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Marijuana News Articles
Marijuana News Articles : Marijuana/cannabis/weed Related Articles found on the internet.marijuana
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From wine to weed: Keeping the marijuana farm small and local
December 13 2016

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Ryan Stoa, Florida International University

In November, voters in as many as 12 states will see a marijuana legalization initiative on their
ballots. Marijuana is already legal for recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington
and Washington, D.C. Another 25 states have legalized medical marijuana. The era of marijuana
prohibition is rapidly coming to a close.

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Unfortunately, lawmakers lack easy answers to tough questions facing the marijuana industry.
Legalization presents challenges on a number of fronts, including distribution, taxation,
consumption, security and public health.

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In a recent article, I argue that the agricultural sector of the marijuana industry also presents a
number of challenges. One paramount question looms over the rest: Will marijuana agriculture
become consolidated, with “Big Marijuana” companies producing vast quantities of indistinct
marijuana? Or, will small-scale farmers thrive by producing unique and local marijuana strains?

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My research shows that Big Marijuana is not inevitable. On the contrary, a local, sustainable, smallscale farming future is entirely within reach.

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The problem with Big Marijuana
Marijuana agriculture in the United States is currently dominated by small-scale farmers. Staying
small allows farmers to stay under the radar of federal officials. When the federal prohibition is
lifted, however, many people assume the free market will push these farmers out of business. As
large farms producing cheap marijuana drive prices down, small-scale farming may no longer be
profitable.
As one recent study put it, “legalizing marijuana opens the market to major corporations, including
tobacco companies, which have the financial resources, product design technology … marketing
muscle, and political clout to transform the marijuana market.”
But there is reason to doubt the inevitability of Big Marijuana. To begin with, it’s not clear the
marijuana plant is capable of large-scale cultivation. “Marijuana” is a catch-all term for the
hundreds of individual strains of the Cannabis sativa plant species. Each strain has unique cultivation
needs, and yields a product with unique characteristics. Marijuana farmers have told me that many
of these strains are notoriously high-maintenance. It would be difficult to mass-produce these
strains without a noticeable drop in quality.
There’s little reason to believe marijuana agriculture will operate in a completely free-market
environment, either. Many states are wary of letting big corporations take over the marijuana
industry. California’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy recommends “a highly
regulated market … not an unregulated free market; this industry should not be California’s next
Gold Rush.”

Marijuana sale in Colorado. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

And, “the goal should be to prevent the growth of a large, corporate marijuana industry dominated
by a small number of players.” Some states have already taken measures to protect small-scale
farmers, and prevent a Big Marijuana takeover. California, for example, limits the maximum canopy
size of a marijuana farm to one acre, which is minuscule compared to most American farm crops.
Many people might be uncomfortable with the mainstreaming of marijuana, but spreading the
opportunities and benefits to many, rather than a powerful few, might make it easier for politicians
and their constituents to make peace with legalization.

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Parallels between wine and weed
If a local, sustainable, small-scale vision of marijuana agriculture is possible, how can it be made a
reality?
I argue that farmers, regulators and consumers may benefit from adopting the wine industry’s
organizational model, known as the appellation system. An appellation is a legally protected
designation that is applied to a product to indicate the geographic region where it was created.
For example, when a wine label says the wine comes from Napa County, you can be confident it
actually did. Some appellations – in Europe, for example – also enforce quality standards or
cultivation methods. Under U.S. law, wine appellations typically speak only to the place of origin,
but in theory an appellation system can do much more. In the U.S., appellations can take the form of
a micro-region, county, state, or group of states. There are 236 active wine appellations in the
United States today.

Farmers in Mendocino County, California, have established micro-regions as proposed cannabis cultivation
appellations. Mendocino Appellations Project

Appellations can add value to the marijuana industry in several ways. Appellations provide a legally

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protected designation of origin, differentiating local products from generic products. That helps
protect local farmers and farming communities from the threat of cheap marijuana flooding the
market, because the products are no longer the same. Some appellations, like those in Europe, can
also encourage farmers in each region to work out issues together by setting rules and standards
for cultivation that maintain the product’s quality and reputation. Also, as in the wine industry,
appellations may promote agrotourism in marijuana farming communities.
In the image above, for example, micro-regions of Mendocino County, California, have been
proposed as cannabis cultivation appellations. Farmers hope these designations will promote
tourism and enhance their brand.
For the consumer, designations of origin provide transparency and protection. In the prohibition
era, most marijuana transactions took place on the street. Consumers typically had no idea where
their marijuana came from. Chances were good it came from Mexican cartels. But now that
American farmers are supplying consumers with quality marijuana, a certified designation of origin
would provide some measure of transparency by relaying important information to the consumer.
By keeping unique products in the marketplace, appellations also provide consumers with more
options to suit their medicinal or recreational needs.
Marijuana appellations are not a panacea, and it will be challenging to implement and enforce
“cannabicultural” designations of origin nationwide as long as a federal marijuana prohibition is in
place. But at a time when lawmakers are scrambling to put regulations in place, appellations may
provide the organizational structure needed to make sure marijuana agriculture remains safe and
sustainable.
Ryan Stoa, Senior Scholar, Environmental and Natural Resources Law, Florida International University
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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