“Cannabis grows well wherever wine does — and it grows incredibly well here.” So said George Van Patton over 18 months ago, talking about the underground economy of the Sonoma Valley. “And on equal plots of land, cannabis would be more lucrative than wine.”
The insights of Van Patton, also known as Jorge Cervantes and under that name the author of a dozen books on marijuana cultivation, seem prescient now, with the passage of both Proposition 64 legalizing recreational marijuana in November, and Measure A establishing a regulatory framework in Sonoma County in March. Both of these showed that public support for legal cultivation of marijuana is growing like a week: cannabis has mainstreamed in a way that seemed inconceivable just a year or two ago.
That mainstreaming is cutting a deep channel indeed. If you need further proof, there’s this week’s CannaCon, being held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa (it began on 4/20, naturally, and continues through Saturday). Meantime several local cities are renegotiating their rules for cultivation, both indoor and out, though the city of Sonoma has shown no inclination to loosen their already tight regulations against cultivation, delivery and sales.
But the fascinating connection between cannabis and cabernet (or chardonnay, or any other varietal) will be directly explored this summer, at a Wine & Weed Symposium scheduled for Aug. 3. “I’m not a cannabis person, but I’ve been paying attention and it seems to me inevitable that there’ll be collaboration between the two,” said George Christie, founder and CEO of Wine Industry Network (WIN), an industry resource that, among other things, holds an annual industry expo.
At their last expo in December, just a month after Proposition 64 legalized recreational marijuana in California, WIN held a one-hour educational session on cannabis. “It was the most well-attended session we ever had,” said Christie. “While it was going on, nobody left; when it was over, people stayed for an hour asking questions.”
Reading the writing on the wall, Christie quickly organized the Wine & Weed Symposium, a trade show specifically relevant to wineries and grape-growers interested in expanding into the cannabis market. The direction will be “exploring the opportunities and issues that the legalization of cannabis presents to the California wine industry,” and Christie is adamant that most in the wine industry don’t regard cannabis as a competitor to wine grapes, but rather as a partner.
Likely topics of common interest include regulation, marketing, and tourism — seeing Sonoma as an “intoxication destination,” and managing that reputation. Though Christie said speakers are clamoring to get on the podium, Tawnie Logan of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance is already signed up as a speaker.
Unlike the dampening impact that legalized marijuana seems to have on beer consumption, as preliminary figures in Colorado and Washington suggest, wine and cannabis exist in equilibrium, not in competition.
That partnership is one that is well known within the industry, but rarely spoken of. For years rumors of local winemakers who grew cannabis on their vineyard property have been circulating, though no one will admit to it. “I do not know of anyone growing cannabis in any vineyards,” said one winemaker who, perhaps ironically, chose not to be named. “Setting aside any legal issues, the cultivation and farming demands of the two crops are not compatible.”
This story originally appeared at sonomanews.com/home/6910655-181/sonoma-makes-way-for-cannabis.
More coverage of North Coast cannabis commerce: nbbj.news/cannabis