Though the recent Wine and Weed Symposium may have left both local winemakers and cannabis growers with many more questions than answers, the two mega-agricultural industries in Northern California came together to cautiously sniff each other out at the one-day event.

With billions of dollars at stake on both sides, it’s still a tenuous relationship, knowing that they’ll be competing for natural resources, people and market share. But cannabis is here, a 500 pound gorilla that winemakers are realizing they have to acknowledge sooner rather than later.

The sold out event drew a mixed audience of growers and owners in both industries, but panels focused mainly on educating the wine industry about weed, rather than the other way around. Speakers included Sen. Mike McGuire, whose district encompasses prime grape and cannabis growing regions including Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Sonoma and Trinity Counties; Hezekiah Allen of the California Growers Association; Sam Edwards of Sonoma Cannabis Company; Tawnie Logan of the Sonoma County Growers Association; cannabis business owners, winemakers, lawyers and others trying to navigate the complicated state, local and federal laws regarding the adult use of cannabis.

The event was a sort of show-and-tell to those outside the cannabis industry featuring emerging business and thought leaders in the marijuana business. Still coming out from the shadows of a loosely regulated and federally illegal industry, the jury’s still out about whether the culture of cannabis and wine will jive on the North Coast, finding a comfortable collaboration or factionalization.

At least everyone’s talking. And that’s a start.

Here are a few takeaways from the event.

  1. Lawmaking for the cannabis industry is facing an uphill battle, with state and local issues of permitting and zoning of greatest concern.
  2. Wine and cannabis will compete for resources, from land and water use to employees
  3. Cannabis has much stricter rules on pesticide use than grapes. Overspray from vineyards could result in serious problems for marijuana growers.
  4. Federal laws relating to alcohol will severely restrict the ability for winemakers to be involved in federally-illegal marijuana sales or growing
  5. Cannabis-related tourism is on the horizon, but there are still many questions about the legality of tasting rooms, etc.
  6. Cannabis growers aren’t keen on winemakers getting into the biz, mostly because some feel that there is already enough being grown in the state, and prices will plummet. Not to mention the maze of regulations.
  7. Many in the cannabis industry are looking to the wine industry for guidance as they navigate this new world of legality.
  8. Appellations are a huge issue for the North Coast/Norcal cannabis industry, since Mendocino and Humboldt are already well-known for high quality marijuana. Whether “appellations of origin” or designations that correspond to wine AVAs come to pass is important to growers.

We’ve created some slides with the most quotable takes from the event above.

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