New Wine in Old Skins: Cannabis Branding and French Wine Appellations

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. David A. Guba, Jr., of Bard Early College in Baltimore. Today he explores the potential for an appellation system for “craft marijuana,” which hopes to protect and promote cannabis grown by local farmers in places like the Emerald Triangle in California. Could American pot recreate an appellation system like France has for its wines? Read on and see!

As cannabis legalization sweeps across the United States, producing $8.5 billion in sales in 2017 and a projected $40-50 billion by the end of 2019, growers and distributors in the nation’s 36 states and territories where cannabis is to some degree legal are clamoring for ways to position their products above the rest.[1] Because the vast majority of legal cannabis in the U.S. is grown in controlled, indoor environments, competition among cannabis producers and sellers for optimal “bag appeal” largely has centered on mass producing strains with high THC and CBD percentages and non-flower products, such as concentrates, edibles, and tablets, that mitigate the health hazards of consumption.

Screenshot 2018-12-04 at 8.29.39 AMThis push for mass-produced, potent, and innocuous cannabis products has both stimulated and shaped the burgeoning American market, allowing large corporations, such as Scotts Miracle-Gro Company (the nation’s leading supplier of hydroponic growing equipment) and Harvest Inc. (the second largest cannabis producer in the U.S., with over 200,000 square feet of indoor grow space), to claim the lion’s share of the nation’s legal cannabis sales. In addition to this tendency toward monopoly, the rise of “Big Marijuana” also has created a market replete with inaccurate labeling and products promoted with impossible-to-prove claims of genetic purity and potency.[2] As Amanda Chicago Lewis put it in a recent article in RollingStone, “it’s basically impossible to know for sure who is responsible for the stuff that’s getting you high…strains are often mislabeled, and the indica/sativa/hybrid distinctions are increasingly proving to be meaningless.”[3]

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From Hippies to High Yield Insights: The Evolution of an Industry

Mike Luce is not the first person to lament how increasingly banal marijuana becomes once the industry goes mainstream. Keith Stroup, who founded the nation’s oldest legalization lobbying firm, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), in 1970, told Rolling Stone in 1977 that the decade’s booming paraphernalia industry was developing just like anything else. “It’s a growth industry,” Stroup said, “that’s gonna be treated like tennis shoes must have been. I don’t say this out of any particular glee—I just think it’s a result of ‘the great free-enterprise system.’”

Screenshot 2018-11-28 14.47.09Luce, who founded High Yield Insights, one of the nation’s first cannabis marketing research firms, this past May, feels similarly as recreational legalization expands. “From a great distance,” Luce said, the “classic marketing research” High Yield does for its clients—which includes everything from crafting tailored patient and consumer insight reports, to consulting medical and recreational businesses on strategy, growth, planning and innovation—is “very similar” to work he did previously, when he spent over 15 years researching audiences for a packaged food company. The only difference now, however, is that while these practices are commonplace for companies that sell soda, soap or tires, they simply haven’t existed in the cannabis industry before.

That’s changing, Luce said, as legalization spreads and more companies are entering the cannabis space. For groups that want to produce everything from high-end edibles to designer labels, High Yield offers “a way to introduce basic business information to a new and expanding field,” Luce said. In short, programs like Luce’s are helping cannabis become a legitimate business again.

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Legalization Report: NIMBY in Newton, Massachusetts

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Dr. Seth Blumenthal, contributing editor and lecturer at Boston University. He’s been tracking the roll out of recreational marijuana legalization in his home state of Massachusetts and provides this report. Enjoy!

As I sat behind the police chief while he spoke to the City Council in favor of a ban on marijuana dispensaries in my city–Newton, Massachusetts–I realized I was in trouble. Surrounding me in the public seating section, every other attendee held up a brightly colored “Opt Out” sign in silence. One nice woman even asked me if I wanted a sign, which I politely declined. After all, I was there to follow the chief and offer a rebuttal. As a historian with a focus on marijuana history, I had already been active as an academic endorser for Question 4 that legalized marijuana in 2016, and so I was asked to speak on behalf of a compromise that would limit dispensaries to no more than four, rather than the eight mandated in the commonwealth’s provisions.

