I have something to say about wine and weed. It’s not new. It’s not novel. But it’s not an old, familiar, or tired topic. I’d say it’s the most talked about topic in the wine industry today, but that would be an overstatement. But there is a lot of talk and a lot of interest in the topic.

In a piece entitled “Weed and Wine: The New Paradigm in the ‘Culture’ of Cannabis”, author Clare Tooley shares her personal thoughts on wine, prohibition, and cannabis. Tooley is the Director of Communications at the Wine-Weed Cohesion Research Fund. The Fund, a New York-based 501(c)(3) non-profit research organization, inquires about the issue of cannabis and wine and how the two might harmoniously co-exist.

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Barbara Barrielle is a well-known author.

Three years ago, at the 2019 Wine Industry Network Wine & Weed Symposium, MW Clare Tooley, found inspiration for her Masters of Wine final paper entitled, “An investigation into the impact of cannabis production on viticulture in Sonoma County.”

Yes, cannabis production is a danger to viticulture, but it does not have to be.

Clare Tooley, MWClare Tooley, MW

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Cannabis growing is illegal in Napa County, where Tooley works as the wine development director for Lionstone International. Sonoma County, just next door, allows for legal cannabis production under strict guidelines. 

Other counties, like as Mendocino and Santa Barbara, have witnessed an increase in legal cannabis growing alongside premium wine production, with varying outcomes. Because of the expenses and restrictions to become a licensed operator, illegal cannabis production has long been the standard in these areas. Tooley focuses on legal indoor and outdoor cannabis grow operations for her objectives.

“California and Oregon’s combined wine business has an estimated retail worth of $41 billion,” according to figures acquired by Tooley for her 2019 thesis (CWI 2019; OWB). The estimated wholesale value of cannabis on the west coast of the United States is more than $20 billion (ERA 2017). … Despite the high cost of setting up legal cannabis production (ERA 2017), the average revenue of businesses on the US west coast has risen from $1.29 million in 2018 to $3.73 million in 2019. (CBT 2020). Cannabis yields per acre are above $1 million, compared to $644 for maize, $400 for soy, and $232 for wheat (NFD 2016).” [7, Tooley] (1)

She also discovered that grape production estimates per acre in Sonoma County are about $13,000. (SCVA 2020). Another advantage of marijuana growing is that it begins producing in the first year after planting, while wine grapes may take many years to yield grapes suitable for wine production.

On September 30, 2019, Petaluma Hills Farm, located at Sonoma Hills Farm, was granted the first one-acre conditional use permit for a cannabis grow in Sonoma County.Petaluma Hills Farm, which is situated in Sonoma Hills Farm, was awarded the first one-acre conditional use permit for a cannabis grow in Sonoma County on September 30, 2019.

Santa Barbara County has permitted cannabis growth without strict regulation, causing anxiety and disagreement among vintners and marijuana producers. “The county backed cannabis legalization and granted a number of licenses with no acreage limits. Tooley adds, “The comparison of $/acre return demonstrates how much cannabis beats grapes as a taxable commodity,” using crop statistics and cannabis legislation tax reports from California and Oregon. “Financial gain may have therefore influenced the early choices, as shown by interviews with local wine business professionals, one of whom said, ‘Unfortunately, money speaks.’ Furthermore, they all believed that the impact on viticulture had been overlooked.” [28, Tooley] The Santa Rita Hills AVA, for example, has approved 147-acre outdoor cannabis growths, making it the biggest known location to combine regionality with high-value plants.

Sonoma County’s approach to legal cannabis has been much more controlled. “Sonoma County has 88 acres of approved outdoor commercial cannabis,” Tooley wrote in 2019. (CDFA ; Johnson 2019). This is little in compared to its vineyard area, implying that it will have little effect. Furthermore, outdoor SC production is restricted to one acre per permit (SCCP 2020), indicating that its viticulture is safe from the detrimental effects of Santa Barbara County’s fast growth of limitless permitted cannabis acreage.” [Tooley,30]

Wine grapes are far behind field crops like hay and oats (330,000 acres to 80,000 acres) in Sonoma County, followed by apples, olives, and, to a lesser extent, cannabis crops (330,000 acres to 80,000 acres). [7, Tooley] In Tooley’s assessment of possible cannabis risks to the wine business, concentrating on land, labor, and water, land seems to be plenty and therefore not a concern. Although there are disagreements over the quality of accessible agricultural regions, there is no lack of land.

Different cannabis flowers on display during the 2019 Wine & Weed SymposiumCannabis flowers, like wine grapes, are influenced by their growth environment.

As a result, Tooley identified labor competition as a significant danger to viticulture. It’s still a significant, continuing problem, but with the area now experiencing a severe drought, the two rival sectors are fighting for irrigation supplies.

In an interview with Wine Industry Advisor, Tooley stated, “I believe water and labor nearly tie for first place as concerns for viticulture’s danger from cannabis.” “Every day, vineyards face labor scarcity difficulties and the complexities of labor issues. Cannabis is just a competitor.”

“Premium hand-harvesting is not simple to duplicate mechanically,” Tooley says, despite the fact that some contemporary vineyards have switched to mechanical harvesting. Although technological advancements may lead to the development of automated harvesting equipment that are on par with, if not better than, manual harvesting.”

