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  • Writer's pictureJamie Evans

Sharing Lessons Across Parallel Industries

What cannabis and wine can learn from each other

On Thursday, August 2nd, 2018 the Wine & Weed Symposium kicked off its second annual conference focusing on opportunities for wine professionals in the cannabis industry.

Alongside Karli Warner of Garden Society, Devika Maskey and Allison Kosta of TSO Sonoma, and Rebecca Stamey-White, an esteemed cannabis lawyer from Hinman & Carmichael LLP, we discussed what’s legal for wine and weed events, and how cannabis event organizers are working with both products now that new regulations have hit California.

While events and event marketing was the primary focus of the panel discussion, the overarching theme for the symposium was what cannabis can learn from wine, and what wine can learn from cannabis.

Having spent over ten years in the wine industry and now running a business in the cannabis space, I love thinking about this question and how the two sectors can learn valuable lessons from each other. Below are some initial thoughts.

What Can Cannabis Learn From Wine?

Navigating regulations and the framework for social consumption.

The cannabis industry can learn a lot from the wine industry when it comes to navigating regulations as a growing category. Most recently, there’s been some exciting news. The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA), one of the most influential trade groups in the alcohol industry that monitors regulations, have announced that they support cannabis legalization at the federal level. They suggest states to consider using similar regulations to the alcohol industry and have proposed some regulations that they think will be effective for regulating cannabis. By taking a state-by-state approach and by using the wine and alcohol industry as a model, cannabis will be on its way to developing a successful plan for nationwide compliance once federal laws change.

Another good lesson that cannabis can learn from the wine industry was explained perfectly by Forbes writer Nick Kovacevich in “Big Alcohol Prepares For The Green Wave.” He suggests that cannabis should adopt a framework for social consumption that is similar to what has been developed for wine and alcohol. As an event host, this is where the topic of special events come in. As Kovacevich notes, bars, lounges, and different venues are all places that have been explicitly designed to consume a glass of wine, cocktail, or beer. While we are beginning to see a few approved cannabis lounges and cannabis-friendly venues, it’s not enough. As the cannabis industry continues to grow, we need to expand venue offerings and ask for lawmakers to take cannabis off the couch and into more social settings such as cannabis restaurants. I couldn’t agree more with Kovacevich, and hope cannabis will have social consumption opportunities equal to the beverage industry as we move forward.

Educational terpene display featuring Fiddler's Greens and Flow Kana at TSO Sonoma and The Herb Somm's Terpene & Terroir Dinner

(photo credit: Untold Creative Agency)

What Can Wine Learn From Cannabis?

Transparency and Education for New Consumers.

With recreational laws passing in California, this past year has been dedicated to education in the cannabis industry. Cannabis companies are doing a phenomenal job at connecting with the new consumer and are spending the majority of time teaching people how to use cannabis safely and responsibly. Smart dosing is always a part of the conversation, leading with a golden industry rule, “go low, start slow.” Cannabis brands are also very open with the consumer and take the time to understand how the consumer feels while using the product. In addition, the industry is transparent about what to do if you consume too much and the impact of cannabis on your health.

Many times in the alcohol industry, brands can focus on what they want an experience to be rather than focusing on how the consumer feels. An excellent example of this would be at a big wine tasting where there are unlimited pours, but little to no education to the new consumer on how to taste safely and responsibly.

In the alcohol industry, there’s also been little talk and education about how alcohol can negatively affect your health, but this is changing. One of my favorite new resources for wine professionals is “A Balanced Glass.” Founded by wine veteran and public relations maven, Rebecca Hopkins, A Balanced Glass is addressing these topics as well as bringing new wellness ideas to the wine and beverage industries. Educational resources like this will help the wine industry become even stronger, which all goes back to transparency and overall education.

Guest at TSO Sonoma and The Herb Somm's Terpenes & Terroir Dinner evaluates cannabis similar to a wine.

(photo credit: Untold Creative Agency)

As cannabis continues to evolve, these two industries will become more parallel than ever. By observing the evolution of social consumption and by following a like-minded regulatory and compliance model, opportunities for collaboration are on the horizon. I am looking forward to seeing what lessons 2019 brings at the next Wine & Weed Symposium.

Peace, Love & Cannabis,

Jamie Evans Founder, The Herb Somm


About the Author:

Jamie Evans is the founder of The Herb Somm. She is an educator, host, and writer specializing in cannabis, food, recipes, wine, and the canna-culinary world. In addition to her work in the cannabis industry, Jamie has over ten years of wine industry experience. Having represented a wide array of organizations and wineries, she is best known for producing high-end events and developing top-notch public relations, marketing, and hospitality programs. In 2019, Jamie will join the Advisory Board for the Wine & Weed Symposium.


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