By LeeWEpstein

October 23, 2020


The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, signed Senate Bill 67 at the beginning of October, which paves the way for the commercialization of cannabis under a designation of origin.

The bill states that “product claiming an ‘appellation of origin’ from a region of California must have been grown in the open ground and with the sun of that region – in other words, without artificial light or shelter, such as a glass greenhouse or plastic tunnel. 

It also requires that the program developed by the California Department of Food and Agriculture be launched before January 1, 2021, as already required by Senate Bill 185.

Until now, many cannabis growers have focused on variety and THC content to market their crops, the equivalence of what would be a “grape variety” and a “percentage of alcohol” with wine. The appellations of origin of California cannabis will imitate those of wine-growing areas that already allow winemakers to place this geographical designation on their labels.

For both cannabis and wine, the appellation would be defined by exact geographic locations distinct from their immediate environment. The soil composition in which the plants grow, the quantity and duration of sun exposure, temperatures, and humidity during the day and night and water sources would define what is grown there. These factors thus show that the area of cultivation is unique and has significant differences in cultivation compared to the areas surrounding it, in short, that it meets the definition of terroir, as proposed since 2015 by Frenchy Cannoli.

As of January 2018, “county of origin” standards allow licensed growers to designate a country of origin for cannabis: Mendocino Grown or Humboldt Grown are popular names. These standards apply to all cannabis products, regardless of the method of cultivation. For using the designation, 100% of the cannabis must be produced in the designated county as defined by political boundaries.

The new Designation of Origin guidelines allows legal growers to recognize areas of cannabis cultivation that do not necessarily correspond to county boundaries. They also create requirements as to how cannabis is grown within these designations, although the new system is not intended to replace or override previous standards.

Creating the appellation system could be a way to avoid cultural homogenization, particularly for the benefit of small growers. Also, it highlights the geographical and meteorological factors which affect the flavor and potency of cannabis strains.

The Mendocino Appellations Project (MAP) has proposed 11 cannabis appellation districts, which could serve for future appellations.

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