What the CalCannabis Appellations Project means for California Cannabis Cultivators, Manufacturers & Retailers.

Tequila from Mexico, Roquefort cheese from France…cannabis from Humboldt?!  Consumers around the world place great importance on the place of origin for many agricultural products, foodstuffs, wine and spirit drinks, handicrafts, and industrial products.  This trend holds true in the cannabis industry.

Many in cannabis companies recognize the importance of promoting the geographic origin, otherwise known in trademark lingo as the “appellation,” of their products. In identifying the specific location where a product originated, an appellation suggests the product features certain qualities or characteristics by virtue of coming from that specific region.  The term “appellation” often appears in the context of an “appellation of origin,” a certified geographic designation that often also signifies standards, practices, and the varietal of a product.  Famous examples include “Champagne,” the famous sparkling wine hailing from the Champagne region in France, and “Prosciutto di Parma,” the savory cured ham from Parma, Italy.  

Lately, the “appellation of origin” certification has generated significant buzz throughout the California cannabis industry.  Cultivators across the Golden State recognize that certain unique characteristics only emerge in plants grown in specific regions. As the cannabis industry has matured, California cultivators have sought to highlight the California origins of their cannabis.  For example, cultivators in California’s heralded Emerald Triangle (the tri-county region of Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity) often acclaim the unique taste and flavor imparted to cannabis by the Northern California growing conditions. Cultivators now want to protect this potentially valuable resource.   

California regulators recently took heed of the growing chorus, acknowledging the importance of highlighting the geographic origins of cultivated cannabis.  The State recently tasked CalCannabis with developing a process for licensed cannabis cultivators to establish state cannabis appellations – the CalCannabis Appellations Project.  CalCannabis held a series of workshops in September, to solicit input on creating a framework for the CalCannabis Appellations Project.  While the outcome of these workshops is not yet public, it is anticipated the process will go live in 2021. Some are already seeking a head start on this process – for example, the Mendocino Appellations Project, or MAP, aims to ensure only Mendocino County, Humboldt, and other Emerald Triangle growers associate themselves with the long-heralded geographic region. 

The CalCannabis Appellations Project holds immense marketing potential for cannabis companies.  Marijuana consumers around the world already associate quality with cannabis grown in the Golden State. Also, cannabis connoisseurs often seek out flower from specific regions in the State. Growers may soon have a new tool to enforce their rights in their geographic origins, offering what will undoubtedly prove a valuable promotional resource.

Attorneys at Rogoway Law Group have extensive experience advising clients on this and other cannabis branding and marketing issues.  Please reach out to our Intellectual Property lawyers with any questions!

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