Five Takeaways from the Wine & Weed Symposium

On August 3, 2017, Wine Industry Network hosted the first ever Wine & Weed Symposium. It was an opportunity for the wine industry to come together with the cannabis industry, to hear what the cannabis industry has been up to since California legalized cannabis for adult use, to learn about ways that the two industries overlap and to explore opportunities for collaboration. Katie Calhoun and I were lucky enough to attend. Here are our takeaways:

1. The Cannabis Industry is not for the faint of heart. As legislation surrounding legalization is still being developed, workers in the cannabis industry operate in total limbo. It is estimated that some 70% of current operating cannabis growers will not receive state permits to continue their operation. For many consumers, the exploration of cannabis use is very new and often misunderstood. For this reason, many cannabis brands spend a significant amount of their time educating consumers and legislators about cannabis basics, effects, dosage, etc. It is only after the consumer is comfortable with the idea of cannabis that brands are able to sell their products. These are just a few of the many reasons why running a cannabis business is challenging. In order to get up every day and continue this kind of work, you must be extremely passionate about what you are doing.

2. The California cannabis Industry is a HUGE industry. Conservative estimates place it at around $7-10 billion dollar industry. The California winegrape industry is only $5 billion. This comparison is astounding when you consider that cannabis is still a barely legal enterprise and that unlike wine, because of Federal law, it is not able to be exported out of the state.

3. Cannabis related tourism is going to be a thing. Just as people travel from all over the world to taste the great wines of California, they will also come for the cannabis. You may have read the recent NPR story about the cannabis company,  American Green Inc., that recently purchased the town of Nipton, CA with hopes of turning it into the “first energy-independent, cannabis-friendly hospitality destination.” Don’t be surprised if we start to see a lot more of these destinations and tourism activities around cannabis.

4. The environment and organic cultivation are taken very seriously. Because cannabis is often enjoyed by way of smoking it is imperative that it is grown free of all pesticides and pollutants. Cannabis is an excellent bioaccumulator—meaning it sucks up harmful substances from its environment including chemicals and pesticides. Even if cannabis is being farmed organically, if a neighbor down the road is spraying pesticides it will show up in the plant. That is why some labs are testing to the trillionth for trace amounts of pesticides to ensure that consumers are only receiving the safest and cleanest products.

5. Finally (and my personal favorite), the cannabis industry is being driven by women, in both production and consumption. Approximately 1 in 2 women take Ambien and 1 in 3 women take Xanax. These staggering statistics have led fabulous female entrepreneurs to develop cannabis products to help women manage the stress of everyday life through natural wellness-focused products, including teas, tinctures, and microdose edibles.

– Ana Clare Smith

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