There is an interesting trend going in vineyards across the United States and specifically in those areas that have or are in the process of legalizing recreational cannabis use. Viticulturists (grape farmers) are using their skills in the science of grapes to enter a new type of horticulture: marijuana.
Legalization of recreational use of marijuana has concerned many in the alcohol industry. Many makers of craft beer and/or spirits feel that their sales will stagnate or decrease significantly due to the acceptance of cannabis use. They fear is that consumers will trade one psychoactive substance (alcohol) for cannabis, and their fear is justified, due to marijuana being safer than alcohol. Yet there is one group that feels calm and welcoming about this trajectory towards legalization: viticulturists, or as they are more commonly known, winemakers.
At first blush, wine and marijuana do not seem to have a lot in common, but it would be a mistake to stop there. Many people drink wine not for the sole purpose of feeling its effects, but for the entire experience of the wine. Think of wine connoisseurs; they enjoy the entire experience of wine – tasting notes, the process of making it, the origin of the grape variety, etc. The same can be said for many, many consumers of cannabis. Winemakers who are leading the charge in growing cannabis are located in areas that already allow recreational use, which is not surprising. They believe that there is space in the marketplace for both legal use of cannabis and for wine consumption. From food pairings to informational testing sessions, wine and cannabis have a lot more in common than you would think. Many viticulturists appreciate the cultivation of cannabis, if not ardent supporters of the community. Similar to grapes used for wine making, cannabis plants have distinct aromas based upon where they are grown. Just as wine provides a certain psychoactive effect, so does cannabis – individual plants can provide individual and unique ‘highs’; some relaxing, some ethereal, among many other effects that a user experiences.
Many winemakers have purchased additional land in areas such as Oregon, Colorado, and of course, in the ‘Emerald Triangle’ a three country area in Northern California that is thought to be the largest concentration of cannabis growing/farming in the United States. Beyond the similarities in wine tasting and the uniqueness of each cannabis plant, there is a strong economic pull for winemakers. For some, over planting grapes can cause a lopsided supply/demand, resulting in diminished production of wine, and ultimately profits. Cannabis that can be sold for both medical and recreational uses produces a higher return on investment, and can provide additional economic stability for the growers. For example, one ton of grapes can net two thousand dollars; he/she can make the same amount for one pound of cannabis. It is not all about the money however, there is a communal interest in the artisanal cultivation surrounding wine and cannabis production, and I think we will be seeing more ‘wine and weed’ tastings as time goes on.