California North Coast cannabis industry continues to be challenged, local experts say

This summer, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed in new laws cutting a cultivation tax placed on cannabis growers and shifting excise tax collection from distributors to retail businesses.

While industry representatives applauded, they acknowledged cannabis industry in California continues to face significant issues. Leaders of the cannabis industry in Sonoma, Mendocino and Marin counties addressed some of those issues in a Journal Q and A. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Too much weed on the market was the cry earlier this year by the industry. What, if anything, has changed? If nothing, is the industry still likely headed in the wrong direction?

Eli Buffalo: Too much weed on the market will always be a thing especially with the state allowing multi million square foot grows after originally putting into the regulations that they were going to put a 1-acre cap on all cannabis licenses for the first five years.

That swiftly went out the window without much notice until suddenly people started constructing massive cultivation spaces and flooding the market with terrible cannabis that could only be sold for cheap.

I really don’t see much change as far as over production goes and really hope that as a producer, I can do my part in educating the consumers about the importance of sustainable and environmentally conscious indoor cultivation and regenerative, OCal or other small craft sun grown farms cultivating with good intention and considering the environment while doing so.

Eli Buffalo

CEO and founder, Moon Valley Cannabis, Santa Rosa;

Business: Microbusiness, cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution

Bio: Born and raised in Sonoma, Eli Buffalo has been cultivating cannabis in Sonoma County since 2006.

He founded the company in late 2015. Completed in 2021, the Moon Valley Cannabis Sonoma County Microbusiness Facility is in Santa Rosa.

Scot Candell: California grows an incredible amount of high-quality cannabis – enough for the entire country.  The problem is that right now only black-market growers can benefit from this national demand.

For the short term, this supply demand inequity is great for California consumers but terrible for growers.  If growers can hang in there until cannabis becomes federally legal, they should be rewarded.

Scot Candell

CEO, CB Labs (, Scot Candell and Associates (, San Rafael

Businesses: Testing lab and law office

Bio: Scot Candell has been a cannabis attorney for over 25 years and started CB Labs in 2016.  He is also currently a council member for the city of Larkspur.

Dona Frank: No nothing has changed regarding a flooded cannabis market. In fact, the illegal cannabis market is stronger and more prosperous than ever.

Dona Frank

Managing owner, OrganiCann (cannabis retail), MendoCann (cannabis distribution), The Natural Cannabis Company (cannabis manufacturing), Santa Rosa;

Dona Frank, along with her business partner Lauren Gordon of The Natural Cannabis Company in Santa Rosa have been serving worldwide cannabis clients for almost 19 years. Together they have created several cannabis brands that are distributed statewide, including the annual “Best of The Harvest Box” as well as the quarterly HotBox Cannabis Collectors Series, all originating from the Emerald Triangle in Northern California

Frank and Gordon operate cannabis retail dispensaries, manufacturing and distribution facilities, cultivation sites,and an event center, all based in multiple California counties.

Antonio Frazier: There is still too much product in the market for the currently limited retail options. Over 50% of the state still have some type of ban on cannabis and the unregulated hemp market is making it almost impossible to convert consumers to legal cannabis.

Antonio Frazier

President, Sonoma Lab Works;

Business: Cannabis testing

Bio: Antonio Frazier was the first Furman University athlete to complete a dual-degree engineering program, and earned both a Bachelor of Science in physics from Furman and a Bachelor of Science in materials engineering from Clemson University — cum laude.

Frazier began his professional career as a nuclear quality engineer for the Tennessee Valley Authority, certifying and verifying the final construction of nuclear components. He then moved into aerospace engineering, performing quality assurance for the foundry, testing lab, heat treat, and special finishing departments for SKF USA in Maryland. He s actively involved in organizations like ASTM D37, ACIL, and UCBA. Antonio joined the Americans for Safe Access board in 2020.

Merril Gilbert: Overproduction and oversupply are not unique to cannabis. This happens in every industry with a distributed production network or multiple producers trying to get in at the same price point.

And just like in other industries, it’s an opportunity for the cream to rise to the top.

