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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) For Cannabis Certifiers


Under current federal law, cannabis is a controlled substance and such products cannot legally use the term "organic" or the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic seal. California Business & Professions Code Section 26062(a)(2) provides that, by July 1, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) shall establish a certification program for manufactured cannabis products comparable to the California Organic Food and Farming Act (COFFA) and the federal USDA National Organic Program (NOP). CDPH's Food and Drug Branch (FDB) regulates the manufacture of foods, drugs, medical devices, pet foods and cosmetics including processed products sold as organic pursuant to the NOP and the COFFA. FDB is the program that is developing and administering the OCal program for processed cannabis products. 

Q1. What is the term "OCal"?

A1. Because cannabis products cannot be labeled as "organic", "OCal" was created. "OCal" is a California unique labeling term that identifies California commercial cannabis products produced according to the OCal regulations, which are comparable to the NOP and the COFFA.

Q2. What is the OCal Program?

A2. The OCal Program is administered by CDPH-FDB which enforces the standards for cannabis products sold, labeled, or represented as OCal.

Q3. How will the OCal Program work?

A3. The OCal Program will safeguard certification integrity by working with certifying agents to ensure they are certifying consistently and follow OCal Program regulations. All certifying agents must be accredited by the NOP to the scope of organic handling and be registered with CDPH-FDB's OCal program. Certifying agents will follow these steps in order to be eligible to certify manufacturers of OCal cannabis products:

  1. Obtain accreditation from NOP.
  2.  Apply for OCal certification from CDPH-FDB.
  3. Once the application is approved, CDPH-FDB will issue a certificate. A certifier may begin certifying OCal cannabis manufacturers.

Q4. When does the OCal Program start?

A4.  July 1, 2021.

Q5. What are the requirements to register with CDPH-FDB's OCal program?

A5. Each certifier must be accredited to the scope of organic handling and possess a valid accreditation from the USDA NOP. A copy of the NOP accreditation certificate is required when submitting the OCal Certifier application. 

Q6. What is the registration fee for certifiers?

A6. The registration fee is $100 and is due annually on or before the expiration date.

Q7. What is the contact information for any question(s) about CDPH-FDB's OCal program?

A7. The contact information is as follows:

Q8. Can applications and/or payment be submitted electronically?

A8.  Currently, the only way to submit an application and pay fees is by mail at the address identified on the bottom of the application instructions page. 

Q9. What happens after submission of an OCal application for certifiers?

A9. Submission of the OCal application does not authorize a certifier to begin certifying manufactured cannabis products as OCal. Once approved and a certifier's application and fees have been processed, a certificate will be mailed. Certifiers can begin certifying interested entities once a certificate has been issued.   

If the application is incomplete, additional information will be requested for submission within a specified timeframe. If the missing information is not submitted within the timeframe requested, the application will be deemed abandoned and cannot be processed. Prompt response to requests for additional information is strongly encouraged. Fees are not refundable.

Q10. How long is the OCal registration period?

A10. Once approved, the OCal registration is issued for a one year period. Courtesy Renewal Notices are generally provided prior to the expiration date. It is the certifier's responsibility that OCal registration and NOP accreditation remains current and are renewed prior to the expiration dates. Registrations are not transferrable. Any change in ownership or relocation requires a new registration.

Q11. Can a certifier registered with the California Department of Food and Agriculture's (CDFA) OCal program certify manufactured cannabis products that are sold as OCal?

A11. No. Only certifiers that are registered with CDPH-FDB to the scope of organic handling may certify manufactured cannabis products that are sold as OCal.  Currently, CDPH-FDB is not performing accreditation services for certifying agencies

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