With their relationship recently strained as pot farms pop up alongside tasting rooms and vineyards, cannabis growers and vintners gathered together in Buellton on Wednesday night to discuss a mutually beneficial goal: developing tourism opportunities that would promote and profit both industries.
More than 100 people crammed into the Grand Room at Industrial Eats to listen to a large panel of eight speakers, from cannabis growers like Sara Rotman and John De Friel to former Central Valley Congressmember Dan Denham (now working on federal cannabis issues), Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne, media consultant Jennifer Zacharias, and wine industry veterans Wes Hagen and Stephen Pepe.
The invited speakers, all pro-cannabis, urged wine and cannabis growers to work through their disagreements and unite. Though once against legalization, Denham suggested that all signs point to cannabis being federally legal in the next few years, a move he now supports.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a worldwide leader in wine and cannabis tourism,” said Dan Fox, who cofounded the Touring & Tasting wine magazine and now owns a cannabis farm. De Friel admitted that this conversation should have started sooner, but he emphasized, “The amount of overlap between cannabis and wine is immense.”
Most of the speakers cited the success of tourism collaborations in Sonoma County and Oregon, and there was talk of starting a committee to work on this effort together. Summed up Rotman, “Although we have concerns with our neighbors that we are overcoming and working through, our customers are really the same.”
The Q&A period following the presentation were dominated by speeches from those concerned about cannabis, from the visual and odor impacts to health.