Cannabis Wire is publishing this excerpt as part of our partnership with the Mendocino Voice, an online news service covering Mendocino County and the North Coast of California, including the cannabis industry.
By Kate B. Maxwell
UKIAH, CA, 9/19/11 — It’s long been evident to cannabis farmers from the hills and valleys of the Emerald Triangle that if you plant some Bell Spring OG on a ridge near Albion, the flowers won’t turn out the same as if you plant it in a valley near Garberville. Whether it’s humidity or elevation, a particular mix of soil or the pruning method — there’s an undeniable difference.
For small farmers, whatever their crop, marking their product as distinct can have huge economic impact. And California’s cannabis farmers are no different. On the North Coast, cannabis farmers compare themselves to the neighboring vineyards, who highlight their unique “terroir” to court consumers. Now the California Department of Food & Agriculture is in the process of establishing a process for defining cannabis “appellations,” specific geographic areas in which farmers will be allowed to identify and market their crop with that name, such as Champagne. The agency kicked off a statewide appellations tour with their very first public meeting on the process in Ukiah on September 10. Local groups should be able to submit applications to create appellations by 2021.
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Though cannabis growers, now venturing from decades of working underground into the cold light of the state’s new recreational market, are turning to other agricultural industries for survival strategies, and cannabis appellations are often compared to those used in wine, the statewide process may ultimately create very different standards.
The CDFA is mandated to start establishing “county of origin” standards as of January 1, and must develop “a process by which licensed cultivators may establish appellations standards, practices, and varietals applicable to cannabis grown in a certain geographical area in California” by 2021. This process was legislated by SB 94, proposed by the North Coast’s State Senator Mike McGuire and passed as part of a trailer bill in 2017. However, the legislation does not provide much detail as to what the exact process will look like. So to begin creating a regulatory framework, the CDFA conducted a survey of cultivators, and is soliciting feedback from cannabis growers at “public scoping sessions” about what they think the applications process for new appellations should look like.
“The statute is very brief,” noted CDFA’s spokesperson Rebecca Foree in an interview. “We’re starting from a blank slate — we’re waiting to get input before we establish the regulations and fill out the framework.” She emphasized that regulators hoped to design the appellations process based on input from stakeholders, and said the agency has already received “a tremendous amount of feedback,” especially from farmers on the North Coast. CalCannabis, the CDFA department that oversees cannabis cultivation licensing, is accepting comments through the end of September, and then will hold another round of public workshops, planned for early 2019. The department will then conduct economic impact studies and draft regulations. By 2021, cultivators should be able to submit appellations proposals for approval.