Allay Consulting’s April Newsletter: Common Certifications Available for Cultivators
Common Certifications Available for Cultivators
For some time, manufacturers have gotten the spotlight when it comes to receiving compliance certifications – especially when it comes to achieving the good manufacturing practices (GMP) certification. It’s time we see cultivators shine with certifications! Cultivators – this newsletter is for you.
There are many certifications offered to the marijuana, hemp and mushroom industry. Third party certifications have become increasingly popular amongst companies growing plants and fungi. Receiving and maintaining certifications is a worthwhile endeavor that will set up your business for long term success, give you a competitive edge, ensure a safe product for customers, and create a culture of compliance within your company. Many certifications are available to growers, but which are right for your company? Allay Consulting showcases a few popular certifications for cultivators to help companies determine which certifications may best fit their business needs.
Good Agricultural and Collection Practices (GACP)
A popular certification for cultivators is the Good Agricultural and Collection Practices (known as GACP) certification which is the equivalent of the cGMP’s but for cultivation. The GACP is commonly called Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and is a robust audit process that demonstrates cultivators are growing their plants safely, growing with quality and with consistent best practices. Agricultural practices help ensure the wellbeing of their consumers, workers, and to protect the environment in which they’re working.
The GACP standards were developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2003 with the focus on improving the quality of medicinal plants used in retail. The WHO created these standards to provide general guidance on obtaining quality cultivation materials for the sustainable production of plants that includes good practices throughout cultivation, harvesting, and post-harvesting activities.
The certification’s rigorous standards provide the industry direction with indoor and outdoor cultivation to ensure quality and safety expectations are met. Some states even require the GACP certifications while also offering incentives for obtaining this certification (scroll to the bottom for more information!).
There is a growing interest in purchasing organic products. A way to attract consumers is by obtaining organic certification. Organic certification helps to demonstrate transparency to consumers that your product is grown or handled in an organic way that (according to the USDA) contributes to increasing water quality, conserves energy, increases biodiversity, and improves soil health. Both hemp cultivation and hemp processors may receive this certification.
Organic certification expands your sales market, commands a higher price for your products, instills consumer trust and confidence, and perhaps most notably, contributes to increasing water quality, conserves energy, promotes ecological balance, and conserves biodiversity. There are many benefits to achieving organic certification, and the process is not as hard as you may think.
The National Organic Program (NOP) is a public/private partnership within the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS). The NOP develops regulations for organic cultivation, processing, and labeling. The NOP also accredits third-party certifying bodies and state Departments of Agriculture who certify operations to verify adherence to the USDA organic regulations (Title 7 Code of Federal Regulations Part 205 NOP Rule).
Achieving an organic certification means that the operation has undergone a robust review and inspection to verify compliance with the NOP. Being certified as organic ensures the integrity of organic products from the farm to the consumer. The certified organic seal is a recognizable symbol of consumer trust and appreciation that the brand cares about our environment’s health.
Unfortunately, this certification is only granted to cannabis companies that fall under the Hemp definition at this time due to THC cannabis not being federally legal. But many of our THC clients are still becoming compliant with these practices preemptively to prepare for getting Organic certification in the future once it is available. Be careful not to use “Organic” in any advertisements or labels if you do not have this certification from the USDA, since it is considered a claim otherwise and you can face penalties if the FDA notices.
ISO 9001 is a standard that sets out the requirements for a quality management system holistically within the entire company. It helps businesses and organizations to be more efficient and improve customer satisfaction. This set of standards is based on the idea of continual improvement. In contrast to GACP certification, which is specific to cultivation, ISO 9001 is suitable for organizations of all types, sizes, and sectors, not just the production facility.
This certification is all about document management and communication within your company. This one is easy to add to an already existing GACP or Organic certification, so most companies do this certification in tandem with others. The audit for this certification includes all agencies and employees in the company and is a bit broader than other certifications. The more certifications the more your business will shine, so why not!
States Requiring Quality Management Certifications for Cannabis Licensee
Just a handful of states are requiring these certifications for their cannabis licensees. States requiring certification include Michigan (GACP immature plant sales & cGMP/HACCP for infused beverages), New York (cGMP), Florida (cGMP), and Maryland (cGMP, 111, 210). Missouri requires the implementation of a quality management system from a recognized standard but doesn’t require certification at this time. Allay Consulting highly recommends that all certifications are from accredited certifying company. We are hearing more chit-chat from other states who are potentially requiring these certifications; we will keep you in the loop as those requirements change!
States Offering Incentives to Receive Quality Management Certifications
Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency (includes both THC cannabis & hemp) offers sampling/testing reduction as an incentive when licensees receive either GACP for cultivation licensees and/or the cGMP for manufacturing licensees. Note that Michigan requires GACP for licenses who sell immature plants and cGMP for licenses who manufacture infused beverages, but Michigan also offers incentives for licensees who fall in and out of these categories.
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