When it comes to Cannabis in legacy growing regions in California, it’s fair to say that they would be much worse off without Coleman’s work, which ranges from drafting policy to grassroots organizing for the rights of Cannabis farmers and everything in between. She also grew Cannabis for over 20 years, before switching her focus to patient and policy advocacy.
“Origins Council was really founded to give voice to the rural, legacy-producing communities of California, and to set policy precedents and research precedents that could serve traditional farmers, really, across the world,” Coleman says of the organization she founded in 2019. “I think all of our community, all of our traditional farming communities, are facing similar threats to various scales,” she adds regarding the context within which she views her work.
Coleman also serves on the Board of Directors for the 420 Archive, which is devoted to collecting, preserving, and sharing the history of Cannabis culture and prohibition in the United States. She is one of the founding board members of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance, formed in 2019. She has also served on the Board of Directors of the California Growers Association and chaired the organization’s Appellations Committee. These days, she can be found lobbying for interstate commerce of Cannabis sales, as well as a member of the Alliance for Sensible Markets.
It’s on the Appellations Committee where some of Coleman’s most recent successes materialized, and where her work also overlaps with Origins Council. In particular, she was one of the main architects of California’s Senate Bill 67, which ratified appellations of origin for Cannabis cultivation in the state. In layman’s terms, it means that there is now a legal designation that can be applied to Cannabis grown in, say, Mendocino County – the way that Champagne must come from the Champagne region in France, or it has to be called something else. Under her guidance, the law lays out specific rules for geographic and cultural growing region boundaries, and also agricultural standards – such as growing organically and regeneratively and, perhaps most importantly, outdoors.
It’s that law that Coleman hopes, in part, will help to save the legacy regions from the myriad of threats they face to their livelihoods: chronic wildfires, the fast creep of corporate Cannabis, historic price drops, and an ever-present water crisis, among other indignities.
Maybe once interstate commerce becomes a reality, Coleman and others think they will have a fighting chance due to the pedigree of their name and heritage. Who from anywhere in the United States that knows anything about weed wouldn’t want to buy weed from the Emerald Triangle if given a chance? Who wouldn’t want to visit a Cannabis garden in one of these historic regions the same way one would a winery in Napa? In an age where it’s becoming harder and harder for small growers to make money off of actually selling Cannabis, they are hoping to turn it into a craft and luxury product with a special status owing to its legacy.
“Something like 95% of our members are, you know, homestead farmers,” Coleman says of the growers she represents in her work.
“And so this is not just about a business and a livelihood. This is about a lifestyle, a tradition, multi-generational in some cases, with land holdings, multi-generational genetics that have been developed over time. There are unique practices – Cannabis is a very unique plant that requires specialized care,” Coleman explains.
“There’s a lot of inherent knowledge right within the heritage producing community. The appellations movement for Cannabis really started with the stakeholders that we represent at Origins Council,” Coleman says. “They really are legacy farmer-driven policies. So, in a way, those broader missions are really coming together.”