Cannabis growers in California are mimicking fine wine branding in an effort to separate their product from the increasing quantity of cheaply produced, lower quality weed hitting the state marketplace.

Cultivators in Mendocino County are attempting to gain legal status that will certify their pot was grown in a specific geographical region, and thereby has qualities different from bud grown in other parts of the state, as reported by the Press Democrat.

The wine industry has a similar system, called appellations. When a bottle of wine says Napa or Sonoma Valley, that’s actually a legal distinction certified by the government, which states where the grapes were grown. That distinguishes a wine produced in Napa from Two Buck Chuck or Carlo Rossi.

The California cannabis business is on the boom (Fortune Magazine has projected it will hit $6.7 billion this year) and it’s about to boom a lot harder if weed goes legal this November. That means more and more cheaply produced marijuana is going to flood the market, bud produced in megafarms without the care put in required to get quality product.

That’s why growers in areas like Mendocino County can’t just make better weed, they need to be able to convince consumers that their weed is better, so that it rises above the tons and tons of junky pot out there.

These mega-producers might be able to get high potency, but any discerning pothead knows that THC percentage isn’t what makes great bud. If high alcohol content was what made for good wine, then “Mad Dog 20/20 would win all the contests,” as Justin Calvino puts it.

Calvino is a longtime cannabis industry insider, a former “Haight-Ashbury dope dealer,” as the Press Democrat called him. He’s now one of the Mendocino farmers angling for regional appellations. “We’re trying to refine the palate,” he told PD. “This is the part of the industry that’s most exciting.”

The idea is to brand Mendocino and other regions with qualities specific to their terrain. The amount of sun, amount of rain, type of soil, and other crops, all affect the body and flavor of a bud, just like they do a grape. Calvino wants not only a legal certification for Mendocino County, but also eleven smaller sub-regions to distinguish between the vast terrain of the county.

Farmers in Central Coast and Sierra Nevada are attempting appellations as well. The state Department of Food and Agriculture has to approve the appellations, and can do so only after farmers prove there is a substantial difference in the quality of cannabis grown in their region.


Photo via Flickr user Dan Goofy