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What’s in a Name? The Californian Cannabis Appellations Promise

Taking lead from the Champagne region of France, growers have sought to establish Californian cannabis appellations for their crops.

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PHOTO | M J Rockwell
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Legal recreational cannabis sales kicked off in California on January 1st, 2018. However, the state has been aware that small-batch, craft cannabis growers have sought to establish Californian cannabis appellations for their crops well before legalization happened.

What is an Appellation of Origin?

Appellation comes from the French verb, ‘appeller’, to name. An Appellation of Origin (AO) is a very special internationally recognized name. It’s a designation within the larger Geographical Indication system that’s used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. Think Champagne.

The celebrated sparkling wine of the Champagne region of France is the most commonly recognized international product we all know by its unique high… and it’s AO. Others you may already enjoy at your table include Bordeaux wine, Mexican Tequila and Roquefort cheese.

These distinct, high-quality products have been awarded AO designations because they passed rigorous tests and had those tests verified. By doing so they proved that their superior qualitative characteristics are a result exclusively of their place — their origin. Place is shaped by the region’s unique environmental factors, cultural heritage, production practices and resulting legacy of regional crop varietals.

Are you starting to think Humboldt, Mendocino, The Emerald Triangle? Exactly.

Why Do Californian Cannabis Appellations Matter for Craft Farmers?

Some 25,000 people attended MJBiz Con in Las Vegas this November, the biggest cannabis business conference in the United States. Across the country, large-scale farms are being financed and positioned for the anticipated global cannabis commodities market. Meanwhile, heritage and craft cannabis farmers in California are struggling to stay afloat amid complicated and ever-changing state regulations, while limited to an under-developed legal local consumer base.

Internationally, there have been cannabis production regions within China, Morocco, India, Nepal and Pakistan for centuries, where regulations are yet to be implemented giving these legacy farmers access to a legal market.

What can small, traditional farms around the world do to compete?

Differentiate.

Appellations are an international means to differentiate products and have the potential to create a path forward for traditional, legacy, craft cannabis farmers — if they can hold on long enough for the market to support them. And many of them cannot.

Small farmers are selling their farms, giving up on cannabis as a crop, losing their farms to the bank, and to unscrupulous investors. At the beginning of 2018, California Growers Association estimated there were there were 68,000 cannabis farms in California. Humboldt County officials estimated between 6,000 and 15,000 thousand grows throughout the county. As of October, the state had only issued some 5000 temporary cultivation licenses and by November, only seven full licenses.

So in five years, will even a quarter of the Humboldt farmers still be cultivating? Probably not.

For those family farmers who can make it through on their own, in co-ops or with the help of investors with integrity, the positive outlook is that the looming commodities market and the craft market compliment each other. For example, commodity cannabis fuels affordable products for general consumption, filling the seemingly endless demand for vape pen oils that largely taste the same. Craft cannabis aims for the unique quality niche, for the connoisseur consumer who appreciates and will pay for the unique traits that result because of place, person and process.

PHOTO: Swami Select

Who’s Working on It?

It’s the connoisseur consumer in whom Genine Coleman, Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Mendocino Appellations Project (MAPS), has faith.

“Cannabis at its best is an expression of place,” said Coleman. It’s an annual adaptogen, that responds greatly to its environment, to the soil, water, sunlight, farmers and their techniques. Together these factors create what the French have termed ‘terroire’. Appellations will allow us to unlock how to potentiate the unique and alluring traits of cannabis. We’re on a very mysterious and sensual journey.”

Coleman comes with an extensive marketing background including working for Whole Foods during their climb to great success in the late 90s into the 2000s. “Whole Foods succeeded because they made decisions based on what the consumer wanted,” said Coleman with confidence.

Cannabis consumers are expected to be the same, once they are educated about their options. Currently, many self-described, but as of yet uneducated, foodies are smoking hydroponic cannabis grown in warehouses in the desert, fed with standardized, bottled fertilizers. Given the option, many of them would opt for sun-grown, family farm raised products, with the richest terpene profiles, and a story of place.

Education is key.

Coleman has co-led the MAPs team in coalition building and educating over the last 18 months, collaborating with local and global strategic partners developing proposals for environmental, botanical and social research in the coming year, and educating and developing public policy. Because cannabis has been effectively illegal for 80 plus years, gathering data and educating the global community are essential to support the shift to an international market with a place for craft farmers.

What’s Next?

Most recently, MAP was a member of the coalition which submitted a paper to the World Health Organization (by invitation) called “The Importance of Appellations of Origin to the Successful Therapeutic Model of Whole Plant Cannabis.” The 41st Expert Committee on Drug Dependence reviewed it in November and will be offering recommendations based on their findings to the United Nations’ Commission on Narcotic Drugs, possibly pushing forward a positive change in the scheduling status of cannabis within international conventions.  

