Cannabis Growers: Tearing off the Deviant Label
“We have had a deviant label applied to us,” claims marijuana grower Casey O’Neill. “We are a marginalized society.” He worries that as cannabis becomes a legal and acceptable industry, small, heritage marijuana farmers will be pushed out by large agribusinesses. And, he wants to keep that from happening by creating a co-op of craft cannabis growers and helping those growers tell their own story and create their own label (literally) as they learn to market to consumers.
Initially, O’Neill says, the Emerald Grown Marketing Services Co-op will help farmers craft a farm name and describe “the unique things that make their cannabis special and different than any other in the world.” This June, he says, the Co-op which is affiliated with the Emerald Growers Association will put out a catalog of farms and their products. “We will print 25,000 copies of the inaugural run in June and 100,000 in December of the fall edition.”
The catalog would bring together growers and dispensaries. “This is the coolest thing about it,” says O’Neill, “If you are a buyer, one thing you want is consistency. For buyers you never know what you are going to get. It’s like going fishing. The co-op would provide a way for business partners to have some sort of standard and consistency.”
Because marijuana has been illegal, says O’Neill, growers have had a difficult time learning simple marketing practices. “70% have not thought of a farm name,” says O’Neill, “and that’s one of the first things necessary to have your own business.”
Two meetings are being held–one in Redway and one in Willits–to, as the Facebook invite says, “create a platform that will represent that qualities of heritage cannabis and give us the opportunity to come out from under Prohibition at a pace that works for each of our farms. ”
O’Neill says, “Farmers will elect a board of directors and establish the procedures for running the Co-op. For now it is strictly marketing services, helping farms to create representations of themselves that can be put in a catalog.”
He has big dreams that someday the Co-op will do more than that but for now, that is all that he feels is legally possible in California.
And there’s another hitch. Not just everyone can join the Co-op though. “Requirements for Farmer-owners are that their farm be $1000/year members of the Emerald Growers Association,” wrote O’Neill earlier. “This creates a certain commitment level which we feel is necessary to make sure that farms understand the amount of work that will be required as our industry transitions from unregulated to regulated.”
“As heritage cannabis farmers we need to make sure that when we come out from under prohibition we are able to participate in the economy,” O’Neill says, “We need to create a network that will help farmers understand how to present themselves to the world….We need to come out from under the culture of Prohibition and be able to present ourselves as small business owners.”
The Co-op, he believes, will help growers work together. “We have been so divided and kept in the dark that we are just now being able to talk to each other,” he says.