Instead of worrying about market glut, cannabis operators should focus on being the best in their price point and category offering. It's certainly not easy, but it is possible when brands concentrate on their target audience and differentiate their products through quality and craft

Merril Gilbert

CEO, TraceTrust, San Francisco;

Business: Operational consulting for compliance and manufacturing

Bio: Founded in 2016, TraceTrust is a nationwide cannabis and hemp manufacturing compliance company. TraceTrust recently initiated the formation of the Cannabis Compliance Alliance, a collaborative group created to establish the same risk management and product liability criteria recognized by all other industries. Co-founders are Merril Gilbert and Rhiannon Woo.

Annie Holman: California’s BIGGEST misstep: Proposition 64 gave municipalities the power to ban weed as they see fit and 68% of CA cities do not allow for cannabis industry, thus inhibiting the growth of the legal market, and supporting the still thriving illicit space.

All said, it is my opinion California has hit the bottom and the direction is UP. It is critical for our survival that the industry band back together, forms strategic partnerships and alliances.

And please stop using the words “fire sale” if you are advertising the sale of your business, you are not helping.

Annie Holman

Founder and CEO, The Galley, Santa Rosa;

Business: Cannabis co-manufacturing and distribution

Bio: Annie Holman has had a career spanning 25 years in marketing and media. She is also the former co-owner of California-based Derby Bakery Cannabis Edibles. Prior to the entering cannabis Holman ran a graphic design and public relations firm for 25 years.

Brandon Levine: There’s even more weed now!

Brandon Levine

CEO, Mercy Wellness, Doobie Nights, Cotati;,

Retail (vertically integrated), distribution, cultivation and manufacturing

Bio: Brandon Levine is the founder of Mercy Wellness of Cotati and CEO/Co-Founder of Doobie Nights, a themed dispensary using projection mapping.  Levine, a Sonoma County native, started Mercy in 2010 under Proposition 215.  Mercy was the first approved Adult-Use Dispensary in Sonoma County to open its doors after Prop 64 legalization on Jan. 1, 2018.

He holds a microbusiness license, two retail licenses, as well as an additional distribution and cultivation licenses from the Department of Cannabis Control.  The company reports Levine has developed and owns multiple product brands, and was the first to bring nanotechnology products to market.

Jason McHugh: Not too much has changed and there will always be too much weed in the California market until federal legalization kicks in someday.

The only thing the legal industry can hope for here in California is that  more local municipalities agree to having legal shops open up in their community and locales start embracing legal weed over illicit choices.  Most cannabis lover want to embrace legal weed but often times illicit weed is cheaper and more convenient especially during times with $7 dollar gas!

Jason McHugh

CEO and founder, Califari, Santa Rosa;

Business: Distribution

Califari is a California based art and distribution company, It opened a new cannabis distribution center in Santa Rosa in June 2022.

Julie Mercer-Ingram: Supply variations are a natural part of a nascent industry as we all attempt to predict demand. The challenge has been developing strong predictive models when external conditions are so dynamic.

The pandemic disrupted everything — including the cannabis industry — and the market is recalibrating to find its normal demand pattern.

The greater problem is that we have two models competing against each: the regulated, licensed cannabis businesses, and the unregulated, unlicensed operators.

That’s not a level playing field, and consumers are seeing the incredibly high tax rates in the regulated industry and voting with their wallets to opt instead for unregulated products. This is unfortunate on a number of levels, most importantly that unregulated products are not subject to testing or quality assurance and have the potential to cause serious harm to consumers.

Julie Mercer-Ingram

Founder and CEO, Proof;

Business: Cannabis manufacturer and distributor

Woman-owner and operated, the company stated all Proof products are vegan, sugar free, gluten free, cruelty-free, and made by hand in Northern California.

Pete Olander: The over production of cannabis in California has hurt the industry with the small farms getting hit the hardest.  As the larger players continue to build facilities and expand operations many of the smaller farms/business will not survive as they cannot make a profit with lower prices.

Pete Olander

Managing partner, CannaRosa and Happie, Santa Rosa;

Business: Cannabis manufacturing and distribution

Bio: Pete Olander founded Natural Recovery Greens in 2017, a wellness company offering CBD/Cannabis infused products including. Prior to entering the cannabis industry,he worked in the nutrition industry at Nutrition53 Its facility is located in Santa Rosa. His background also includes experience in Corporate Finance with JPMorgan Chase, the company stated.

