CRAFTING A CULTURE
Part 3 of California Under The Sunrise Provision
“And I believe that the best learning process of any kind of craft is just to look at the work of others.”
– Wole Soyinka
From tea to technology, and wine to OG Kush, we are a species ready to find a new product, service, community or culture that means something to our everyday lives, and cannabis is no exception. This life-giving plant, a source of many creations and cures, has shared its wisdom and bounty with our world for millennia. But for all that has transpired in its American cultivation, cannabis, and the community that surrounds it, are experiencing a new evolution in how the future will look, feel and consume. This new craft strain has already been planted in the American cannabis DNA and is altering the future of consumers, producers and growers alike. Legacy communities are this craft strain, and they are maturing rapidly in the fertile ground of Prop. 64’s sunrise provision, and flowering through advocates like the Executive Director of the California Growers Association (CGA), Hezekiah Allen.
Culture is many things to many people, from being considered a complex system of beliefs, art, morals, and laws, all the way down to simply being a way of living. But no matter the theory, one thing remains certain, whoever creates the culture, defines the culture, and the cannabis culture has seeded a new course in history.
Cannabis culture is thousands of years old and ranges from entheogenic use within Hindu or Rastafarian customs to the creative catalysts of the Romanticism era writers in the Parisian Club des Hashischins. Even our modern-day subscriptions of growing hemp for commercial fibers or CBD extractions has proliferated its own language, etiquette, art, literature, and music that will have lasting effects on our history. This new future, designed by the consumer and advocate alike, is on behalf of a community that crafted the cannabis we all know and love, the legacy community
THIS SEED'S DAY IN THE SUN
Any person that grows something, whether it be a plant, a brand, or a baby, all know that there is a fine line between cultivating something great and cultivating something that serves another purpose, which is sometimes not so great. Fragile roots can break, the tides of change can overthrow, but a memorable harvest from hard work and diligence can produce results that raise even the frailest of seed to the glory of the sun.
The grower members of the CGA understand growing a strong cannabis culture, and their Executive Director, Hezekiah Allen, brought this point clearly into the light during an interview we held with him about implementing Proposition 64 and legacy communities last week.
– Where do you see the greatest opportunity for legacy (or artisanal) cannabis farmers within Prop. 64 or under the current trailer bill?
“There are a couple of tools out there. First and foremost, tiered licensing is a really fundamental building block. Having smaller and medium scale licenses really allows the grower to dial in specifically to get fees and requirements that are equivalent to their level of commercial activity. Prop. 64 adds the micro-business license, which allows for any of the product specialty or small-scale growers to diversify their product offering through streamlined permitting for manufacturing, allowing for some consumer-direct access through limited scale retail, and allowing the business to be their own distributor. That’s a really important unit. I think the system of appellations is also a very important tool. Right now, as written, appellations apply to origin, so an area that has a legacy value-added production, like Humboldt, could realize the equivalent of Napa or Mendocino, Sonoma. There are a number of regions throughout California that do have some renown value in the marketplace, appellations will allow those communities to protect those marketing resources.
A few of the additions that we (CGA) are seeking, before offering our support (to the trailer bill), would be first an expansion to those appellations sections. Right now it only includes origin. We (CGA) would like to see that include standards, practices, and varietals as well. Standards is pretty easy, if somebody is 100% rain-water storage, that means that they would be able to put that on their label, and somebody that wasn’t meeting that standard would actually be committing a crime if they would tell people, use those words, or even deceive a consumer into believing. But I think, more importantly, is varietals. One of the doomsday scenarios, of course, is that a large conglomerate will capitalize, and move very quickly in patenting IP and genetics, and the legacy growers loose the seed stock and genetics that they have worked so hard and built so much of their culture on. This (amendment) would allow for the establishment of common ownership, recognized varietals, and it would give a public process for recognizing those varietals. That is an important issue that a lot of the legacy farmers here in California are unifying around.
Secondly, and I think this is probably the most important piece of the puzzle that is currently not on the table, we (CGA) are holding out for this (to be included) in the trailer bill; the ability to form agricultural co-ops. We know that the cannabis marketplace in the next few years is going to see significant transitions, and businesses will be operating with much higher efficiencies and scale, and so the agricultural co-op allows the state to realize those efficiencies while ensuring that the value is being returned to the individual family farm unit. In the 1970’s when it was developed, it was a really progressive idea to help small farms, and I think applying that concept to the emerging cannabis marketplace is critical to the survival of a lot of these smaller, legacy, artisan growers.”
When many American consumers think about culture, the staple areas of their everyday lives usually come to mind. Food, drink, and lifestyles normally top their lists, and California has long supplied consumers with a plethora of culture creations that satisfy even the most sophisticated palates. But where other states have allowed cannabis to become a big-business model, California’s ability to transform dull into delightful is not stopping at craft cannabis either. Once again, the golden state is setting the standard in what other states have lost through lack of regulation and advocacy, a recognition of the legacy communities that are at the heart of the craft industry. The sunrise provision is the trendsetter, and the rest of the country is closely watching the adult use of marijuana act (Prop. 64) for what the budding landscape of the cannabis craft culture holds.
CULTIVATING THE CRAFT
California’s world-renowned wine producers in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino have already set high standards in establishing brand distinctions based off of centuries-old concepts like appellation and terroir, and the emerging craft cannabis culture is in a perfect place to capture this known branding too. Part of this new culture’s increasing landscape is clear in a number of specialty events, forums, and the trend setters that are appearing every day, throughout the industry and beyond. Noteworthy culturists, such as the inaugural Wine & Weed Symposium, The Ganjier, or Colorado’s cannabis sommelier, Cultivating Spirits, and prestigious viticulturists turned cannabis growers, like prominent winegrower Phil Coturri, are showcased by International press daily. Mr. Coturri has forecasted the future cannabis culture, citing the dichotomy between distinctive high-end effects enjoyed from a finely crafted cannabis strain to the lesser-desired conglomerate grows slated for mass-consumption, which he has already deemed “Walmart pot”. With one fell swoop, a line-in-the-sand is now drawn that focuses cannabis on becoming artisanal in nature or be forever deemed secondary. And thus, a cannabis culture becomes even more finely defined.