Furthermore, the legalization of cannabis has removed the incentive for prospective employees to work on illicit grow operations, which usually paid better. Grapes and wine, on the other hand, have similar harvesting seasons (though indoor cannabis plants may have several harvests per year) and are therefore in direct competition for the county’s scarce labor. Tooley says that if she looked into this more, she might consider marijuana growing as a possibly healthier, more ecologically friendly work environment.

“The effect is more severe when it comes to water,” Tooley writes in her article. Due to a restricted water supply, viticulture in [Sonoma County] already competes with other crops and is under pressure to preserve and control its water use. The danger that a rise in indoor and outdoor cannabis production poses to SC viticulture is that it will be cut down or compelled to apply more limitations in order to preserve the status quo.

“Additionally, the development of additional vineyards would be severely hampered.” [37, Tooley]

Vintners who dry farm their grapes have less to worry about. However, since new vineyards need irrigation, water sharing will always have an effect on viticulture in general. “Any competition from other crops, including cannabis, for this valuable resource is a problem…. “The most apparent solution is to limit the area of new crops, particularly ones as ‘thirsty’ as cannabis,” Tooley adds.

When asked whether she knew of any wineries going into the cannabis industry, she said no.

Francis Ford Coppola 2018 Growers Series bottle shot2018 Growers Series by Francis Ford Coppola

Tooley recalls is Francis Ford Coppola, which partnered with Humboldt Brothers to create the 2018 Grower Series. The innovative product was presented by then-CEO Corey Beck at the 2019 Wine & Weed Symposium. 

“They accomplished the same thing with cannabis that they did with wine in cans, identifying particular flower and growing region in premium packaging,” adds Tooley, alluding to the wine bottle-shaped tin. The flower name and farm location were a nod to wine’s single-varietal, single vineyard designates that typically connote quality; the signature Coppola label was complete with an embossed pot leaf; the signature Coppola label was complete with an embossed pot leaf; the flower name and farm location were a nod to wine’s single-varietal, single vineyard designates that typically connote quality.

Attendees discovered a variety of weed-inspired gifts within the luxury packaging, including a Coppola-branded pipe, rolling paper, and a one-gram cannabis flower.

Tooley points out that the investment, innovation, and product itself demonstrate the two agricultural goods’ potential for collaboration. (However, the item is no longer accessible.)

This may be the case in Sonoma County, where the years-long campaign to promote the county’s attractiveness and its wines has made it a perfect fit for promoting high-quality cannabis as well. “For grape farmers wanting to diversify, cannabis is a realistic, though complex, consideration,” adds Tooley. Given the growth of legal cannabis production and its increasing market share, dialogue between the two sectors is critical.”

This may be the case in Sonoma County, where the years-long campaign to promote the county’s attractiveness and its wines has made it a perfect fit for promoting high-quality cannabis as well. “For grape farmers wanting to diversify, cannabis is a realistic, though complex, consideration,” adds Tooley. Given the growth of legal cannabis production and its increasing market share, dialogue between the two sectors is critical.”

  1. The entire article by Clare Tooley may be read and downloaded at the Institute of the Masters of Wine website.

Sources mentioned in Tooley’s text that are relevant to this article:

  1. Cannabis Business Times (CBT), State of the Industry Report 2019, Examining the Cannabis Cultivation Market (CBT), Cannabis Business Times (CBT), Cannabis Business Times (CBT), Cannabis Business Times (CBT), Cannabis Business Times (CBT), Cannabis Business Times (
  2. Borsage Environmental LLC (2019), Odor Assessment Study, presented at the Wine and Weed Symposium 2020.
  3. NFD (2016), Comparative yield per acre for cereals and marijuana, New Frontier Data. https://newfrontierdata.com/marijuanainsights/comparative-yield-per-acre-for-grains-and-marijuana/
  4. Calcannabis Cultivation Licensing, California Department of Food and Agriculture CDFA (2020), https://aca6.accela.com/CALCANNABIS/Cap/CapHome.aspx?module=Licenses
  5. Sonoma County Cannabis Program SCCP (2020), County of Sonoma, https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/Cannabis/Permits/Cultivation/
  6. NDIC The National Drug Intelligence Center is a government-run organization that collects and analyzes data Assessment of Cannabis Cultivation in the United States, 2009. NDIC of the United States Department of Justice www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs37/37035/index.htm
  7. https://industry.oregonwine.org/resources/reports-studies/2018-oregon-vineyardand-winery-report/ OWB Oregon Wine Board – 2018 Oregon Vineyard and Winery Report https://industry.oregonwine.org/resources/reports-studies/2018-oregon-vineyardand-winery-report/
  8. SBV Santa Barbara Vintners (2020), Facts & Figures, Santa Barbara County Wines https://www.sbcountywines.com/facts–figures.html
  9. Overview of SC Sustainability Programs Web Version (2020), SCVA Sonoma County Vintners Association https://sonomawinegrape.org/wp-content/uploads/Overview-of-Sonoma-CountySustainability-Programs-Web-Version.pdf
  10. SCWA, SC Flood Control and Water Conservation District, SCWA, SCWA, SCWA, SCWA, SCWA, SCWA, SCWA, SCWA, SCWA, SCWA, SCWA, SCWA,

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This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • wine industry
  • wine industry news
  • wine industry network
  • wine industry advisor
  • clare tooley mw weighs-in on wine-weed cohesion video
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