BRANDED Local cannabis entrepreneurs believe a 'Grown in Sonoma' label will distinguish the industry.
Whether it's Crane melons, Lagunitas IPA or the North Bay Bohemian, it's about branding a distinct product. Now, California cannabis farmers want to brand their marijuana. If all goes according to plan, a grower in Fresno will not be legally allowed to sell weed under the "Sonoma" label, but someone in Kenwood or Petaluma will. "Go local" will translate into money.
Former Bohemian editor, Gretchen Giles, jumped on the cannabis-branding bandwagon earlier this year by volunteering with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to develop guidelines for cannabis appellations. She helped move the process along at meetings of the Sonoma Valley Cannabis Enthusiasts, an organization that wants Sonoma Valley weed to be as well-known globally as Sonoma Valley wine.
Giles says appellations are legislatively mandated to be part of the cannabis picture as early as 2021, and that "the state of California is 'looking forward to the day cannabis is legal nationally and sold internationally.'" She adds, "Italy protects Parmigiano Reggiano and France protects Champagne. California will do the same for Sonoma County and Emerald Triangle weed."
The label "Grown in Sonoma" will greatly help farmers who cultivate weed in direct sun and good soil, without chemical herbicides and pesticides, and who allow crops to reach maturity.
The Sonoma label will also mean something to consumers such as Paul G. in New York who enjoy Sonoma weed and wine.
"When I smoke marijuana from Sonoma Valley, I think of the landscape, the climate and the farmers—the terroir, as the French call it," he says. "It's not from anywhere, but from a specific place I feel connected to."
Governor Newsom helped overcome some hurdles last month when he signed SB 185, a bill drafted by Senator Mike McGuire who is looking out for some of his own constituents in the Emerald Triangle.
"Customers have come to expect truth in labeling in wine," McGuire said in a press release. "This bill ensures that manufacturers market products that meet similar appellation requirements with cannabis."
The California State Association of Counties, the Humboldt County Growers Alliance and the California Cannabis Industry Association have all endorsed McGuire's bill. "Sonoma Weed" here we come.
Jonah Raskin is the author of "Dark Day, Dark Night: A Marijuana Murder Mystery."