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Janet Perry

“With cannabis, there’s a lot of independent thinking going on; like in the wine industry, These are dream chasers, no matter how daunting the chase might be.” George Christie.

Whether you are thrilled about it or nervous about the impacts, cannabis is here to stay. If you’ve been wary, it might be a good time to take a page from “The Godfather” and accept that “It’s just business.” The overwhelming success of the annual Wine and Weed Symposium is a great indicator of the possibilities inherent between the two industries.

The Symposium will be kicking off with a look at the family Coppola’s venture into cannabis by their Chief Winemaker and CEO, Corey Beck. “He’s going to give the keynote address and share the Coppola story of why they did it, what they experienced, and where they plan to go from here,” said host George Christie, President and CEO of the Wine Industry Network.

Christie looked back, “The symposium has evolved since the first year when it was mostly focused on educating the wine industry about ‘what just happened?’ We had just voted to legalize recreational cannabis here in California and there was a lot of curiosity on what that would mean for wine.”

The response was overwhelming, the event sold out and was praised by industry leaders for its groundbreaking approach to creating understanding between two industries vying for the same pie. The second year proved to be just as successful and tickets are expected to sell out again to this August’s third annual event.

“One of our goals is to help continue to facilitate a dialogue and an understanding for the wine industry about what’s happening with cannabis,” Christie said. “Is this an opportunity for Sonoma County to have more people travel here and spend money? Are there common causes that perhaps both industries believe in that they could team up on, like affordable housing, land use and sustainability? Inevitably there will be issues where the two industries are not on the same page and having that dialogue will minimize the negative impact and will allow both parties to work through those differences a bit more quickly.”

This year’s solid line-up of speakers will focus on the positive opportunities that exist now, as the two industries merge and successes are outweighing the feared negative impacts.

“However,” mused Christie, “we are still going to present the data and look at states where recreational cannabis is legal, what the impact has been on alcohol and more specifically, what do we see the impact to be on wine? And, how do those trends compare to states where cannabis is still illegal.”

“We’ll also be looking at the investment landscape, and in particular, the big alcohol beverage companies’ activity, why they’re doing it and what’s driving it,” explained Christie. “What have the early investors experienced so far? What do these investment experts predict that we’ll see more of going forward?”

“The Marketing and Packaging session will be looking at some of the creativity that we’re seeing come out of the cannabis industry,” said Christie. “I think that they are doing a really great job in a way that comes through as being incredibly authentic, which is what we’re all striving for in wine as well.”

“When it comes to millennial buying behavior and what’s getting their attention, what they’re looking for and what influences them, cannabis is succeeding,” said Christie. “I think it will be very interesting, from a marketing perspective, to have a couple of notable designers get up and show off a little bit.”

Christie has noted a trend of women from the wine industry emerging as leaders in the cannabis industry too. “Women, Wine and Weed” will be a roundtable discussion of female cannabis industry professionals with a background in wine, sharing their stories and perspectives on the similarities and differences between the two industries.   

“I say this all the time, whether you’re for or against it, the California cannabis industry is here to stay, especially here in Northern California,” said Christie. “Wine is going to be sharing a lot more than just our neighborhood with this emerging industry. I just think that from a business perspective, the responsible thing to do is stay informed and pay attention to what’s happening.”

The third annual Wine and Weed Symposium will be held Thursday, August 8th, 2019 at the Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country, in Santa Rosa, California.

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