Related to that, are illegal growers likely to be something the industry will need to live with, or should government or the industry itself do more about the issue?

Eli Buffalo: The Cannabis “Industry” was built upon “illegal grows” and they are not going anywhere. The environmental impact caused by some is definitely a problem and should for sure be addressed. But people should not be getting in trouble for growing a plant of any kind in my opinion.

Scot Candell: I am completely in favor of the reduction of cannabis crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.

However, with low penalties for illegal cultivation and high penalties for legal cultivation (taxes and regulations), I think illegal growers are not going anywhere.

Dona Frank: The government should rethink the current oppressive enforcement and punitive regulatory practices on the legal cannabis businesses. Reduction of taxes and permit fees would allow the legal cannabis businesses to thrive. Assessing $96,000 in permit fees annually without providing services and representative assistance to licensees is ludicrous.

Antonio Frazier: Until there is more retail access and tax relief, the illicit market will continue to thrive in California. There is a cannabis market in every CA town, it’s just a matter if taxes are collected off of the transaction.

Merril Gilbert: There will also always be unlicensed members of the industry, but they are not the enemy.

Lack of differentiation is the enemy. The government and the industry should approach the issue by addressing root causes, not symptoms, which are high taxation, lack of transparency, lack of access, and other barriers to entry. There are many reasons people are unlicensed.

The barrier to licensure is very high, and if you have a supply chain relationship spanning 25 years, unlicensed, why would you switch?

The industry must improve its storytelling and operations so more people understand why and how both markets exist, and to make it more beneficial for unlicensed operators to join. Taking them down is the least effective way to solve this problem.

Annie Holman: A better idea would be to bring Proposition 215 back, the medical use of cannabis. It is disgusting and shameful that our great state, who pioneered the medical cannabis industry, thus forging the paths for other states, doesn’t not, at present, have a true medical space.

These charitable community-based programs have been wiped out. Maybe if we focused efforts where we started 25+ years ago, there would be more room for all this “extra weed” and no one would have to be illegal. Pipe dream. Maybe. Maybe not.

Brandon Levine: The government is not going to be able to stop the black-market operators.  It’s a way of life.  They will have to create the pathway to do it legally and create incentives.

Jason McHugh: Well, we both need to learn to live with illegal growers and the government needs to do more as far as worst offenders are concerned - certain communities have gotten out of hand with eco-terrorism and dangerous conditions where workers are dying on illegal pot farms run by cartels.

Hearing about what some these illegal farms get away with is disheartening for everyone working in and jumping through the hoops that is legal cannabis.

At the same time - I feel like some of these legacy growers have no choice based on the state of the market, the prices to enter and the final margins of profit even available after all that work.

Julie Mercer-Ingram: Unregulated actors are a symptom of the larger problem, which is that, unfortunately, the State of California and local municipalities completely bungled things, creating laughably onerous regulations and eye-wateringly high tax rates.

Plenty of small family cannabis businesses would have loved to enter the regulated market and leapt at the opportunity to pay taxes and be formally recognized.

As a cannabis compliance attorney, I personally assisted many cottage businesses in their attempts to transition into the regulated model.

Time and again, though, I saw the complexity and cost chip away at these efforts, until folks just gave up.

Until the state reduces tax rates and license fees, clears the red tape, and intervenes so that local municipalities respond to the will of their voters and ensure access to regulated cannabis, unlawful activity is going to continue apace.

Pete Olander: The best way to compete with illegal growers is for the government to repeal 280e taxes and allow cannabis business to operate as all other Legal businesses.

As it stands right now legal cannabis business owners have a huge disadvantage as they are essentially taxed twice while the illegal operators don’t pay at all.   If the government allowed this playing field to be equal, prices of legal cannabis would be at or less than illegal cannabis but also be tested, safe and consistent which leads to a better consumer experience.

At the time of deregulation after the 2016 statewide vote, there was a push for cannabis tourism — making the tour of fields and/or “tastings” into an experience.  Are you on board that the vision of cannabis country becoming a lot like wine country is a solid one for the future of the North Bay’s tourism industry?

