Know – at an arts festival in Brussels a few months back, where I babbled on about organic growing and safe consumption techniques.

Originally from the Flemish speaking northern side of Belgium, Bart tells me – as per many other Belgians – that they spend a lot of time, effort and money ensuring that everything they consume is organic. It was for that reason he was drawn to my talk. He tells me, “Everything we eat and feed our kids is organic. Why the hell have I been smoking this random sh*t bought on the street?”

It’s a good question. As usual, it’s convenient to point the finger at the fact that recreational cannabis is illegal in Europe so there is no accountability for cultivation, processing or distribution. Even in Dutch cannabis coffeeshops, the cannabis magically appears on the back door step – due to the fact that cultivation without a license (which they don’t hand out) is strictly illegal and stringently enforced. In fact, it’s very hard to even open a laboratory to test cannabis to ensure what is legally sold is actually safe.

So you can lay the blame squarely on politicians. Make cannabis legal and things will fix themselves, right? If that’s the case, then you’d expect that over the Atlantic in Colorado things would be hunky-dory. But it’s not.

Mandatory Pesticide Testing

On August 1, 2018, the state of Colorado implemented mandatory pesticide testing for the first time. Yes, you read that right, for the FIRST TIME since cannabis was made legal almost six years ago. Many consumers may be surprised to learn that a highly taxed industry functioning within significant regulations in licensing, permitting and beyond, has little oversight on the pesticides used on plants that are ultimately consumed by humans. It’s shocking, but true. Seems as though everyone was blinded by the money to be made rather than worry if the product is actually safe for patients and recreational use.

That’s not to say that all cannabis sold in Colorado is harmful, but without transparent labelling it is impossible to tell what is good and what is not.

While Colorado has outlawed many pesticides and approved hundreds more for use, enforcement has been left in the hands of cultivators – leaving the potential for bad actors to take advantage of the system. And today’s regulations barely scratch the surface. The required testing will only detect just over a dozen of the thousands of potentially harmful chemicals that could end up in your joint, bong or vaporizer.

The local industry will also have to grapple with a lack of standardization in Colorado’s licensed laboratories. As there is no consistency in machinery or equipment, one test is not the same as the next.

“With Colorado testing for only 13 harmful pesticides, cultivators are essentially directed to operate under the honor code,” said Cannabis Certification Council’s (a national non-profit promoting clean, ethical and sustainable cannabis production) Board Chair Ben Gelt. “This means in order to game the system, all a producer must do is use a product unrelated to those 13. There are literally tens of thousands of pesticide products on the market that have been proven to be harmful to humans. Consumers have increasingly expressed concern about knowing what is in their produce at the grocery store, leading to the labelling of organic products. These same shoppers deserve greater transparency so they can make smarter decisions about what they are putting into their bodies when they consume cannabis.”

Cannabis PSA

What’s needed is a good old-fashioned educational campaign. Just as Bart hadn’t stopped to think about the dangers lurking on random street weed bought in Brussels, so too are Coloradan cannabis consumers unaware of the problem – so they are not putting pressure on distributors to better label their products. Put simply, cannabis consumers don’t know what they don’t know.

The Cannabis Certification Council came up with a campaign called #Whatsinmyweed to remind consumers that – just as they insist on buying organic produce and other specialty goods when they shop for food – they must begin to demand the same from their cannabis producers. A lack of national or state standards for organic, fair trade, pesticide-free (and other common methods of production) cannabis continue to leave consumers in the dark.

“The CCC and #Whatsinmyweed is a great advocate for the health and wellbeing of consumers,” said Peter Barsoom, CEO of premium edibles brand 1906 and founding sponsor of #WIMW. “1906 takes exacting measures to ensure the quality and safety of our product. We want our customers to have total confidence in the fact that they’re getting pesticide-free, consistent and predictable experiences, and we appreciate #WIMW bringing this issue to the forefront as the cannabis industry grows exponentially.”

The #Whatsinmyweed campaign has gathered broad support in legal markets including Colorado, California, Oregon, Texas, Washington, Michigan, Arizona and other states. Founding sponsors of the campaign include L’Eagle, Yerba Buena, Grow Sisters, GrowCentia, Bud Fox, 1906, Mammoth Microbes, Organic Alternatives, High Country Healing, Verde Natural, Dawa Detroit, Stillwater Brands and Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency.

The Cannabis Certification Council is a national non-profit promoting clean, ethical and sustainable production via www.Whatsinmyweed.org. In addition to the #WIMW campaign, the CCC is hosting the Third Annual Cannabis Sustainability Symposium in Denver on Friday, October 26th. Here cultivators, suppliers and interested consumers can converge to discover best practice organic cannabis production.

It’s great that those in Colorado are actually able to start having this conversation, albeit six years too late. In the enlightened states in the U.S. that have made recreational cannabis legal, it is a matter of consumer protection. In Europe, we are still a long way off.

How is it criminals in Europe are making billions of euros per year selling a harmful product that could potentially be 100% safe?

In Europe, it is a matter of harm prevention. It is very worthwhile to educate the millions of cannabis consumers, so they begin to understand the issues that have arisen thanks to cannabis prohibition. When they understand the dangers of the actions of unscrupulous growers (chemical nutrients, pesticides, molds, etc.) they may start to question why such a situation could exist. It’s at that point they may realize that their own governments – in the name of protecting the electorate via their outdated war on drugs – are actually endangering the cannabis-consuming public who vote for them. For “recreational” cannabis consumers in Europe, such as Bart and Annick, the best option for the moment would be to either grow their own organic cannabis or find a grower that they can trust will give them full transparency on #Whatsinmyweed.