From Maui Wowie to Durban Poison to Acapulco Gold to Humboldt OG, cannabis strains often boast their geographic origin in their names. However, there is currently no system of enforcement that keeps any cannabis strain from claiming it comes from a place that it did not, in fact, come from. And if your dealer tells you they have some quality California pot, you have no way of knowing if that is true or if it is merely something grown in their buddy’s garage in Kentucky. But such a system of enforcement is right around the corner. An official appellation system certifying a strain’s locale of cultivation — based on a system already in place for wine — is coming to California.
In the wine industry, there is a well-established concept of terroir, defined as the mixture of traits produced by a particular region’s climate, soil and terrain that affect the taste of wine. Beginning over 80 years ago in (of course) France, the wine industry has established a certification system giving each production region an appellation. For example, only sparkling wine grown in the Champagne region of France is allowed to call itself champagne; the rest must stick to being sparkling wine.
California, with its legendary climate conducive to outdoor cultivation, is the first U.S. state to move toward adopting such a system for cannabis. Many of its locales, particularly the Emerald Triangle counties of Humboldt and Mendocino, have long been practically synonymous with high-quality bud in popular culture. Small growers are especially hoping that this cachet can give them an edge over the industrial-scale cannabis operations now emerging on the agribusiness holdings of the Central Valley and Salinas Valley.
Why Do Legacy California Cannabis Growers Want an Appellation System?
Senate Bill 185, establishing a cannabis appellation system, was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 17. Its chief champion was Sen. Mike McGuire, whose Healdsburg district is in the heart of Sonoma County’s wine country. One county to the north, the Mendocino Appellations Project is at the forefront of designing such a system for cannabis. Since 2015, it has been mapping the micro-regions of Mendocino, dividing the county into 11 zones by distinctive soil and climatic conditions.
The California Cannabis Industry Association is now hoping to apply such mapping statewide.
“This is really an effort to help those small farmers in rural areas to make sure they’re competitive and make sure we have a diversified market here in