Eli Buffalo: I believe cannabis tourism is a great way to give a push to a lot of the small craft producers. If you have ever been to a regenerative farm filled with vibrant life and healthy plants and rich diversity, it is an amazing site to see, and many find great enjoyment in.

People come from all over the world to come drink wine in the hills of Sonoma Valley or to Jalisco Mexico to sip locally crafted tequila, and travel to all kinds of different places through the world to see and try and smell locally crafted goods and to be told a story of how that producer found their way into that specific region or what drove them to end up where they are today and for them to be able to share this with others.

People have been consuming cannabis from California for a long time and there are some that would love to enjoy the likes of such tourism and see some of these farms firsthand as they do with any other product in the world.

I would love to be able to invite people to come and tour our facility and to be able to get their hands in our soil and see the plants being grown and process and turned into hash and other products that they can taste and smell prior to being able to purchase directly from the farmer without the middleman mark ups and all the high taxes that drive the prices up. Like the way things used to be back in the prop 215 days.

Dona Frank: Absolutely! Our retail dispensaries serve a worldwide clientele due to our global High Art Contest.

Antonio Frazier: We certainly believe that our region is unique and has produced high quality wine products, and those same attributes also benefit cannabis growers.

Therefore, we should be excited about the potential to highlight our region in a similar way with cannabis, but this will be impossible until we provide farmers with more resources for success and provide more retail for their products.

Merril Gilbert: Cannabis has many similarities to wine and is an excellent addition to the North Bay’s tourism industry. There are unique cannabis terroirs that influence the plant’s terpene profiles and effects. Tours and ‘tastings can educate people more on the plant itself.

Tourism, and consumption lounges, will significantly impact the uptake of cannabis beverages and cannabis normalization overall. It’s a great way to introduce people from states with recent (or no) legalization to new products curated for different experiences in a safe setting.

Erin Gore: The idea of cannabis tourism in the North Bay is quite exciting to me. I married into a family who owns a well-known wine label and vineyard, so I see firsthand how important wine tourism is to not only the success of the industry but the surrounding economy.

Cannabis tourism will also be a huge opportunity for educating the consumer  – it will enable them to see how the cannabis plant is grown and see firsthand that cannabis is agriculture and should be viewed and treated as such.

There is so much beauty, education, and resources that cannabis tourism will bring to the North Bay – I look forward to the day when I can bring friends to tour the Garden Society farm partners and we can smoke one of our pre-rolls while learning about the land where the flower was grown.

Erin Gore

Founder and CEO, Garden Society, Sonoma;

Business: Cannabis brand

Bio: Garden Society, is a California-based cannabis-focused benefit corporation serving women.

Earning a degree in chemical and biological engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Erin Gore worked with her husband on their joint venture with Constellation Brands (Tom Gore Vineyards), and had a decade-long corporate career at Henkel, where she managed a global business valued at $100 million.

She is one the board of the International Cannabis Farmers Association and a member of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance and belongs to the Circular Board, a collaborative accelerator for women entrepreneurs.

Annie Holman: Yes! Yes! A big yes! I am already giving tours of my cannabis manufacturing facility to the canna-curious run through “A Sonoma County Experience.”

Normalizing hospitality and cannabis brings us closer to removing the social stigma. It also engages the consumer in brand identity, which leads to loyalty.  When I give a tour, folks are knowledge bound, highly interested and pepper me with well thought out questions. I absolutely embrace this movement.

Brandon Levine: I absolutely agree with the vision of the cannabis industry mirroring wine country. The time for cannabis tourism is here and now.  Mercy has serviced customers from over 7,200 zip codes. I am proud to say that Mercy is setting the standard.  We have been working with the City of Cotati to create a consumption ordinance and are in the process of opening our own onsite consumption lounge at Mercy’s flagship location in Cotati.

I also opened Doobie Nights in 2019.  Doobie is an immersive LED experience that has been featured in many culture magazines across the country.  We see people from all over the world come through our doors.

Jason McHugh: Our company is super excited about cannabis tourism in California and have created our entire line to create immersive cannabis art experiences for locals and most certainly tourists coming from all over the globe. Naturally Covid delayed all this, but we are developing a couple events that will cater to cannabis culture and ideally offer destinations for Cannabis tourists!

