What Is Craft Cannabis and Do You Need It?

If skeptics of regulated marijuana, or cheerleaders for taxed weed dispensaries, needed one more sign that the legal cannabis industry is merging into America’s mainstream economy, look at the green rush’s freshest marketing narratives.

Artisanal marketing has come to cannabis.

The more expensive chocolate products are labeled as fair trade. The most coveted diamonds are certified ethically sourced. Craft breweries present a lowered environmental impact as a sales point for pricey artisanal beers. Marijuana marketing specialists have designated organic grow processes and sustainability as brand differentiators.

Ten years ago, at the dawn of state sanctioned and regulated marijuana sales, no one could have anticipated the advent of vegan cannabis. That unforeseen development in raising cannabis culture consciousness, and price points, is here.

Craft Cannabis Is the Hot Pot Trend; Is It Really Happening?

Anyone with an Internet connection and a curiosity about artisanal marijuana providers cannot help but trip over links like the one for Craft Cannabis Connection, a state licensed micro business in Cathedral City, California. The CCC’s cannabis plants are grown in coconut husks rather than dirt. The exclusively organic cultivation eschews chemical pesticides and tailors “food-grade ingredients” into ideal nutrient formulations for each strain’s particular appetite. Even the air these Cathedral City, California, Craft Cannabis Connection plants breathe is super charged, “infused with carbon dioxide for optimum growth.”

(New Frontier Data’s 2018 Cannabis Energy Report calculates that indoor cannabis cultivation, which Craft Cannabis Connection’s controlled grow environment requires, consumes 18 times more energy than outdoor growing.)

Established in 2010, Southern California’s Palomar Craft Cannabis casts itself as artisanal cannabis pioneers, “committed to producing the highest quality craft cannabis using responsible growing methods and innovative technology.” Pesticides are forbidden in the Palomar Craft Cannabis playbook, and sunlight seeping through a “hybrid” “clear top” facility may partially lighten the indoor crop’s carbon footprint.

Growing marijuana in the great outdoors is a leading brand quality of Mountain Craft Cannabis, which farms its “broad spectrum cannabinoid and terpene rich cannabis flowers” high in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains. The Mountain Craft plants are fed on “composted whole food inputs including saltwater fish, kelp, worm castings, ancient bird guanos and glacial humus,” breathing a pristine atmosphere of warm and dry sunshine drenched air, strengthened and protected from pests by “beneficial microbes, predator insects and funguses instead of chemicals.” Checking off all the sustainable artisanal boxes, Mountain Craft applauds its growing processes as, “better for the farm … better for the environment … better for the Cannabis.”

Who Can Doubt the Obvious Superiority and Values of Artisanal Craft Cannabis?

A November 20, 2020, editorial in Cannabis Business Times argues that, “With no clear definition [of craft cannabis], the industry is subjecting itself to confusion that will be passed down to consumers.”

Citing guidelines for craft breweries set down by the Brewers Association that declare “an American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional,” the Cannabis Business Times asserts that no equivalent definition applies to self-proclaimed American craft cannabis farmers.

The Cannabis Business Times editorialist Kenneth Morrow questions whether a craft cannabis label should apply based on a grower’s plant count or number of employees or limited production and sales counts? Does outside investor ownership disqualify a cultivator from craft status even if correct nutrients and pest control are in place? Should the grow facilities be a factor in earning artisanal branding? Does a marijuana producer’s community involvement and philanthropy give extra credit toward craft cannabis certification?

Until What Defines a Craft Cannabis Is Determined, Organic Is the Next Best Weed

While not fully addressing Morrow’s imponderables, questions of responsible cannabis agriculture have been the business of the Clean Green Certified program since 2004. Promoting the ideals of “regenerative vegan and organically grown cannabis,” Clean Green’s organic cannabis certification program is based on the USDA National Organic program as applies to farming of fruits and vegetables.

Clean Green claims to have been in the organic cannabis certification trade longer than any other program on the planet. It focuses sixty years of farming and processing experience on ensuring cannabis cultivators adopt best practices, such as natural pesticides and control methods that match “organically based regulations.”

Based on USDA organic certification procedures, Clean Green experts conduct cannabis farm inspections that include review of “inputs and procedures” and record keeping systems. Mock recall and trace-back exercises test a facility’s ability to protect Clean Green cannabis from contamination.

Facilities that pass inspection are issued a certificate and digital logo that are valid for one year.

Craft Cannabis as Entry Level Legal Marijuana Entrepreneurship

Michigan’s Southbend Tribune reported earlier this month on a “new pot trend coming to [the towns of] Niles and Buchanan: Craft cannabis.”

The paper points out that Michigan’s adult recreational marijuana laws have attracted a swarm of big money investors to the state’s regulated cannabis industry. Among the tide of deep pocket mass market marijuana operations, a handful of underdog producers is trying to hold its ground with craft cannabis.

The big commercial cannabis facilities are licensed to grow thousands of plants simultaneously.

State law in Michigan limits cannabis microbusinesses to no more than 150 mature plants, defined as measuring higher than eight inches tall, at a grow facility at any one time.

The entire operation of microbusinesses such as Regional Roots in Niles, Michigan, and Lifted in Buchanan are housed in a single building. Cultivation and processing of the plants happens in the rear; cannabis products are sold in a store upfront.

“The microbusiness is more of a mom-and-pop shop,” Matt Rosinko, co-proprietor of Regional Roots, told the Southbend Tribune. “It’s a far less expensive way of getting into the business.”

The “far less expensive” craft cannabis approach requires up to half a million dollars at start up.

Michigan’s craft cannabis entrepreneurs, such as Rosinko of Regional Roots and Lifted’s Michael Walpole, believe their long experience in medical marijuana cultivation is the true added value of their artisanal approach to marijuana growing.

“We’re going to focus on quality over quantity—craft, quality cannabis,” Rosinko told the paper.

Walpole plans to include the words Craft Cannabis Market in Lifted’s branding. “I know what I can get from a plant,” he says. “If you had to pay for know-how, it would be downright scary.”

Craft Cannabis and You

Until that probable day when a national craft cannabis registry is established, the only thing for the mindful cannabis consumer to do is sift through the marketing talk. Drill down on the websites of cannabis producers. Look for and evaluate the processes and policies adopted by each cannabis producer. Decide what category and brand of cannabis best suits your needs, your tastes and your values. Vote with your dollars.

Download 5 Tips For Choosing A Medical Marijuana Product
Written by
Allan MacDonell
Allan MacDonell

Leafwell's Editorial Director, Allan MacDonell’s work has been featured in publications ranging from Dazed and Confused UK to the New York Times and Washington Post. He is the author of Prisoner of X, Punk Elegies and Now That I Am Gone, and was a founding editorial director at online outlets including Buzznet, TakePart and Kindland. MacDonell views teaming with Leafwell as an opportunity to encourage the emerging role of legal cannabis as a highly effective medical treatment.

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