In 2017 California passed a law mandating that the California Department of Food and Agriculture develop a geographic indication system for cannabis, including Appellation of Origin designation to be implemented by 2021. CDFA’s CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Division is in the process of research, soliciting stakeholder input and scoping the regulatory and programmatic frameworks for the CalCannabis Appellations Project. They have much to accomplish in the next two years.

What’s an Aficionado to Do?

Today’s cannabis aficionados are proud to be on the cutting edge of this mysterious and sensual journey with cannabis herself and the farmers who bring out her best traits. They are the connoisseurs that seek out and appreciate quality, thereby fueling the existing and future craft market.

Pick a small farm or coop who’s cannabis you admire and get to know them. Look them up on Instagram, follow them, ask for and purchase their products, give them as gifts, tell your friends, send a love note. Indulge in the terpene-rich, unique strains from the small farmers you want to see thrive in the coming international cannabis market.

To give them a chance to make it there.

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Culture

Stuff & Puff Berner’s New Cali Pre-Roll

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Cali
PHOTO | VIBES

Cannabis mogul Berber is about to drop the latest must-have pre-roll paper from his premium rolling paper brand, Vibes. A new alternative to the traditional cone, The Cali is a cylindrical pre-roll tube that’s been designed for optimum airflow for the optimal smoking experience.

In a press release, the Bay Area rapper says that he’s been rolling for over 20 years, and that over that time, he was constantly told by friends that they would smoke joints over blunts if they could roll them. So he and Vibes co-founders Greenlane developed this innovative alternative.

PHOTO: Vibes

“As passionate smokers, and connoisseurs, we are gonna continue to focus on quality papers and products that consumers are missing, such as The Cali,” said Berner in a press release.

“All you have to do is stuff and puff with The Cali.”

The Cali is dedicated to those of us who like a big-smoke experience. We found the papers to burn very evenly and smoothly. They are also easy to extinguish and relight,  and even burn evenly in areas where I packed too tightly or too loose (deliberately, before y’all start commenting). 

Plus, The Cali pre-rolls are massive, so make sure you have plenty of herb on hand for your next session to fully enjoy the experience either with your homies or when you’re chilling alone.

The Cali Collection | PHOTO: Vibes

The Cali is offered in three sizes — one, two, and three gram — across all four signature Vibes paper collections: Ultra Thin, Rice, Hemp, and Organic Hemp

Look for Vibes papers at your local retailer nationwide.

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Culture

Psychonauts Celebrate Magic Mushroom Day

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Magic Mushrooms Day

September 20 is Magic Mushroom Day. Similarly to stoners celebrating 4/20 and 7/10, and LSD enthusiasts celebrating 4/19, entheogenic communities around the world celebrate the psychedelic renaissance on 9/20.

The concept was coined in 2015 when Nicholas Reville, a mushroom advocate from Providence, Rhode Island, declared September 20 as an “educational day of action,” apparently citing the spirit of 4/20 as an opportunity to talk about psilocybin reform, regulations and, of course, rejoice in the magic of psychedelics.

“9/20 was chosen because it is at the beginning of autumn, when mushrooms are most plentiful; because it is close to the equinox, representing a change in direction; and because it echoes 4/20 and the successful movement for marijuana decriminalization and legalization,” said Reville in an interview with Rolling Stone.

Magic Mushrooms: The Next “Green” Wave?

Interest around the benefits and effects of psilocybin, the main active ingredient in magic mushrooms, has been steadily growing over the last number of years, with legalization closely following.

In May 2019, Denver became the first city to decriminalize psilocybin. Oakland soon followed with its own law in June that same year, decriminalizing plant and fungi psychedelics.

At the last election in 2020, Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin with Measure 109 for mental health treatment in supervised settings.

At the same time, the District of Columbia decriminalize the use of magic mushrooms and other psychedelic substances with the passage of Initiative 81.

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Culture

Peep the Pepsi x Dapper Dan Football Watching Capsule Collection

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Pepsi x Dapper Dan
Photos | Courtesy of Pepsi

Pepsi has partnered with Harlem-based designer and streetwear legend, Dapper Dan, to create The Pepsi x Dapper Dan Football Watching Capsule Collection.

As part of the Pepsi “Made for Football Watching” NFL campaign, the iconic collaboration brings the football fan apparel game to the next level with this limited-edition capsule collection created for fans to show up in style, no matter where they’re watching.

The Pepsi x Dapper Dan Football Watching Capsule Collection features fashion-forward football-watching pieces including a lounger, hoodie, bucket hat, and custom-patterned Pepsi can to ensure fans are fitted and geared up for every touchdown, sack and fumble.

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