Origins Council: ‘Legacy Cannabis Farming Regions Unite for Urgent Policy Reforms’

Origins Council, a new advocacy organization, has emerged in the wake of Prop 64 to represent the legacy farmers and small independent rural businesses of California cannabis. Founded in 2019, OC builds upon the preceding work of the Mendocino Appellations Project and the California Growers Association.

Origins Council does not accept individual membership, but rather partners with professional membership-based regional trade associations representing rural legacy cannabis producing regions in California.

Today, California’s rural legacy producing regions are facing an escalating crisis related to the complexity, expense and protracted timelines associated with state and local regulations and land use requirements for legal cannabis businesses. In 2018, California launched the most environmentally protective and complex regulatory framework ever seen for an agricultural product. Rigorous environmental standards, policies and programs were established for cannabis farming. Pesticide use and product testing standards were developed that ensure consumers are purchasing clean, safe cannabis products. The legacy farming community has been a vocal, committed stakeholder group instrumental in driving this vision for sustainably produced, high quality regulated cannabis products.

Unfortunately, the rollout of legalization and regulation in California has been fraught with implementation challenges and, as a result, legacy producing regions are encountering significant barriers to entry, and in some regions, existential threats to licensing security. These issues were further compounded in 2020 with COVID and the economic impacts of the pandemic to these rural communities, paired with an unprecedented complex of devastating wildfires, impacting nearly every legacy producing region in California.

To address these issues, the Newsom Administration and state legislature is engaged in a massive proposed overhaul of the state’s cannabis regulation and licensing framework through the consolidation of the three cannabis licensing agencies developed in 2017 pursuant to the passage of Proposition 64.

In order to maximize this reform opportunity for legacy producing regions, Origins Council engaged Mark Smith of the Smith Policy Group at the close of 2020 to represent the organization in state and federal government affairs. Origins Council also recruited additional legal expertise to support policy analysis and advocacy goals to more effectively implement California environmental and land use policies in legacy producing regions, and ensure viable access to regulation for more legacy producers. Meeting these goals would mitigate the ongoing environmental and public health and safety impacts stemming from illicit production in these communities.

The legacy producing communities of California have a unique opportunity to model truly sustainably produced cannabis through embracing social, economic and environmental sustainability principles. State and local policy reforms that are driven from this triple bottom line

ensure benefits extend to rural producing regions, independent small businesses and farmers in these communities as well as to the consumers of these products.

Origins Council fulfills its mission through empowering and strengthening its Regional Partners and the membership they represent. In 2020 during the onset of the pandemic, Origins Council made the decision to forego member revenue sharing agreements between OC and their Regional Partners. These trade associations are enduring the same funding challenges that many small nonprofits are currently facing due to COVID and associated economic impacts. However, unlike non-cannabis businesses, neither these associations nor the cannabis businesses they represent can access federally or even state funded small business assistance programs.

In response to this crisis, Origins Council has introduced a Regional Sponsorship Program and is inviting businesses interested in supporting this work and the legacy producing community of California to sponsor the 2021 OC Regional Council Government Affairs Program.

For the month of February, Origins Council and their Regional Partner organizations are collaborating to drive a Matching Funds Campaign to raise $100,000. Each of OC’s five Regional Partner organizations has committed to raising $10,000 in business sponsorship(s) and Origins Council has committed to matching that effort by raising $50,000 in business sponsorship(s). Sponsors enjoy a tiered suite of deliverables, including public acknowledgement as supporters of this vital, historic effort to bring the unified voice, sustainability values and unique products of the legacy cannabis producing community to the world.

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