Wine and Weed: Oregon, California Farmers Look To Combine The Two

Oregon wineries could be on the forefront of trend that will sweep other states where marijuana is legal.

Some in the Beaver State have added marijuana production to their usual wine operations. The land, and the opportunity, are both there for them. Plus, the weather is perfect for growing both grapes and cannabis.

Baby Boomers, one Oregon winery owner told the Associated Press, have started to drink less alcohol. In the meantime, Millennials have started to rise into prominence in the nation’s economy. “They’re looking for an experience of wine and weed,” the winery owner, Barbara Steele, said.

Oregon wineries are more than happy to provide that. In some cases, they’ve even started to lean a little more toward the “weed” side of the equation.

Wine and Weed: Seed to Smoke

Steele, who runs the Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden winery in rural Jacksonville with her husband, Bill, said they started growing marijuana last year. They plan to double the amount they grow this year, to about 60 plants.

The marijuana is sold under the same label as the wine. The Steeles started the plants with seeds grown in their laundry room inside an incubator. The couple prides themselves on being a “seed to smoke” marijuana producer, Steele said.

Others have done the same.

In California, which is scheduled to join Oregon in selling adult-use marijuana in 2018, wineries already are talking about the issue. In Santa Rosa, a “Wine and Weed Symposium” will take place on Aug. 3, around the time of the start of grape harvest.

The symposium is being hosted by the Wine Industry Network, a business resource for the wine industry that includes daily briefings. The symposium has its own website, with bios for all 17 speakers attending the event.

Federal Rules

In order to grow both marijuana and grapes for wine, winery owners must take great care to keep the two businesses separate. Because marijuana remains a Schedule I illegal drug under federal law, winemakers stand to lose their license to bottle and sell wine if the two businesses are mixed.

Basically, that means establishing two licenses with the state and paying taxes separately.

As example is Katherine Bryan, who also talked to the Associated Press. She already operates Deer Creek Vineyards but is now starting a separate company, Bryan Family Gardens, which will produce marijuana. The marijuana will be grown on land next to the vineyard.

With federal regulations unchanging and members of the Trump Administration voicing opposition to legalized marijuana, Bryan said she wants the operation to be as transparent as possible.

The venture could prove worthwhile. Bryan said the vineyard makes about $2,000 per ton for pinot gris grapes. They could make $2,000 or more per pound for cannabis.

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