It is no secret that mom-and-pop cannabis cultivators are finding it hard to compete with well-financed corporations as the marijuana supply has increased and prices drop. Following in the footsteps of the wine industry, and branding various regions on the West Coast could prove to be a good tactic by craft growers. The Mendocino Appellations Project, or MAP, is working to do for California cannabis what the champagne appellation has done for French sparkling wine, and some state-of-the-art research on the issue is being conducted in Oregon, according to Wired:

In 2017, the California Senate passed a bill requiring the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture to come up with “a process by which licensed cultivators may establish appellations of standards, practices, and varietals applicable to cannabis grown in a certain geographical area” by 2021. To this end, MAP’s goal is to formalize so-called appellations of origin. These labels would ignore things like county boundaries but might instead reflect the grower communities that have formed over the years around certain strains. “It’s predominantly the environmental boundaries and the cultural boundaries that are defining an appellation of origin district,” says Genine Coleman, executive director of MAP.

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Advances in LED and climate-control technology allow growers to take two genetically identical plants and expose them to different conditions, free from the vagaries of Mother Nature. “Small changes in temperature, relative humidity, nutritional availability, are going to greatly affect the chemotype, none more than light,” says Jeremy Plumb, director of production science at Prūf Cultivar in Oregon. “Light is going to be a gigantic variable.”

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Cultivators like Prūf Cultivar are leading the research because it’s been hard for academics to study a federally controlled substance, but that’s changing. At Portland State University, for example, researchers have begun a pilot study into the cannabis terroir question—whether the soil itself changes the way a plant grows, as it might for the grapes that go into champagne.

Cannabis legalization has done many wonderful things in states that have swept prohibition into the dustbin of history, but business difficulties do pose serious obstacles for small businesses as overly burdensome regulations and price declines can make it extremely difficult for small businesses. Learning from the microbrewery and wine industries makes a lot of sense. Hopefully, West Coast growers are successful in their efforts to brand their cannabis and we can see proper appreciation for those that have paved the way for legalization and the legal industry.

Learn about the latest efforts of craft cannabis companies to compete in the marijuana market, as well as other important trends, at the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco on February 7-8, 2019. Don’t miss your opportunity to network with top investors and entrepreneurs from California and around the world, so purchase your early-bird tickets to save and secure your place before the event sells out!