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The Perfect Pairing: California’s Wine and Cannabis Industries Collide



For any plant enthusiast, it’s a particularly romantic truth that the United States’ historic home of Cannabis cultivation also happens to be coterminous with its dominant wine-producing region. For fans of intoxicating substances, it’s downright exciting, not to mention convenient. And, for history and geography buffs, the fact that American weed and wine country not only significantly overlap with one another, but also got their starts in Northern California, is more than just a coincidence – it’s a testament to the special land both industries call home, as well as the industriousness and foresight of the people who brought them both to life.

In a perfect world, weed and wine are obvious bedfellows. They are both delicious and make people feel good. They come from the earth. And, for those who dare to think a little bit more about what they are putting into their bodies and why, both products evoke a legacy of taste and enjoyment that transcends just getting drunk or high – a lifestyle, some might say.

Unfortunately, the relationship between legal weed and wine hasn’t always been friendly up until now. In Sonoma, Napa, and Santa Barbara counties, fierce wars are being waged between Cannabis cultivators and wine producers, the latter of whom argue that Cannabis cultivation damages their agriculture and sullies the upscale reputation of the wine industry. They’re also not keen on the smell, which they say lessens their quality of operations, especially as tourism is concerned. On their side are wealthy proprietors, who don’t want to live next door to a weed farm, legal or not. 

Those battles are currently being litigated in the public sphere via local governments and court cases. But there are brighter spots: In late 2020, a law was passed in California, State Bill 67, which allows the California Department of Food and Agriculture to begin administering an appellations program. It will determine geographic boundaries for Cannabis producing regions, the way such designations exist in wine. Many people in the wine world were instrumental in helping Cannabis industry folks put that program, which is still in its infancy, together. They believe that strengthening an appellations system in one industry leads to an overall strengthening in the concept of geographically centered agriculture, which is ideal from both a farming and a marketing standpoint.

Some winemakers are taking it a step further, either by fully advocating for Cannabis cultivation in their wine-producing proverbial backyards, or by getting into weed growing themselves. 

Sunstone Winery Owner Teddy Cabugos at their Santa Barbara County property. (Photo courtesy of Sunstone Winery).

Teddy Cabugos, who owns Sunstone Winery in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley, is doing both. In a notable judgment, his winery applied for a land-use permit to grow Cannabis at the vineyard’s estate, which would mean grapes intended for winemaking and weed are grown on the same property. This is strictly verboten just about everywhere else, especially in California. 

After a lot of back and forth with local governments and agencies, as well as his well-heeled wine cultivating neighbors, Cabugos was able to reach an agreement. In May 2021, Sunstone was approved for the permit to plant up to six and a half acres. It’s the first time such a permit has been granted in Santa Barbara County and it represents a significant step in pairing wine with weed, pun fully intended.

“Sunstone is in a neighborhood with very wealthy people, most of whom don’t want Cannabis,” he says. “I had to work against seven appellates, very high-profile people, and for a year I had to work with them to dwindle down my project to something ‘respectful,’” adding that he understands he’s the newcomer to the neighborhood – having bought the property in 2019, though he’s a fourth-generation Santa Barbara resident. He respects that not everyone was initially on board with his plans to grow weed, and thus was willing to compromise. 

Cabugos says he and his wife bought the property with Cannabis cultivation in mind from the start. “I think the wine industry missed a huge opportunity in Santa Barbara County for filing for their permits, because they have the most beautiful properties,” he says. “They already have brand names. They already have the public coming onto their properties to buy their goods. That can catapult their entry into Cannabis,” he says, recognizing the value of an established brand – something many legal Cannabis brands are sorely lacking due to prohibition.

Stephanie Honig of Honig Vineyard & Winery in the Napa Valley, helped found the Napa Valley Association. (Photo courtesy of Devin Cruz).

