About twenty years ago the innovative Finger Lakes winery, Glenora Wine Cellars made an agreement with a young entrepreneur to produce hemp wine, and almost succeeded in doing so.
Some scientists recognize three species–sativa, indica and ruderalis–in the genus, Cannabis. Hemp is a Cannabis sativa, but the tall plant is not the same as the short version from which humans derive smoke or munchies to get high.
Hemp has been an industrial dynamo for thousands of years. It is used today to make paper, textiles, clothing, plastic, paint, insulation, fuel, food, and probably many other things I don’t know about.
All Cannabis has been a controlled substance in the U.S. since the 1970s; plant cultivation has been prohibited. Hypocritically, however, the feds have allowed legal importation of hemp products. In 2014, sales of hemp products in the U.S. exceeded $600 million.
In the late 1990s, the New York State Liquor Authority seemed to have given Glenora a preliminary go-ahead to produce hemp wine from imported hemp, but when the time came to issue a permit to produce the wine the agency reneged, citing federal restrictions.
In 2014, Section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 changed U.S. hemp regulations slightly. The bill allowed universities and state departments of agriculture to cultivate the crop provided (1) the industrial hemp is grown or cultivated for research; and (2) hemp cultivation is allowed and certified under laws of the state in which it is grown.
In 2015, the Senate introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act to allow U.S. farmers to produce and cultivate industrial hemp and also to remove hemp from the controlled substance list. In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Drug Enforcement Agency issued a joint statement of principles reiterating that hemp can be cultivated only for research.
As of this writing, it is federally illegal to grow and sell Cannabis sativa in the U.S. but that hasn’t stopped some states from legalizing it.
Medical marijuana production and sales are legal in California. There’s a move to legalize pot’s recreational use, too. Since it is also the largest wine-producing state, it was inevitable that California wine and pot would meet in the bottle a concept recently brought to the fore by the performer Melissa Etheridge and her Know Label wine.
Ethredidge’s wine is produced by Lisa Molyneux, a marijuana retail pioneer in Central Coast Santa Cruz, CA. and Louisa Sawyer-Lindquist, owner of Verdad Wine in Santa Maria, CA, near Santa Barbara. Molyneux and Sawyer-Lindquist are also responsible for Canna Vine, marketed as being produced from biodynamically farmed grapes and organically grown marijuana (I’m surprised the PR doesn’t mention “gluten free”). I have been informed the price of the wine is quite high, pun intended.
Santa Barbara County has been a focal point for pot-laced wines for decades. The wine has been referred to as a tincture, a legal term for a medication with alcohol as its solvent—colloquially, such wines are called “green wine.”
Green winemakers claim that the highest wine fermentation temperature possible is too low to draw out Cannabis’ psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). But fermentation draws out the plant’s cannabinoids in an acidic form, which many describe as producing a mellow “body high” as opposed to the mental gymnastics produced by THC.
By Thomas Pellechia - Forbes/Oct. 27, 2016
Photo: Jason Redmond, getty
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