I think cannabis tourism will manifest in all kinds of ways, but the present laws don't make it easy for permanent tasting lounges and experiences yet that’s also why I see new types of events leading the way for Cannabis tourism in California.

Eli Melrod: Cannabis tourism is a huge opportunity for the North Bay. Similar to why people visit this region to experience wine and food, I think people definitely want to see and experience where and how cannabis is grown. We have so much rich history here, with the best cannabis cultivators in the world; it will be an exciting opportunity for people to see first-hand how world-class cannabis is grown.

And as we journey down this road, I hope the cannabis tourism space can be built in a way that celebrates our heritage and supports the craft cannabis community versus letting it be taken over by a corporate tourism experience.

Eli Melrod

Co-founder and CEO, Solful;

Business: Cannabis brand and dispensaries

Bio:  Eli Melrod has been in the California cannabis industry since 2015. In 2017, he and business partner, Peter Dickstein, launched Solful, a destination cannabis retail brand in Sonoma County. Solful was founded in Sebastopol in Sonoma County .

Julie Mercer-Ingram: Like wine tourism in Sonoma County, cannabis tourism presents an exciting opportunity for local businesses. The more Sonoma County can support and foster craft cannabis and local cannabis businesses, the more tourists will be drawn to the area. That’s why, regardless of your line of work or personal interest in cannabis, we invite you to be a collaborator with local cannabis businesses so that we can work together to lift up the resiliency and health of the County overall.

Pete Olander: Yes, cannabis is an agricultural crop just like wine.  Experiences such as “tastings” and tours will help educate the general population on the industry and plant.   In addition to bringing more tourism business to the North Bay, this will help cement California Cannabis as the Best in the World.

AB 195, signed by the governor in July, was hailed by industry groups as a win because it eliminated the cultivation tax and shifted the excise-tax collection from distribution to retail. Do you think this law puts the industry on more fiscally solid ground now, or not?

Eli Buffalo: The elimination of the cultivation tax was a huge win for the small legacy farmers in California. When the price of an outdoor pound hit $250-$400 and it cost roughly $100 to process a pound and an additional $160 in state cultivation tax then add in the local canopy tax, you’re looking at a whole lot of nothing left over if anything for the farmer, which makes it extremely difficult to continue business.

It may not ensure an entirely fiscally solid ground for farmers but it’s a great step in the right direction.

Scot Candell: The entire cannabis industry is struggling right now.  Other fledgling industries receive government subsidies and tax incentives – the solar microchip industries recently received billions.  Where is the cannabis love?

Tiffany Devitt: There’s no doubt AB 195 was an important step forward and we thank the governor and legislature for working with the industry to make important refinements to the final law.

Most importantly, the incredibly burdensome cultivation tax was eliminated, the excise increase was put on hold for at least three years, and responsibility for collecting and paying that tax was moved to retail where it makes sense rather than having distributors acting as tax collectors on behalf of the government.

That said, there is much more that needs to be done to stabilize and strengthen the California cannabis industry. The path to a viable industry that drives significant tax revenue while providing a safe, high-quality product is through policies that encourage expansion of the legal market at the expense of the illicit market.

The illicit market still accounts for two thirds of cannabis sales in California, robbing the state of billions in tax revenue while placing added burdens on our healthcare system and law enforcement agencies.

We need further reform that leads to more enforcement against the illicit industry, results in more municipalities licensing retail, and further reduces the excessive tax burden on cannabis companies.

For example, even after AB195, the excise tax on an eighth of an ounce of cannabis is over 100 times higher than on a bottle of California wine, the comparable consumption measure – $4.50 versus 4 cents!

When cannabis is eventually legalized at a federal level, California should be the nation’s largest exporter.

California cannabis, like our wine, technology, and entertainment, should be a source of wealth and pride both inside and outside our state borders. It should also be a source of stable, well-paying jobs and careers. That can’t and won’t happen if we fail to wrest control of the market from the illicit industry through sensible reform.

