August 22, 2022

California Cannabis Appella

Appellations of origin, or appellations, refer to the origin or designation of a product. Simply put, they identify where certain products originate  from, and the particular ways in which they are produced.

French Champagne, Spanish Basque cheeses, and Parma Italian meats are examples of well known products  where the appellation is revered  for the unique quality specific to that region of the world. Now, California cannabis is joining the ranks of selective standards through the Cannabis Appellations Program (CAP).

When California’s Medicinal and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation Act (2016) merged the medicinal and recreational cannabis regulations it formed a comprehensive framework for various cannabis products offered by different businesses through different license types. From the initial drafting of the California cannabis regulations, appellation eligibility was critical for those within the state regulated industry and was built into the legislation.

The Act tasked the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) with establishing “a process by which licensed cultivators may establish appellations” for cannabis “grown in a certain geographic area in California” in compliance with required standards, practices, and varietals. This process took nearly four years.

Cannabis Appellations Program Eligibility Requires Outdoor Cultivation

California Senate Bill 67 (2020) has limited CAP to solely outdoor cannabis cultivation in order to implement a terroir-based system.

Approval of appellations of origin for cannabis requires the practice of planting in the ground within the canopy area and excludes the practices of using structures and any artificial light.

Similar toCalifornia’s wine appellations, the natural environmental factors — soil composition, altitude, wind, humidity, temperature, and sunlight — that make up the terroir influence the character of the end product. That is also true for cannabis.

Unlike the California wine appellation standards, put forth by the American Viticultural Areas (AVA), the vintner may apply the AVA to its label if not less than 85% of the volume of the wine was derived from grapes grown in the labeled viticultural area. However, a licensed cannabis cultivator may designate a county of origin for cannabis and requires that 100% of the cannabis be produced in that designated county for the appellation designation. This policy is designed to represent a true terroir-based system, not simply to identify its geography but also the region’s distinctive features that make the product unique.

What is the Petitioning Process for California Cannabis Appellation?

The CDFA’s Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation (OEFI) provides the details and petition submission requirements for the Cannabis Appellations Program. The program is designed to help prevent the misrepresentation of a cannabis good’s origin while also promoting regional collaboration around cannabis production.

Appellations petitions must be submitted by a group of three or more licensed cultivators located within the proposed cannabis appellation region, and must include, among other things:

  • A specific description of the geographic area.
  • Evidence of the proposed cannabis appellation being used in that area.
  • The geographical boundaries of the proposed cannabis appellation and a description of the unique geographic features affecting cannabis production in that area.
  • Identification of specific standards, practices, and cultivar requirements associated with cannabis cultivation in the proposed cannabis appellation.
  • Evidence of the area’s cannabis production legacy, history, reputation and economic importance.

With hopes of developing a market for premium sustainable cannabis for true connoisseurs, cannabis appellations will also require a historical connection between the people and the regions.

Most importantly, CAP petitions will require a consensus among established cultivators within the boundaries of the proposed appellation regarding their traditional practices and standards for cultivation. These standards must include measurable, scorable, or certified requirements applicable to cannabis or cultivation, including any allowable or prohibited methods of cultivation.

Given the infancy of this regulatory scheme we have yet to see any cannabis cultivation appellations confirmed yet in the state. We will be sure to keep you updated!

Contact Our Trusted Cannabis Law Firm in California

If you are interested in joining the Cannabis Appellations Program, contact one of our California cannabis law firm specialists today by phone at (310) 912-2960 or online to learn more about the overall eligibility requirements, and how we can help successfully submit a petition to solidify your historic involvement as an established cultivator.