- Posted by Ryan Reaves
- On August 25, 2017
- appellation, appellation of origin, AUMA, cannabis, commercial cannabis, cultivation, MAUCRSA, Prop 64
The purpose of this article is to introduce the idea of cannabis appellations to an audience that is unfamiliar with the term or topic. CannaBusiness Law has written previously on The Mendocino Appellations Project which began in 2015 and “is working to develop appellation of origin designations & protections” in Mendocino County. The California Grower’s Association has also been hugely instrumental in advocating for cannabis appellation standards. In an interview with Wine Industry Advisor, Hezekiah Allen, Executive Director of the CGA, describes his efforts to advocate for appellations for cannabis in a regulated market from as early as 2006. Mr. Allen presented a draft cannabis appellations map produced by the CGA at the 2017 Weed & Wine Symposium.
The Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) signed into law by Governor Brown expands on the scope of appellation standards first introduced by MCRSA and AUMA. Under MAUCRSA, the California Department of Food and Agriculture will create a process by which licensed cultivators may establish appellations of standards, practices, and varietals applicable to cannabis grown in certain geographical area in California no later than January 1, 2021.
What is an appellation of origin?
“An appellation of origin is a special kind of geographical indication generally consisting of a geographical name or a traditional designation used on products which have a specific quality or characteristics that are essentially due to the geographical environment in which they are produced”. – WIPO
Californians should be somewhat familiar with appellations in relation to wine production and labeling standards. For wine, “appellations of origin are the place names that describe where the grapes that make up a given wine were grown. There are rules controlling the statement of appellation on the label, all of which are aimed at making sure that the label of the product accurately reflects what is inside the bottle.” (Alcohol.Law) This is precisely why champagne produced in California must be labeled as “sparkling wine” because the grapes are not grown in the Champagne region of France which has its own appellation of origin laws.
Appellation labeling standards and practices will be a significant feature for outdoor commercial cultivators in Northern California where many cultivators believe that the unique climate and soil composition produces some of the best cannabis flower in the world. Essentially, if a cultivator wants to claim that the cannabis flower they produce came from soil in Humboldt, Trinity, or Mendocino county, there will be a process by 2021 to qualify flower for an appellation of origin label which will be included on product packaging as a guarantee for the consumer that the flower they are purchasing originated from a specific geographical region.
Thinking Ahead: Interstate and International Cannabis Markets
Many commercial cannabis business owners and cultivators are simply trying to manage the regulatory instability that has come to define the experience shared by those in the industry. Planning long-term business models can be difficult to produce. Policy makers and advocates interested in cementing cannabis as a recognized Californian craft good like artisan beers and wines are challenged to think beyond 2021 to a day when cannabis is federally recognized and we can begin to establish standards for interstate and international trade.
It is recognized that, although illegal under state and federal law, California produces cannabis that is often trafficked to an untold number of other states and countries. California cannabis has been and will likely continue to be in high demand due to its quality and uniqueness. Not only is the climate in Northern California favorable for large scale outdoor cultivation, many California cultivators have been growing and developing strain genetics for generations. We have an economic advantage both in terms of usable land, artisan skill, and experience which ensures that California cannabis is held in high regard globally.
When interstate and international commerce become available to licensed California cultivators and producers, the appellation standards will be a decisive feature which will set California cannabis flower apart from cannabis produced elsewhere.
If you have any further questions about appellations, cannabis policy, or are otherwise interested in Cannabusiness, please contact CannaBusiness Law for legal assistance in compliance with cannabis licensing, permitting and the application process relating to commercial cannabis.
Featured Image By: Makenna Rae Photography