What does it take for large-scale cannabis growers to go totally organic? For Solstice, going “100% Organic” meant nine months of research, trial and error, honest sweat, and a deeper commitment to sustainability.
“We were using an organic soil before,” says Miles Jonard, Solstice’s lead horticulturalist, “but some of its constituent parts weren’t sustainably sourced.”
Namely perlite, the white, popcorn-like pebbles you might see in commercial gardening soils. Originating as volcanic glass and used in agrichemicals to bolster drainage, perlite is made more porous by superheating in industrial kilns, a process that releases fluorine gas – a highly toxic compound.
Next on the list of environmental no-no’s was peat moss, the ratio of which is significantly reduced in our new soil blend. While moss sounds plentiful and innocuous, Jonard notes that moss is a slower-grower, taking hundreds of years to generate naturally.
“Harvesting peat moss is akin to strip mining. They scrape it out of bogs and basically destroy a natural water filtration system.”
There was also the question of how the soil arrives at Solstice. “The old soil had a heftier carbon footprint because it goes through so many hands,” says Jonard. “From the manufacturer, with multiple unknown origins, and then it’s shipped to us. Plus it came in individual plastic bags, which were non-recyclable.”
As an alternative to perlite and peat, Solstice chose a soil blend that uses coconut coir, the ground-up husk of dried coconut, pumice, and rice hulls – all renewable resources.
But organic soil is only part of the organic cannabis equation. In addition to sustainable pest control, Solstice has also transitioned to all-organic fertilizers.
A tour through the Solstice cannabis production space reveals an astonishing array of jugs and bottles, as well as bags of seabird and bat guano, insect frass, soluble seaweed, liquid kelp, nutrient rinse, and a big stinky barrel of bubbling fish hydrolysate – an emulsion of fish excrement and parts.
“We’re getting rid of a lot of these,” says Jonard. “Before, we were using about 10 components, but now we use as few as 5 or sometimes only 1.”
“An ‘organic’ label doesn’t mean a product is not damaging to the environment,” Jonard says. “What’s important is that it’s responsibly manufactured and is a sustainable resource.”
Solstice has taken a nitty-gritty approach to its transition to 100% organic cannabis production – scouring labels, investigating sources, tweaking, testing, and troubleshooting to get closer to the ideal, which for Alex Cooley, Vice President of Solstice, is good-for-the-body-good-for-the-planet cannabis.
“Organic cannabis is higher quality, with richer flavors and smell, a smoother smoke,” Cooley says. It also helps the user experience for things like cannabis oil in vaporizers, look here for examples of dispensaries of these products. “But it really comes down to our decision to provide better medication for our patients. We wanted to make it as safe as possible, and create it in the most sustainable fashion.”
You can find Solstice cannabis at locations across Washington. Ask for Solstice at your dispensary.