Tiffany Devitt

Chief of regulatory affairs, Groundwork Holdings Inc., Santa Rosa;;

Business: Cultivation, manufacturing, retail

Bio: Tiffany Devitt is chief of regulatory affairs for Groundwork Holdings Inc., which was formed through the combination of California cannabis industry pioneers CannaCraft and March and Ash. She is also vice president of the California Cannabis Industry Association Board of Directors.

Dona Frank: Retail sales taxes are already collected at the register. It makes sense that all excise tax be collected at the retail register as well.

Antonio Frazier: This is a great first step to help support the farmers that are hoping to be able to invest more in their own business to continue transitioning into the legal market.

Erin Gore: Cannabis growers face a heavier tax burden than other farmers and if action wasn’t taken the permitted businesses, those who have spent thousands of dollars to comply with cannabis laws, would ultimately go out of business. The goal is for cannabis farmers to be treated and taxed the same as all other agriculture farms.

My hope is that this bill and hopefully others down the road will help set the small farmer up for success and keep them in business and away from the illicit market, which should bring fiscal growth to the industry.

Annie Holman: AB 195 will put more dollars back into the hands of the hard-working operators, which at this time is a plus.

Also removing the time-consuming admin. In a state where the tax structure is… I can’t think if the word… (@#$%&!). I see this as a win.

Brandon Levine: AB 195 is a step in the right direction, but we have a long way to go to move the needle.

Jason McHugh: I would certainly call it a small win coming at a nice time, offering some direct relief to our small farmer who have been getting hammered from all sides of the business.

Is it enough to shift the paradigm for the legal market?

Well again it is a small a step in the right direction for now that will help for a little while, but sadly we are just punting the issue down the road as the tax will be brought back in a couple of years at the retail level.  So, I would call it a nice band aid with a two year warranty.

Eli Melrod: The unfortunate reality is that cultivation tax reform is only a small step in the right direction. We need to do more. The cost of doing business in all industries, not just cannabis, has increased exponentially.

When you consider all this inflation, the reality is that while the cultivation tax cut neutralized this tax for growers, it hasn’t done much in helping them become more profitable.

Ultimately, we need a reduction in the excise tax on cannabis sales for consumers to be incentivized to purchase from legal retailers. Until this happens, we’ll continue to fall short in competing with the illicit market from a cost perspective.

Julie Mercer-Ingram: AB 195 and the elimination of the cultivation tax represented some good news for the industry but shouldn’t be thought of as a fix.

Cannabis excise taxes and local taxes and regulations are this punishing, marginal improvements don’t count for much. Think of the cannabis industry as a ship. Prior to regulation, it was sailing along speedily, albeit in uncharted and dangerous waters.

Under the new regulatory regime, the state and local municipalities stacked a mountain of anvils on that ship, towed it into shallow water surrounded by a sharp reef, and emptied the gas tank. That’s where the industry has been left.

The elimination of the cultivation tax amounts to a brief spell of fairer weather. It’s a welcome shift. But things haven’t fundamentally changed — the ship is still in trouble.

Pete Olander: Definitely, cannabis taxation is a challenging issue to navigate, this is a wonderful development.

Having the retailer collect the tax at the time of the customer purchase makes the most sense... .   In its current form the  pass through of taxes through each step of processing is an accounting nightmare.

What is the appeal of the “alternative beverage” segment of the cannabis market, and do you think there is a market to be made there?

Scot Candell: As cannabis use becomes more mainstream, you will have a segment of the population that will associate any type of smoking with lung cancer.  This group will turn to “healthier” ways to ingest cannabis, including food and beverages.  There is no reason to believe cannabis beverages will not grow to the size of the cannabis edible market

Dona Frank: Yes. There is a market as an alternative to alcohol. Cannabis beverages are available in low sugar and low THC. Beverages offer alternative choices to those who prefer not to vape or smoke.

Antonio Frazier: The consumption method is familiar to a lot of new cannabis consumers, so its attractive to the canna-curious and a reliable form of dosing your cannabis. I think this market will continue to help convert new consumers and those who want to be more discrete with their usage.

Merril Gilbert: Drinking cannabis has many appeals. People can experiment with cannabis in a format they are familiar with and that is more socially acceptable.