Cabugos is not alone in thinking the wine industry has severely missed the mark. Stephanie Honig of the Napa Valley estate Honig Vineyard & Winery is not interested in cultivating Cannabis, but she is steadfast in fighting for cultivators’ rights to do so in Napa County, advocating for it in public and private and helping to found the Napa Valley Cannabis Association. Currently, Cannabis cultivation is banned in the county.

The association is largely responsible for keeping the issue of cultivation at the county’s forefront, which has been no small task in the Covid era, seeing as many of these ballot initiatives and ordinances require in-person signature gathering. So, an official county ordinance is currently tabled until it’s safer and more possible to move it forward, Covid-willing. In the meantime, Honig says that she and her team are more focused on education until the next time they can vote on it. They are shooting for 2024 to ensure as high of voter turnout as possible, which they don’t think is likely for a 2022 election.

“There are a few reasons why I’m a believer in [Cannabis cultivation] in this county,” Honig says. “Everybody knows that a monoculture is not good for the environment, nor is it good from an economic standpoint,” she says of the dominant cash crop for the region, which is obviously grapes.

“Especially with these fires we have been experiencing, nobody wants just one crop. The other piece is with marketing – Napa produces only four percent of the wine made in the state of California. But it generates over a third of the value of California’s wine industry, monetarily speaking. So, it’s really the top of the pyramid when looking at quality and quantity, because it’s the premium end of the market, right? Price, quality, and a small amount,” she explains. 

To Honig, the wine industry is so focused on the high-end older consumers, which keep the industry afloat for now from both a retail and tourism perspective. But they have a “Millennial and Gen Z problem” that she thinks Cannabis can help, saying that no longer are people wanting “just” a wine vacation. They are going to want to mix it with Cannabis, distillery visits and brewery stops, in addition to world-class farm-centric cuisine and beautiful views.

Honig’s idea is that, ideally, Cannabis cultivators in Napa would mimic the wine model with weed. “If we can even grow one or two percent of the Cannabis that is grown in the state with the Napa name, then we are really touching on that luxury market,” she says, noting that would-be growers have asked for only 100 acres out of the entire county. For context, grape growing takes up about 850,000 acres. She also notes they have made serious concessions in the process to get even this far, as Cannabis cultivation would be set back far from the main artery of the valley along the Silverado Trail. Instead, Cannabis cultivation would take place in the agricultural watershed, far away from most vineyards and certainly so from any tourist attractions. 

Nearby in Sonoma County, storied winemaker Mike Benziger of Benziger Family Winery is quietly growing legal weed at his GlenTucky Farm while making award-winning, certified organic and biodynamic wines at his estate winery.

Apart from championing Cannabis cultivation in wine country, Benziger was also involved in the creation of California’s appellations law, which requires sun-grown buds and prioritizes organic and biodynamic farming – his specialty and, in the opinion of the law’s architects, the only way to ensure land and geography has its rightful place in cultivation, and the marketing of weed that comes from a specific area. 

Sunstone Winery owner Teddy Cabugos says he and his wife bought the property with Cannabis cultivation in mind from the start.

To Benziger, the link between growing weed and grapes for wine is an obvious one. They’re both just plants, after all, and those who care for one crop or another, ultimately, are stewards of the land. That it falls on the same territory, only means more care in his view. 

“When we were creating appellations, we looked to France and their A.O.C. system,” Benziger says of the French system for creating geographic boundaries for winemaking, which includes best practices for farming and land management. “The French model for appellations takes a lot into consideration. It takes everything from the environment, to the soil, farming techniques, the mindset of the grower, and the politics of the area … it’s all part of creating the best product possible. Cannabis is a very expressive plant, so are grapes,” he says, indicating the level of care exhibited by Cannabis cultivators as they move further into winemaking territory.

Like with the planned cultivation in Napa, Benziger is required to grow on a separate parcel of land that in no way touches the wine part of his business, whether literally or figuratively speaking. Down in Santa Barbara County, Cabugos at Sunstone will have to do no such thing, thanks to his land use ordinance which allows him to grow weed in full view of his grapes, and vice versa. 

