While many prohibitionists (and some activists) stoke fears of “Big Marijuana” taking over the cannabis industry, I see the industry as evolving into a craft model, following in the footsteps of microbrewery and winery businesses. Like the wine industry, some Mendocino growers hope to promote various California regions for their different cannabis-cultivation properties.
I think that the Mendocino farmers, led by a cultivator named Justin Calvino are on to something very smart by looking to mimic the wine industry. With Proposition 64 having a good chance at passage this November, it behooves small farmers to carefully consider how they will thrive in a new area of well-capitalized competition and more regulations.
Called the Mendocino Appellation Project, the plan divides the California coastline into separate northern and southern appellations while also labeling nine inland regions. The project mirrors the American Viticultural Area, a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. With federal prohibition, the Mendocino Project will ultimately be regulated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. From The Press Democrat:
“Just like you have Anderson Valley pinot noir, you’d have Anderson Valley pineapple,” Calvino said, referring to a whimsically named strain of pot. “The pineapple grows the way it does because it enjoys the same regional and environmental effects as the wine.”
Exact boundaries and names are still being hammered out as some of the county’s estimated 700 marijuana farmers weigh in with a range of opinions. Calvino is meeting with groups and circulating a questionnaire seeking input.
For the Mendocino Appellation Project to succeed, the cannabis grown in different regions will have to be shown to have unique characteristics, something that Justin Calvino doesn’t doubt. Personally, I think that promoting different regions is a great idea and that it will help small farmers succeed in the burgeoning cannabis industry and has the potential to help consumers make informed decisions. I would love to see Oregon also capitalize on this idea as the two border states continue the friendly battle over who produces the best cannabis overall, and when you take into account the price, a debate that will rage on for some time.