While many of us in the world of cannabis agriculture were scurrying about to get our appellation comments in to CDFA last week, Humboldt County also closed its open comment period on a critically important document relating to the future of region-based cannabis marketing within the County: the Humboldt County Cannabis Marketing Assessment.
The marketing assessment is a brilliant document prepared by the Humboldt County Growers Alliance that (1) compares and contrasts various regional-based marketing programs utilized by agricultural-producing communities in other regions, and (2) makes recommendations to Humboldt County to begin the process to identify and implement a formal regional marketing strategy. Notably, the marketing assessment recommends that Humboldt County’s regional marketing strategy be framed as a public-private venture between the County and the local cannabis industry, that a marketing committee be empaneled to ensure tax funds are used appropriately, and the County implement a County-wide stamp/certification mark program, among numerous other recommendations.
Sarah and I submitted lengthy comments in support, which can be found online HERE. Here is an overview of our comments:
Regional and Supply Chain Dynamics: A Farmer-First Approach
Our primary request was that the County employ a “farmer-first” approach in these policy developments. Since a agricultural marketing strategy starts with the farmer, its critical Humboldt County’s cannabis farmers have a strong voice in the shaping of these policies. While everyone in the supply chain (manufacturers, distro, retail, labs) and related stakeholders (the County government, local environmental groups, etc.) must have a meaningful place in these discussion, the economic health of the agricultural origins of the supply chain is critical to a successful regional marketing program.
In addition to the supply chain dynamics, Humboldt County is a massive County with disparate growing regions. Regional dynamics are an asset rather than a liability and, as such, the interplay among the various producing-enclaves in a Countywide program must be addressed head on at the outset.
More Procedural Clarity Needed
Despite attending two of the County’s public input meetings, I’m still unclear as to what the next steps are. Is the County going to approve the marketing strategy as-is or will further public input be taken? We’ve asked the County for more insight and look forward to the County’s response to our procedural questions in the coming weeks.
In any event, the Humboldt County cannabis industry must look closely at the different examples (Kona and Colombian coffee, Napa Valley and Bordeaux wine) and see what fits and what does not. For instance, we need further input from the community as to (1) what level of government-private partnership is appropriate for Humboldt County GIs, i.e. determining the best organizational structure based on the industry’s unique history and its desired roles/responsibilities, and the related issue regarding (2) who owns and who enforces the intellectual property that is the Humboldt County name and the local appellation name, including any related certification marks.
These are not easy questions but thankfully the marketing assessment’s compare and contrast approach offers Humboldt County the opportunity to develop a thoughtful and sophisticated regional marketing strategy based on our unique history and our goals.
The Marketing Assessment as a Baseline
We believe the marketing assessment is the right first step forward for Humboldt County cannabis to assume its place as a global industry leader, and we asked that the document serve as the baseline from which the County works to enact a robust marketing strategy.
In closing, the Humboldt County Marketing Assessment is the most exciting policy development of the year, in our humble view. Everything cannabis farmers have ever asked for is on the table here (craft market boost, increased value for environmentally sustainable and regionally-based products, equity participation, long game strategy, a united supply chain, government protection/enforcement against interlopers, and so on). Let’s go get it.