However, culture isn’t exclusively designated by only one part of a community. Other fields within this craft landscape are rising up along the widely known names, and while they are ancillary in scope, they hold an intimately curated environment for the consumer and legacy member alike. California’s cannabis culture, and other states such as Colorado, are helping to orchestrate a well-rounded calendar full of events that speak the same language as any of your local farmer’s markets, art fairs or private functions. Environments that are on the front-fields of society are taking root in this new world, such as the Mendocino country Spring Market Day, the Cannabis Country Fair, and the Emerald Exchange Farmer’s Market in Malibu. These homegrown event organizers see the panorama of the emerging craft culture clearly in front of them, and one such organizer, Tim Blake of the Spring Market Day, is making his advocacy known by creating the market framework for the legacy communities. Tim states that even though big business cultivators have the financial backing and industrial scale to muscle out smaller producers, legacy communities have effective tools and platforms for which to market their own brands. Further stating that if legacy communities bring a more conscientious effort to brand their products, his event, and others, will give legacy communities the chance they need to thrive.
Such events in California are helping to flush out the soil surrounding the legacy community roots and turning blossoming buds to full-fledged financial flowers. States that are about to turn recreational, or those still in medicinal or advocacy models, can learn a thing or two from what is budding in the California craft legacy culture, and Hezekiah Allen helps explain things even further…
– What legislation would you propose for other states that haven’t gone recreational yet, to protect their legacy communities?
“The number one thing that can be done to keep small farms on the landscape is to limit the amount of a commodity that can be grown. The current (Prop. 64) trailer bill proposes the same limitations that were included in the (California) medical cannabis regulation. The challenge of commodity marketplaces is obvious, that if there is no limitation on supply, then you grow more, and collapse the market and margins become thinner and quality over quantity growers eventually lose their ability to compete. The other reason that I think this is a really important policy for states regulating cannabis to consider is that the marketplace is constrained artificially by the continued federal prohibition. Here in California, for example, it’s only going to take about fivethousand acres to produce all the cannabis consumed in the state, that could hypothetically be from one single farm. We need to make sure that is not the case. So those limitations on scale are just a starting point and then beyond that, the co-op is a really good way to make sure that when you limit the scale you don’t hurt the consumer because you can still scale up. You can still realize the efficiencies through cooperative, and so you get all the benefits of that one five-thousand-acre farm without forcing the individual farmers off the land. So, the limitations on scale, combined with a very clear framework for cooperative agriculture I think will be very important.”
Okay, so a cannabis craft culture is afoot. But what does this mean for my business? And better yet, how can I harvest success in this brave new world?
As our sunrise provision series has mapped out (part 1, part 2), there are key points of understanding the Prop. 64 road map pivotal to creating the successes seen by others and evolving towards this new craft culture on a daily basis.
Prop. 64 has built a framework for legacy communities to thrive within based on special provisions allowing regulatory structures, local control, worker protections, criminal justice reforms, and the anti-monopoly provisions to aid small cannabis business operations. But some of these provisions, like specific license types, only last for the first five years, so the time to create specialty branding or marketing and to become a part of the new craft culture is now.
Recreational states have seen a monumental uptick in the number of craft cannabis products consumers are demanding as a result of specialty knowledge and events such as cannabis sommelier courses, cannabis culinary tourism, and even cannabis bridal expos. The Mendocino Appellations Project, and Swami Select are already labeling cannabis appellations because unlike regulated viticulture industries such as wine, cannabis has no federal oversight for the recognitions others have to constantly prove.
A craft culture is maturing, and CannaVerse is here to harvest your brand with you. Although, it does take a village to bring a great harvest to market, and part of this community that stands along CannaVerse’s side are the coalitions of farmers like True Humboldt, and the boots-on-the-ground activists, like the CGA’s Executive Director, Hezekiah Allen. Mr. Allen helps wrap up our sunrise provision series by helping us to see the green-gold at the end of the craft culture’s rainbow… regulations to help keep legacy communities in place.
– What other parts of the North American hemisphere have the same agricultural benefits for growing cannabis that Humboldt county has?
“Cannabis evolved anywhere from 0 degrees latitude to about 46 degrees north or south, because of that, there are varietals that perform best at every latitude. Humboldt was the first place where the folks really took the time to go out and find those varietals, my grandparents went to the places that were on the same place on the globe, where cannabis had been cultivated since time immemorial and that was where we started. Right now, the most commercially viable strains really take to about 40 degrees north to about 44 degrees north, Northern California, Southern Oregon and the PNW.
There is a tremendous diversity of undiscovered commercially viable strains out there. Once the other geographies start opening up, as long as that culture, the craft culture, remains alive, we might not have the commercially viable strains for New Mexico now, but we will in ten years if this culture remains a fixture of the marketplace.
So I guess your question a minute ago, what advice do I have (for legacy farmers). The other advice would be to figure out what crops are going to grow the best in your state and focus on that. Not every state is going to produce every cannabis product, there is really a broad diversity of opportunity out there, everywhere.”
Indeed, we are living in a tremendous opportunity for craft cannabis to thrive in this new culture, and many unknown opportunities are still completely up for grabs. CannaVerse has joined the advocates, culturists, growers, producers and consumers alike to usher in our new era. Join us, and let’s make a new cannabis culture history, together!
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