Keep it Clean

Making sure your cannabis is eco friendly

By Kristin Kirby

Photographs by Zach Lathouris

In Humboldt, we’re no strangers to the idea of buying sustainable, eco-friendly and healthy products. Much of our local food and even wine is grown organically. So it makes sense that when it’s time to partake, many of us want a healthy product that takes as little toll on the planet as possible. 

We’ve all heard about stream diversions, poisoning of wildlife, chemicals in the soil and hash labs exploding. So now that cannabis is legal in California, how do you know what you’re buying at your local dispensary is not only safe, but also not damaging the planet? After all, you can buy a perfectly legal mattress never knowing it’s soaked in cancer-causing chemical fire retardants. So what about your weed?

While you won’t find the organic certification on your Durban Poison just yet, growers and distributors are making a point to source product that’s eco-friendly and healthy in every phase of the production here in Humboldt County. 

Ray Markland, owner of EcoCann, a cannabis dispensary in Eureka’s Old Town, knows a thing or two about the cannabis business — he grew up in Humboldt, after all. He points out that most of the people in the legal marijuana business here aren’t only in it for the money; they do it because they care about creating a sustainable industry for the county. After the hard lessons of the Gold Rush and the logging industry, sustainability is the goal for lots of folks across the spectrum of businesses here. 

With more than 20 years of experience, Talking Trees Farms out of Miranda and Willow Creek is proof “that Humboldt-grown organic cannabis is truly the best in the world,” says Markland. Its organic, sun growing, light deprIvation and indoor flower cultivation methods create naturally high terpene content. “Talking Trees focuses on exotic strains that are then made into top-shelf extracts, both solventless and solvent-free,” he says. “Listen to the Trees.”

You can go a long way toward making sure your cannabis is eco friendly just by buying legal product from a licensed dispensary. California has extremely strict guidelines as to what can and can’t be sold. Farms have to adhere to stringent guidelines concerning things like water usage, grading and pest control, and they can be inspected at any time. All cannabis is tracked from the cultivator to the distributor to the dispensary to the consumer. 

All dispensaries in Humboldt County are licensed but elsewhere in the state, unlicensed outlets exist due to a lack of enforcement resources. They may even look like legal outlets. One way to check that out is to search a dispensary’s name on, where the shop’s license will be posted, if it has one. You can also cross-reference that by going to the California Bureau of Cannabis Control and typing in the license number there (sometimes searching for a name in the BCC can get tricky since dispensaries aren’t allowed to have bank accounts). 

If you’re buying cannabis as either an extraction or flower, the legal stuff will have undergone specific tests for each category. Every product has to go through a strict testing process by a third party that looks for cannabinoid content (the amount of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids present), runs microbiological screening (for salmonella, E. coli and other bacteria), and checks for mycotoxins (mold) and heavy metals (cadmium, lead, arsenic and mercury), as well as moisture content. 

True Humboldt is an Arcata-based micro-business that’s producing what Markland calls “some of the best premium cannabis that our rich and unique cultivation climate of Humboldt County has to offer.” Local farmers using sustainable and regenerative practices yield small craft batches in a range of strains. Markland recommends its “ever-changing assortment of exotic and classic strains,” adding,“there is something in the catalog for every cannabis connoisseur.”

The biggest category of testing, however, is for chemical residues — mainly pesticides and fungicides. Flower products are tested for 66 different chemicals, including myclobutanil, pyrethrin and spinosads, to name just a few. Extracted products are tested against their own set of parameters, since the extraction process means any harmful chemicals present will be in a more concentrated form, just like the cannabinoids themselves. 

Once the product gets to your local dispensary, the outlet gets info on the delivery person — including the year, make and model of their car — and who received the product in the store. Then there’s a two-part signing process just to receive it. 

Every shipment that comes into the dispensary is scrutinized to make sure that the number on the product’s COA (Certificate of Analysis from the inspector) matches the ID number on the product itself, and that the COA indicates the product has passed in every testing category. 

Even though California has certain rigid standards about how things can be grown — no pesticides that would harm wildlife, no stream diversion — there are still legally compliant farms around the state that use less eco-friendly and more energy-intensive methods for growing. For one thing, legal outdoor growing is always going to be the most eco-friendly, since the product is grown in the sun instead of under energy-sucking grow lights. And since Humboldt County has the perfect climate for growing cannabis, it’s kind of a no-brainer. Many growers around our part of the Emerald Triangle also go the extra mile to incorporate rainwater catchment systems and solar power. 

EcoCann sources as much product as possible from growers who are doing everything they can to leave a smaller carbon footprint here in Humboldt. As a consumer, you’ve got a broad range of choices and the power to support farmers and companies that are going that extra mile. Asking for full-term or sun-grown Humboldt cannabis is a good place to start. 

Kristin Kirby is a freelance writer based in Humboldt County.