CDFA Releases Appellation Regulations

In Fall of 2015, with the passage of the MMRSA, California made history by becoming the first and only state to include a cannabis appellations program in state law. Last week, over four years later, CDFA finally released its long-awaited proposed regulations for the creation of cannabis appellations, available here. The proposed regulations kick off a sixty-day public comment period to provide feedback on regulations before they’re amended and finalized by January 2021.

Comments can be submitted to CDFA until Monday, April 6, by emailing CDFA will also hold an in-person hearing to allow verbal public comments on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, from 1pm to 3pm, in the CDFA Auditorium at 1220 N Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.

The stakes for cannabis appellations are high. As interstate and international cannabis markets open up, appellations have the potential to be a powerful tool enabling small farmers and legacy cultivating regions to promote high-quality, environmentally sustainable craft cannabis. As the only state so far to initiate a cannabis appellations program, California’s appellations rules will set a model for other states, the federal government, and the rest of the world. For appellations to reach their potential – to ensure that they support small farms, legacy cultivation regions, and production at the highest environmental standards – it’s essential that CDFA gets these regulations right.

Over the past several years, a top priority for HCGA and our allies in other legacy cultivation regions has been to ensure that appellations are fully reflective of the terroir of each producing region. Because the geographical features of each area are unique, the cannabis produced in an appellation region should also be unique. In other agricultural sectors, such as wine, appellations are granted to products that are planted in the ground, under full sun and in full exposure to the natural climate. Although the proposed regulations including some language related to the natural geography of an area, they appear to leave the door open for appellations that are not fully reflective of terroir, potentially even including indoor appellations. This does not come as a surprise: CDFA has communicated that they don’t feel they have the statutory authority to develop a true “terroir” baseline for the program, and only through a statutory mandate would that be the case. HCGA will continue to advocate for a true terroir standard through whatever policy changes are necessary, including changes to statute.

HCGA will be working in collaboration with other legacy cultivation regions and organizations to review the proposed appellation regulations, advocate with policymakers, and submit formal public comment to CDFA. We encourage HCGA members to review these regulations, submit comments, and provide input to help us develop our public comments and advocacy strategy.

HCGA’s full summary of the proposed appellation regulations is available [[here]].