Cabugos, who is about to hire an estate grower for his new Cannabis venture, is also in possession of a somewhat hard to come by dispensary permit. He owns an off-site manufacturing and processing center as well. Ideally, he would like for the dispensary – and eventually a consumption area – to be on-site at the estate property. Both of those are not currently possible, so he said that the worst-case scenario is he holds onto the license for as long as that takes, and will utilize his local dispensary connections to sell whatever weed he grows. 

Either way, Sunstone Winery’s first Cannabis seeds will be planted next spring. It remains to be seen what, exactly, grows from that – but planting seeds is always the first step. | |

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Labat and Leaf Botanicals Relationship Ends in Tears; N Cape Cannabis Producer Pulls Out of Deal with JSE Company



Unresolvable issues around value and quality

Northern Cape organic cannabis grower Leaf Botanicals has pulled out of its share deal with JSE-listed Labat Africa and wants out. That’s emerged after Labat, which owns 80% of Leaf Botanicals, posted an announcement on SENS to its shareholders on 17 March 2022 that there was a “quality issue” behind the breakdown.


Both sides seemed equally unhappy with their year-long marriage, with Upington-based Leaf Botanicals pulling the plug because of financial disappointment, and Labat saying the flower was not good enough for its international customers. Labat has gone looking for production elsewhere, picking up 80% of Eastern Cape grow op, Sweetwaters for R10 m – for which it paid cash. Leaf Botanicals’ intentions going forward have not been made public.


The company said the “Leaf Botanicals acquisition was terminated due to Leaf Botanicals no longer wishing to pursue the transaction following the discovery that the product was not up to standard and the inability to find a suitable way forward. Following further discussions, the termination has been accepted by Labat.”


Van der Colff activated suspensive clause after sale value plummeted by 75%

Labat purchased 75% of Leaf Botanicals in May 2021 from award-winning farmer, Johannes van der Colff.

Labat paid R11,25 million for its equity in the SAHPRA-licensed facility and paid the Gog van der Colff Trust by way of 11 250 000 Labat shares, taking a bet that the Labat share price would go up. Well it didn’t. It is currently trading around 25c a share, which means the R11,25 m van der Colff was paid for giving up majority control of his operation is now worth a mere R2,8 m, 75% down on the value of the striking price.

Van der Colff’s got out the deal by activating a suspensive condition in the purchase agreement which allowed him to pull out if Labat was trading below R1.00/share for the 30 days before the first anniversary of the deal, which is imminent.  The issuing of his Labat shares is to be cancelled and those shares delisted.


Labat has endured a rocky ride so far, prospects are looking up

Labat has had a rocky ride as the mover with first advantage in the South African cannabis space. It paid for many of its acquisitions with Labat shares valued at R1.00/share. With the price languishing below 30c/share, those who accepted shares in return for giving up equity in their own businesses, have taken a haircut of 75% of the value of their shares.  Nonetheless Labat appears to have stabilized, and has again been out shopping

The post Labat and Leaf Botanicals Relationship Ends in Tears; N Cape Cannabis Producer Pulls Out of Deal with JSE Company appeared first on Cannabiz Africa.

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Gauteng Signs Township Act into Law; Calls for Entrepreneurs to Pitch Proposals to Industrialize Cannabis



New Act aimed at empowering community trade

The Gauteng government has invited entrepreneurs to come forward with commercial proposals for the provincial cannabis industrialization programme. It published the invitation in the Government Gazette on 29 April 2022, the same day that Premier David Makhura ratified the Township Economic Development Act (TEDA), aimed at empowering townships and informal settlements.


Agriculture MEC Parks Tau, who is in charge of the province’s cannabis strategy says TEDA’s benefits include:

cutting red tape by introducing model standard bylaws, 
providing targeted tax incentives to unlock capital formation and job-creating investments, and 
providing targeted funding and targeted procurement whereby 40% of government procurement from the Gauteng provincial government comes from companies in the TEZs.


