California Cannabis Appellations: The CDFA’s Proposed Regulations are Finally Here

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It’s no secret that California’s temperate climate makes our state ideal for growing high quality agricultural produce. This also holds true for the cannabis industry, where cultivators in regions such as Humboldt and Mendocino county have reputations for the unique terpenes and flavonoids of the cannabis grown in these regions.

In our previous post, we covered what the “appellation of origin” certification under the CalCannabis Appellations Project would mean for California’s cannabis cultivators, manufacturers and retailers:

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.

California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Appellations Program

In an effort to preserve this value added by cultivating in certain geographical origins, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has released proposed regulations to implement the Cannabis Appellations Program, within Title 3 of the California Code of Regulations.

Under these regulations proposed on February 20, 2020, state licensed cannabis cultivators would be able to establish appellations of origin for cannabis grown in certain geographical areas.

Petition to Establish an Appellation of Origin

The proposed regulations outline the petition process which requires licensees to submit a Petition to Establish an Appellation of Origin. §9102.

Petitions must be submitted by a petitioning organization, as defined in §9000 as a “group of licensed cultivators representing three of more unique businesses within the geographical area of the proposed appellation of origin.” The non-refundable petition fee to establish an appellation of origin is $20,880. §9101.

The listed petition requirements are exhaustive, requiring petitioners to include the following information about the appellation of origin:

  • Evidence of Name Use – The petition must describe the name and history of the proposed appellation of origin, including an explanation of how the name has been used in the geographical area covered by the proposed appellation of origin in narrative form. §9104.
  • Maps and Boundary Description – The petition must describe the exact boundaries of the appellation of origin as depicted on the United States Geological Survey topographical maps. §9105.
  • Description of the location of the proposed geographical area – Specifically, petitioners must include a description of the distinctive geographical features affecting cannabis cultivation in the geographical area, such as climate information, geological information, physical features, and cultural features like political boundaries associated with a history of cannabis cultivation. §9106.
  • Standard, Practice, and Cultivar Requirements – A petition must identify and define at least one of each of the production requirements for the standard, practice, and cultivar of the proposed appellation of origin. §9107.

Petition Review Panel

In addition to the above referenced petition, the proposed regulations establish a Petition Review Panel to assist with the review of petitions in the department. §9300. The review panel will be composed of seven members and two alternates that must all be residents of California with relevant experience in cannabis cultivation, intellectual property, sustainable agriculture, or community based research and will be appointed by the department. §9301.

Next Steps on CDFA’s Cannabis Appellations Regulations

The proposed regulations are currently open for public comment until Monday, April 6, 2020. Comments may be submitted to or by mail to:

California Department of Food and Agriculture
Attention: Kristi Armstrong
CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing
Proposed Appellations Regulations
P.O. Box 942871
Sacramento, CA 94271

The CDFA is holding a public hearing on the proposed regulations on Tuesday April 14, 2020 from 1PM to 3PM at the California Department of Food & Agriculture Auditorium (1220 N Street, Sacramento, CA 95814). At this hearing, any person may present statements orally or in writing relevant to the proposed regulations.

The attorneys at Rogoway Law Group have extensive experience advising clients on cannabis branding and marketing issues. Please reach out to our team of experienced cannabis lawyers with any questions or assistance if your group is interested in submitting a petition to establish an appellation of origin in California!

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