Although 55% of Newton residents voted for legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016, a strong, vocal group organized to propose a ban on cannabis dispensaries within the city limits. Of the 351 municipalities in the state, more than 200 towns have imposed bans or temporary moratoriums on recreational pot operators.  (You can see an interactive map of the bans here: http://www.wbur.org/news/2018/06/28/marijuana-moratorium-map ).

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Where recreational marijuana in available in Massachusetts. Image courtesy of Cannacon.org

 

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Video: Lucia Romero at Cannabis: Global Histories

Editor’s Note: You can see Lucia Romero discuss her work on grassroots mobilization for access to medical cannabis in Argentina below. This builds on her post, published Tuesday, and wraps up our content from the excellent Cannabis: Global Histories conference. All videos were produced by Morgan Scott of Breathe Images. Enjoy!

Grassroots Activism in Argentina: The Story of Mamá Cultiva, CAMEDA, and Medical Marijuana

Editor’s Note: This is the last post in our series from the Cannabis: Global Histories conference, held at the University of Strathclyde from April 19-20, 2018. It comes from Lucia Romero, an assistant researcher at CONICET (Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council). In it, she explores the grassroots groups that overcame decades of prohibition to increase access to medical marijuana in Argentina. Enjoy!

This paper discusses the rise of therapeutic cannabis use in Argentina. Through documentary work and personal interviews, our sociological approach focuses on how users (patients, growers) and experts (scientists, doctors, lawyers) produce and exchange different types of knowledge related to this medicine.

Our starting point was the recent medicinal cannabis law sanctioned in Argentina. Although cannabis has been socially signified as a drug and ruled illegal in the country for decades, over the course of two years, we have seen an accelerated process of social, medical, scientific and political legitimation of medicinal cannabis, which was concluded with the approval of a national law in March 2017. This law stipulates a regulatory framework for medical and scientific research and administrative resources to import cannabis oil for epilepsy patients, while private and designated cultivation remains illegal. This topic was, and is still, a central cause of conflict and political fights carried out by activists for health cannabis, as they and the growers are excluded from the law (many activists for health cannabis practice and promote self cultivation).

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Dr. Lucia Romero presents her work at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference at the University of Strathclyde, April 2018. Photo by Morgan Scott, Breathe Images

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Video: Peter Hynd at Cannabis: Global Histories

Editor’s Note: Discussing the history he wrote about in Tuesday’s post, “From Calcutta in 1890 to Canada Today: Exercises in Cannabis Legalization,” Peter Hynd explores more on this topic in a video taken at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference, held at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, from April 19-20, 2018. Video by Morgan Scott, Breathe Images. Enjoy!

From Calcutta in 1890 to Canada Today: Exercises in Cannabis Legalization

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Peter Hynd, a PhD candidate in history at McGill University in Quebec, based on the paper he presented at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference held at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, on April 19-20, 2018. In it, he explores how Calcutta legalized the sale of cannabis in the 19th century, and shows how the Indian government sought to implement legalization in the most effective (and profitable) way. Enjoy!

Imagine strolling up to a licensed cannabis shop and purchasing a few grams of the finest Government stamped and sealed ganja, no questions asked.

In your mind, where are you? Denver, Colorado in 2015? Montreal, Quebec, later this year?

How about Calcutta in 1890?

Although probably not the time or place you associate with government licensed cannabis shops, during the second half of the nineteenth century the colonial government of Bengal (modern day Bangladesh and West Bengal, India) regulated and taxed the sale of cannabis drugs in a manner that appears remarkably similar to many present day models and proposals.

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Peter Hynd presents his work at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, on April 19, 2018. Photo by Morgan Scott, Breathe Images

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