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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

Tyson 2.0 Launches New Mike Bites Cannabis Gummies

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Mike Bites

Nearly 25 years after he was disqualified from the World Boxing Association Heavyweight Championship for biting his opponent’s ears, Mike Tyson’s Tyson 2.0 cannabis brand has just released ear-shaped edibles, Mike Bites.

The new ear-shaped edibles are complete with a missing chunk where Tyson removed a portion of Evander Holyfield’s cartilage in what became known as The Bite Fight. After Tyson bit off a chunk of Holyfield’s ear, the 1997 match resumed. However, after attempting to snack on Holyfield’s second ear, Tyson was disqualified and his boxing licence was withdrawn. The Nevada State Athletic Commission handed Tyson a a $3 million fine for his actions and he didn’t fight again for over a year.

Mike Bites gummies will be sold at dispensaries in California, Massachusetts and Nevada.

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Culture

Wiz Khalifa Debuts New Taylor Gang x Stündenglass Collab

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Taylor Gang x Stündenglass
PHOTO | Stündenglass

Wiz Khalifa and his entertainment company Taylor Gang Ent. have collaborated with Stündenglass, the world’s first gravity-powered infuser, to introduce the iconic gold and black Taylor Gang x Stündenglass.

“I’m honored to have collaborated with long time friend Wiz Khalifa, who is as passionate about this product as I am. Our mutual admiration for Stündenglass made it a natural collaboration,” Stündenglass CEO Chris Folkerts said via a press release.

Taylor Gang x Stündenglass is an authentic collaboration developed after the multi-platinum-selling, Grammy-winning, Golden Globe-nominated Khalifa discovered Stündenglass and began enjoying it regularly as seen on his Instagram.

“I love my Stündenglass, and I’m pumped everyone gets to experience this with me now,” Khalifa.

The Taylor Gang x Stündenglass. PHOTO | Courtesy of Stündenglass

The infuser features a patented 360-degree gravity system that elicits a powerful and immersive experience. It generates kinetic motion activation via cascading water, opposing airflow technology and the natural force of gravity.

The Taylor Gang gravity bing comes in an exclusive black and gold colorway and features two glass globes on a metal base made of aircraft-grade aluminum, surgical grade stainless steel, and high-quality Teflon seals.

Taylor Gang includes artists Ty Dolla $ign, Juicy J, and Berner among others — the former of which has his own line Stündenglass collab with his Cookies brand.

“We’re very excited to launch the official Taylor Gang x Stündenglass. We use glass in our everyday lives, so it only made sense to team up and create an exclusive Taylor Gang collaboration for the fans,” Taylor Gang said.


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Culture

No Super Bowl for Brock Ollie

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Brock Ollie

With medicinal marijuana being legal in 37 states and recreational cannabis allowed in 18, we should be seeing commercials for companies, products, and services almost as frequently as commercials for sports betting, which is permitted in 30 states in some form.

However, mainstream cannabis advertising continues to be non-existent, as demonstrated in the recent news that NBC has rejected an ad by cannabis e-commerce and advertising platform Weedmaps from being shown during the Super Bowl LVI event his coming Sunday.

Weedmaps reportedly approached the network late last year about airing a Super Bowl commercial that would be “similar to a PSA,” according to reports. Execs volunteered to present some of their earlier educational-based programming, assuring NBC executives that it would not contain any direct-sell messages, which are still forbidden under federal law.

“The answer was a hard no — they wouldn’t even entertain the conversation,” Weedmaps Chief Operating Officer Juanjo Feijoo told Adweek. “We see ourselves as trying to be trailblazers in the industry and making new inroads where others haven’t gone before in cannabis advertising. So it was disappointing.”

The contentious ad personifies cannabis as Brock Ollie, a head of broccoli, the veggie emoji commonly used as a visual representation of cannabis in marketing. The 30-second ad takes viewers through a day in the life of Brock Ollie, whose superfood identity is in jeopardy as he is repeatedly misidentified as cannabis. The ad offers a lighthearted take on the industry’s issues, such as social media censorship and a lack of clear advertising standards, which limit cannabis-related commercials during nationally televised events like the Super Bowl.

“Despite three quarters of the country having legalized cannabis and the bipartisan enthusiasm we continue to see in support for change at the federal level, the industry continues to face roadblocks that inhibit competition in the legal market and stifle opportunities to educate,” Chris Beals, CEO of Weedmaps said. “There’s an irony in the fact that the biggest night for advertising will feature an array of consumer brands in regulated industries, from beverage alcohol to sports betting, yet legal cannabis retailers, brands and businesses have been boxed out.”

The game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams will be played Sunday in L.A.

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