Grapes & Buds Unite: Top Takeaways from the Wine & Weed Symposium
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Grapes & Buds Unite at First Ever Wine & Weed Symposium

Posted in Insights — August 17, 2017

Marketing Director Clay Walsh and Partner Steve Fine attend the intersection of kindred industries with big growth plans.

In some alternate universe, cannabis is an established luxury good, and wine is just now becoming legal and overcoming years of unwarranted stigma.

The inaugural Wine and Weed Symposium, presented by the Wine Industry Network, united two industries that share more in common than their histories might suggest — the soil, the consumers, the tourism dollars, the weather, and even the labor required. Or, as Alicia Rose, Founder of luxury brand Herba Buena summarized it:

“They’re both highly prized and highly regulated agricultural commodities.”

For what seems like no good reason at times, these industries have taken remarkably different paths. Erin Gore, Founder and CEO of Garden Society shared the most obvious difference: the stigma of the cannabis category. “Cannabis is much less accepted than alcohol, and…perception is one of the major challenges.”  Ironic, since cannabis has far greater proven medicinal benefit than alcohol.

Perception is one of the major challenges.

Perceptions are changing even faster than legislation. Some likened it to being “back to the end of the 1933 Prohibition era.”  But product quality and consistency, along with the requisite consumer understanding, still lags behind. Education is key. The industry is in its true infancy, far less mature than wine was during Prohibition. As one speaker invited us to imagine: “What if every time a guest arrived in a wine tasting room, they had to ask what they do with wine, how they drink it, and what it will do to them?” Awareness and understanding may take years to develop. Meanwhile, many purveyors will shake out as consumers become more savvy.

What if every time a guest arrived in a wine tasting room, they had to ask what they do with wine?

California Senator Mike McGuire’s keynote was a call-to-action. Cannabis is a $7 Billion industry, and 60% of it is grown in California, where it’s poised to become legalized January 1, 2018. Comparisons to the Gold Rush are inevitable.

Cannabis is a $7 Billion industry.

Not unlike the California Gold Rush, perhaps the biggest by-product of legalization is that the economy surrounding the cannabis commodity – retailers, marketers, media, and all those related services that support any legitimate industry — are rapidly emerging.  Show exhibits highlighted the burgeoning niches and brands that support the industry, like packaging specialist (Hmbldt), edibles (Satori), online resources (Leafly), mobile marketing (Thin Film), and organic medicinal cannabis (Herba Buena).

Retailers, marketers, media, and all those related services that support any legitimate industry — are rapidly emerging.

The event only scratched the surface of the opportunities and issues surrounding this industry revolution. Cannabis is one of the most dramatic consumer product developments of our time. Brands that do the best job educating their audience, and delivering on the promise of the category, will drive a future where cannabis takes its rightful place alongside the finest wine brands.

“This isn’t roll and smoke a joint anymore.” – Hezekiah Allen, Executive Director, California Growers Association

Related:
FINE’s Wine & Weed Online Tour
Brave New World: Branding Cannabis
At Wine and Weed Symposium, vintners find themselves surrounded by economic opportunity 
Pairing Wine and Weed: California Dream or Nightmare? 
National Cannabis Industry Association

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