Being labeled "organic" doesn't necessarily mean a product is organic, and sustainable growers in the cannabis industry have long struggled to find ways to differentiate themselves from those who co-opt that term. Now L'Eagle has become the first dispensary to receive the Certifiably Green Denver certification from the city.
One of the last true mom-and-pop dispensaries in the city, L'Eagle is run by Amy Andrle and her husband, John, who have always worked to ensure that their product is environmentally sustainable. From avoiding harmful sprays on the flower to implementing best practices from agricultural science, L'Eagle has fought to keep its product green since the dispensary began in 2010.
"This is a big deal. The City and County of Denver is certifying cannabis businesses just like they are all the other [businesses]," says Amy Andrle. "We are normal... just like a dry cleaner or a gas station or a retail shop. Somebody has to give consumers a way of recognizing that there's a difference other than just asserting it."
Before L'Eagle received the Certifiably Green Denver designation and got its Certificate of Environmental Excellence, city officials came to the facility to inspect the retail operation and suggest improvements in the green practices it already had established.
"We don't spray anything on our flower, ever, so that's the biggest difference. We don't treat the plants when they're in flower. Even if you call yourself organic and you're spraying organic pesticides, you still smoke in all those pesticides," says L'Eagle budtender Courtney Clark, who is studying herbology. "You can see it in the product and the way it smokes. You can visibly see it — the way it tastes, the way it burns."
L'Eagle's commitment to environmental sustainability goes beyond the weed and staffers with credentials: It's also tackling packaging.
"How in the world do you seem like you're being responsible with resource management [given] the packaging limitations of the regulations?" asks Andrle. "We want to be safe, but we also want to be sustainable and responsible."
To help limit waste, the dispensary is careful about which companies it works with, she notes, always looking to find others that share L'Eagle's commitment to environmental safety. It also has a recycling program where customers can get a discount on a new purchase when they drop off their used plastic canisters.
Andrle is a founding member on the board of the Organic Cannabis Association, and L'Eagle served as a guinea pig for the OCA to test its pesticide-free program, and just submitted their application for certification through the OCA.
"We can't go to the federal government and say, 'Give us that stamp,'" Andrle points out. "Certifiably Green Denver is a feather in our cap until we can get the....federal government signing off on our process."