California Creates “First Of Its Kind” Cannabis Appellation Program

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In February 2020, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (“CDFA”) released its proposed regulations for a first of its kind appellation program for cannabis cultivators.  The appellation program was established through the same law that regulates California’s cannabis industry, the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulations and Safety Act (“MAUCRSA”); however, the CDFA had to establish its regulations to implement that program.

After releasing the proposed regulations in February 2020 there was a public comment period, which ended in May 2020.  Since then, there have been no statements from the CDFA on changes to the proposed regulations; however, it is highly likely that the general concepts of the regulations will remain after any revisions are made based on public comments.

Below are the key general concepts of the CDFA’s proposed appellation regulations:

  • Cannabis products can only be marketed as being produced or grown from a specific county or appellation of origin if 100% of the cannabis was produced from that county or appellation.
  • Licensed cannabis companies must file a notice with the CDFA prior to using an appellation of origin.
  • Licensees can submit a petition with the CDFA to establish appellations throughout the state. Those petitions must provide the following;
    • A general description and location of the proposed geographical area;
    • Evidence of use of the appellation name;
    • A description and documentation of the boundary of the proposed appellation of origin;
    • A description and evidence of distinctive geographical features affecting cannabis cultivation in the boundary;
    • Identification and definition of all standard, practice, and cultivar requirements of the proposed appellation of origin;
    • A description and evidence of the legacy, history, and economic importance of cannabis cultivation in the area; and
    • A list of cultivator license types issued by the department (such as Indoor, Mixed-light Tier 1, Mixed-light Tier 2, or Outdoor) which are prohibited from using the appellation of origin.
  • Once the petition is filed, the CDFA will issue a notice of the petition and there will be a 30-day public comment period. The CDFA will issue its determination on the petition after the public comment period.

The use and protections of cannabis appellations can help old school cultivators in California’s historic cannabis areas, such as Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties, and increase demand for products grown in those areas and in particular appellations.  By establishing appellations and setting standards to use such appellations, stakeholders can secure much needed marketing recognition because consumers will be able to rely on consistent products from each appellation.  Similar to wine, a protected cannabis appellation can provide consumers with product consistency and stakeholders with increased product value.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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