It’s a great alternative to those who are sober-curious or who don’t jive with alcohol, for whatever reason. In social drinking settings, alternative beverages allow them to still get silly, have fun, and feel included. Consumers like to have choices.

With so many sophisticated infusion methods, the market has ample opportunity to grow. Technology like nano-emulsion allows for a faster onset and offset, and with smaller doses of THC, the experience is more comparable to alcohol, has no lingering effects, and is easier to control. And with dealcoholization, we have the ability to mirror wine, beer, spirits, or any other type of common beverage in the market.

Annie Holman: Yes. 100%. The number one reason is folks who drink alcohol are becoming more conscious of the negative effects alcohol has on the body overall. Cannabis beverages are an alternative way to socialized and relax.

I like the way a cannabis beverage is absorbed in the body, with it's rapid onset and better absorption, unlike an edible, which takes longer to digest and can lead to over consumption. And we all have “those” stories. I can regulate my beverage intake, much like a glass of wine, And GIANT BONUS: no hangover.

Jason McHugh: The main appeal of the canna-alt bev is that it greatly reduces the social stigma of vaping or smoking cannabis and its much more social than most other edible cannabis products.

They also really seem to fit the ideal “Cali-Sober” mocktail and most of them are low dose - so you won't get crippled at the party. Even though it is still a smaller category - many companies believe the beverage product is the key to the heart of mainstream new adopters.

Eli Melrod: At Solful we carry several alternative beverage brands that do very well. We have embraced the segment, and even in a short amount of time have seen lots of growth and innovation with brands and products.

I think the alternative beverage market will only continue to get more sophisticated and has lots of potential to continue to grow.

Julie Mercer-Ingram: The cannabis beverage market is fun. I appreciate how California cannabis consumers have so many interesting options. Like edibles and alternative beverages, tinctures offer an alternative method of consumption with some great additional benefits.

Tinctures can be added to any food or beverage, and they are a great way for consumers to customize their dosage at a much more affordable price per milligram. Alternative consumption products like tinctures and capsules are a great way to incorporate cannabis into a daily wellness routine.

Pete Olander: I believe as the cannabis market continues to mature beverages will continue to grow and become a healthier alternative to alcoholic drinks.  Low dose beverages offer a great option for social events and have an extra benefit of a no hangover morning and our Happie Water is lower in sugar and calories than a light beer or a hard seltzer.

California cannabis products certified to be comparable to organic can bear the designation "OCal" on their label. As of last month, just 11 California cultivators have been OCal-certified. So, is the “clean weed” movement — appealing to the consumer taste for super healthy products — going to take off, or are the state’s testing standards in place now able to meet that demand?

Eli Buffalo: The introduction of the “OCal” Comparable to Organic certification being rolled out in California was a major step forward for the cannabis industry in California and beyond.

Allowing producers, the chance to explain to the consumer the way their product was made and the type of inputs that were used in cultivating their cannabis with a small badge of honor is a great way to provide this information.

It is unfortunate that there are only 11 certified farms thus far, however it is not all that surprising with how unstable the market is today.

I believe the Clean Weed” movement is alive and well and just getting the chance to get going.

With cannabis only being legal recreationally for the past five years here, there have been shifts in the industry and a lot of people trying to find their space and where they best fit in or how to adjust their existing business or operation into something that can be long lasting and sustainable in a world of strong competition from endless pocket farms erecting mega grows with anticipated multiple year loss just to push out the legacy farmers.

I believe that good intention followed by a high-quality product cultivated or produced in a manner that is environmentally conscious will always find a place in any market.

Current state required lab testing is great for testing if the product is contaminated with unsafe chemicals, pest, or pathogens, however, is unable to detect or provide information on how the product is made.

Consumer education always goes a long way, and I am hopeful the state can work with synergistically with interested producers finding a way to help promote or incentivize those going the extra mile for obtaining or working towards such certifications....

Scot Candell: The cannabis market is no different than other industries.  Consumer demand dictates which products are produced.  If consumers become convinced that OCal products are healthier or safer than standard cannabis products, the certification will have value.

Dona Frank: California endure the most rigorous standards of testing among all agricultural products tested. In other words, cannabis needs to be grown organically in order to pass testing. California cannabis is cultivated organic and does not need a separate OCal certification. California gown cannabis should automatically receive the OCal Certification.

