Nilvio Aquino weaves through a tangled jungle of marijuana plants at an indoor grow facility in Denver.
“Throw your nose in there. It’s nice and pungent,” he said, pulling a seven-foot tall plant down to nose height at one of the company’s grow facilities.
Aquino, the lead grower for Sticky Buds, a chain of marijuana shops in Denver, is in his element among the plants. He’s like a proud gardener showing off blue ribbon varieties, bustling from plant to plant, picking out his favorites.
“I’m all about quality. I’m back and forth with owners about yield, of course,” Aquino said.
His marijuana plants soak up nutrients commonly used on certified-organic farms like kelp meal and earthworm castings. Big bags of potting soil sit in the hallway. When a pest problem pops up, he avoids using synthetic pesticides.
“It’s about finding your little foothold in the market and holding on to it with your life essentially, man,” Aquino says.
All that adds up to something that feels like an organic operation. But for now that’s about as official as it’s going to get. There’s no such thing as a government-sanctioned certification for organic marijuana – in large part, because growing or using marijuana is still a federal crime.
Dozens of Colorado marijuana dispensaries, both medical and recreational, tout their products as “organic.” National organic standards for nearly every agricultural product in the country are set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards Board. Cannabis isn’t currently on the NOSB’s docket for the creation of organic standards.