Tau: Vaal River Smart City will be SA’s first real cannabis hub

Writing in the Sunday Times on 1 May 2022, Tau said TEDA was “ a welcome legislation to unleash the potential of the township cannabis and hemp sectors that will be fully licensed in the full hemp value chain and acting as gateways for the industry. This will make Gauteng a “green gold” mecca, as announced by Makhura, with the establishment in the Vaal River Smart City area of the country’s first cannabis hub focusing on cultivation of cannabis primarily for medical use and application”.

Tau said the implementation of TEDA would be done in conjunction with the private sector and community organizations. “TEDA is a whole-of-society call to action to build better townships and informal settlements reeling from the negative effects of the Covid-19 health and economic pandemic, the July 2021 civil unrest and the complex spillovers from the Russia-Ukraine war” he wrote.  

“Moreover, this requires the introduction of a solidarity economy through, for instance, a service delivery co-production for municipalities where enterprises and organisations such as stokvels and mutual benefit societies provide their own communities with goods, services and knowledge that meets the local community’s needs”.


Gauteng wants to form partnerships with private sector

The Gauteng Department of Economic Development and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development are championing cannabis reform as part of the province’s goal to create jobs and boost the economy by processing hemp and cannabis at an industrial scale.


Companies interested in partnering with the provincial government must take into consideration in their application that their proposals must include:

details of funding mechanisms, 
cannabis-driven carbon reduction, 
rehabilitation of compromised mining land, 
and the inclusion of communities as partners.


In return Gauteng says it will provide support for private sector partners by:

offering leases on state owned or controlled land;
providing rentals at special economic zones, industrial parks 
subsidies at private facilities;
financing partnerships, 
funding input and administrative costs 
facilitating collaborations with other state organs, aimed at removing barriers on projects.


Antony Moloto is the man riding point on the project. His contact details are below:

Email enquiries:

Queries: Mr Anthony Moloto 

Phone: 011 240 2684/ 083 408 5493 


Upload a completed form here with CV’s, BBBEE certificate /affidavit, tax clearance certificate and proof of CIPC registration as well as a proposal. Application inclusive of attached documents must be no longer than 20 pages. Please complete the checklist at the end of the application form.

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Now Musk’s Bought Twitter, Could This End The Cannabis Social Media Ban?



By Bruce Barcott, First Published in Leafly on 25 April 2022


Does this spell the end of cannabis prohibition on social media platforms?

Elon Musk has been an outspoken opponent of prohibition. Now he owns Twitter. 

What began as a fun what-if last week ended as a startling fait accompli this afternoon: Twitter has accepted Elon Musk’s $44 billion bid to buy the company. 

In the cannabis world, that deal could have profound ramifications. 

The Tesla founder has been famously outspoken about his belief in cannabis legalization. In late 2018, Musk lit up a joint on the Joe Rogan Experience, inhaled, and launched a million memes. 

In the summer of 2020, Musk added his voice to the chorus of those working to free America’s cannabis prisoners. 

“Selling weed literally went from major felony to essential business (open during pandemic) in much of America & yet many are still in prison,” he wrote. “Doesn’t make sense, isn’t right.” 

Musk isn’t so much an advocate as an ally. He’s not the guy who’s bankrolling state legalization campaigns; he’s the uber-bro with massive cultural influence who says, loudly: Prohibition is stupid!


And now he owns Twitter. At a purchase price of $54.20 per share. Ahem. 

Will that change things? 


What needs changing? 

Anyone who works in cannabis can tell you: Social media platforms do not play well with weed. The continued federal prohibition of marijuana makes the major platforms—Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok—extremely nervous. They often express that trepidation by blocking posts, enacting shadow bans, or deleting entire accounts. 


It’s hard to find a cannabis company that hasn’t been blocked or banned from at least one social platform.