Antonio Frazier: “Clean Weed” can mean a multitude of things, but it should be focused on products that are free of contaminants or adulterants.

The current CA testing standards assure that products are less likely to contain adulterants than other food products that we trust to be ‘clean and organic’, but we need more research performed before we can declare what’s safe for each consumption method.

That said, some people don’t want any level of heavy metals or solvents in their products, so having testing results readily available for consumers is truly the only way for someone to know if they have ‘clean weed’.

Merril Gilbert: In our experience, the same people who buy organic foods and natural products will be the ones who will appreciate OCAL certified cannabis products. More consumers care where their products come from, particularly Gen Z women. OCAL certification offers credibility and is easily recognizable on labels.

Labels can be misleading, especially for consumers who are unfamiliar with cannabis. Ideally, they should be able to see what's gone into this product, learn a little bit about who created it, and most importantly, know what it's for.

Erin Gore: The OCal designation is a step in the right direction for what has been a fairly unregulated industry in terms of consumers knowing exactly what is in the cannabis plant they are consuming.

We have always been a part of the “clean weed” movement, and we’ll continue to work to make it a standard in the cannabis industry – no different than beauty products or the produce you purchase at the grocery store, all consumers have the right to know what they are putting into their body.

Cannabis growers face a heavier tax burden than other farmers and if action wasn’t taken permitted businesses, those who have spent thousands of dollars to comply with cannabis laws, would ultimately go out of business. The goal is for cannabis farmers to be treated and taxed the same as all other agriculture farms.

My hope is that this bill and hopefully others down the road will help set the small farmer up for success and keep them in business and away from the illicit market, which should bring fiscal growth to the industry.

Annie Holman: Well. One would hope so…in the health-conscious state of California, I have seen little in the way of “healthy" cannabis products. Surprising? Yes.

The best way I can compare the OCal is the organic food movement. I am seeing a clear trend at my manufacturing facility, heavy in the last six months, for “solventless” clean products from gummies to infused pre-rolls. Now, how can you get it…that’s where the seal of “OCal” comes in - just like the organic section in your market. Brilliant and I believe also survival for cannabis farmers.

Jason McHugh: Well to be honest that is the first I have heard of 0Cal. I thought the main certification available was called Clean Green - I am not sure if they are still around, but they were working with some neighbor companies of a few years back. But to answer your question -

I think the state testing is so rigorous that any legal weed found at a legal dispensary is in fact clean weed that is free of heavy metals and general contamination - so I am not sure what else a consumer could want on that front.

I think the other huge consumer criteria that we at Califari also take seriously is the eco footprint of your packaging and cultivation and how earth friendly a line of products are.

Eli Melrod: As consumers become more savvy and mindful of what they put into their bodies, they now more than ever demand only the highest quality products – this is a natural evolution of how people think and then ultimately buy products.

That said, the reality is that a lot of the products that are passing state regulation aren’t 100% clean – they contain additives for flavors, chemical fertilizers used during growing, etc. As a supporter of clean cannabis, it’s my hope that consumers will become more educated on the lack of regulation around cannabis and will become more conscious of the brands they are purchasing.

The OCal designation is great progress and demonstrates that the state is supporting tools that allow cultivators to differentiate their products. Still, there’s work to be done so that small regenerative farmers can easily participate in these programs.

Julie Mercer-Ingram: While organic certification is important, it’s critical that consumers understand that all cannabis is tested at parts per billion for pesticides, heavy metals, and mycotoxins.

These rigorous testing standards make all cannabis products safer than most conventional products without cannabis. The OCal certification is another great reason why California consumers can trust licensed cannabis products.

Pete Olander: Although OCal certified cannabis sounds appealing many of our cultivation partners already use organic and sustainable farming techniques.

With the stringent testing requirements of the State of California all Cannabis products are thoroughly tested for any harmful substances in products prior to sales, I do not know if many cultivators would bear additional costs to be certified OCal during these market conditions.

In the future I’m sure there will be market demand for clean options just as organic isles in the grocery stores and Whole Foods has grown into what it is today.

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