It’s hard to find a cannabis company that hasn’t been blocked or banned from at least one platform at one time or another. 

Often the bans feel capricious. A post that seems utterly harmless can get flagged for violating a platform’s terms of service, while an edgier post can shine on with no trouble at all. ‘What did we do wrong? is an anguished cry that nearly every cannabis social media manager has shouted to the heavens. 

These mysterious cannabis policies exist on a spectrum. On the far side of strictness sits TikTok, which allows no cannabis content whatsoever. Don’t even try. The Google-owned YouTube can be tricky, but it allows cannabis content within reason. Then there’s Instagram and Facebook, both owned by the parent company Meta. Because of the nature of the cannabis audience, Instagram is currently the most important and influential platform, and also the one that gives social media directors absolute fits when it comes to cannabis content. 

Jungle Boys, one of the nation’s top cannabis brands, gave a wink to that situation earlier today: 


Will Musk change Twitter’s cannabis rules?

The platform Musk just purchased has a reputation as being one of the most liberal in its treatment of cannabis. There’s upside and downside to that. 

The upside is that Twitter is the best fit, culturally and temperamentally, with Musk himself. His public persona is much closer to that of the swashbuckling libertarian Jack Dorsey (Twitter’s founder) than to the aggressively flavorless Meta leader Mark Zuckerberg. 

If anything, we should expect Twitter’s cannabis policies to relax even further under Elon Musk. Consider this tweet he put out upon the acceptance of his bid this afternoon: 


Better gatekeeping, or an ugly free-for-all?

Musk’s championing of free speech could make Twitter the most 420-friendly platform—but it could also turn the entire Twitterverse into an ugly free-for-all of political propaganda, unchecked conspiracy theories, and hate speech. 

One year from now Twitter could be the social platform most welcoming to cannabis companies and consumers. But will cannabis companies and consumers want to appear on Twitter one year from now? 


It’s not just his company, it’s his voice

Beyond the changes he might enact at Twitter, Musk could change the environment for cannabis simply by virtue of his new role in the social media universe. After hearing about Musk’s bid over the weekend, I reached out to Arend Richard, the founder of WeedTube. Richard has been one of the leading advocates for social media freedom and fairness when it comes to cannabis. He founded WeedTube back in 2018 after finding himself blocked by YouTube for an innocuous cannabis post. Four years later the 420-friendly WeedTube is thriving, readying an ambitious new update to their app expected to launch later this summer. 

“As a cannabis business owner and influencer, Twitter has been relatively easy to work with,” Richard told me. “But I want to get in touch with Elon, because we need him to help bring awareness to the situation with Meta” and their platforms. 

Richard is currently gathering signatures on a petition demanding that Instagram reform its community guidelines “to treat all legally operating cannabis businesses equally.” 

The heart of the grievance? Unequal enforcement, according to the petition: 

“Instagram continues to suspend and delete the pages of licensed and legal cannabis companies for violation of their vague and outdated policy prohibiting “attempts by individuals, manufacturers and retailers to purchase, sell or trade” marijuana. This policy is not enforced equally, with large multi-state corporations being allowed to promote their products and locations, while smaller, independent operators lose access to their Instagram pages, which are essential marketing tools in 2022.” 


Influence others by eating their lunch

Can Elon Musk demand a change in the policies of Instagram? Of course not. This is a situation where he could force a change, however, by simply opening his arms to cannabis companies and then gaining ground on Insta. 

The Meta-owned giant has nearly ten times as many active monthly users as Twitter. Instagram is younger, hotter, and more hip. If a Musk-over of Twitter can change that perception and eat into that lead, Instagram could be forced to reconsider its stodgy and outdated cannabis policies. And that could lead to a change in the other Meta properties as well. 

There are no guarantees, but it could work. Elon Musk alone couldn’t force GM and Ford to start making electric cars. The success of Tesla forced them to follow his lead or become obsolete. Let’s see what he can do with social media.

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