UC Davis Specialist Anita Olberholster Says Effect of Marijuana Scent on Wine Grapes Should Be Investigated | Livermore News

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LIVERMORE – A proposal to create a 1.5 acre outdoor marijuana farm on Tesla Road near Livermore raised immediate questions about crime, water use and the general odor.

But a new question arose. Can the pungent smell of marijuana grown in fields adjacent to vineyards be absorbed by grapes and spoil the wine made from it?

“This concern is not based on total nonsense,” said Anita Olberholster, a cooperative wine extension specialist in the viticulture and oenology department at UC Davis. “Nobody knows. But scientifically, there is a possibility that there is a potential impact.

Olberholster said the introduction of cannabis to established wineries could potentially affect people’s livelihoods. California’s grape and wine industry is a $ 31.9 billion industry with 637,000 acres of wine grapes planted.

Following the announcement of a proposal to establish a marijuana farm on Tesla Road near Livermore, the Tri-Valley Conservancy is working on a policy regarding the cultivation of cannabis in South Livermore.

“We are carefully collecting information from other wine regions and UC Davis to help us determine our position on this issue,” said Mark Triska, who heads the land conservation committee for TVC. “Given TVC’s mission to promote economically sustainable vineyards and orchards, we are concerned about any crops that may have a negative impact on the Livermore Valley wine region and the South Livermore Valley Area Plan. “

Olberholster – who carried out a research proposal to study the potential impact of marijuana on grapes – cited data from the University of Adelaide in Australia which showed that it is possible that terpenes, the aromatic compounds responsible for the smell of cannabis, can be absorbed by the grapes. Researcher Dimitra Capone found that terpenes from eucalyptus trees planted near Australian vineyards affected grapes if they were within 50 meters

Olberholster said she was trying to conduct similar research.

“Santa Barbara County winegrowers are very concerned about the impact of the hundreds of acres of cannabis right next to some of their premium wine regions,” she continued. “We asked the supervisory board to fund an environmental study to determine the potential impact of the smell of cannabis on grapes. This may or may not have an impact, and even if it does, we can probably determine a safe distance between the cannabis and the grapes. It will depend a bit on the specific site and weather conditions, of course. But still, I think there is an easy solution, if we can just study the potential problem. “

Oberholster said the terpenes biosynthesized in wine grapes during the growing and winemaking process could “dramatically change the character of wine.”

“If a terpene or combination of terpenes dominates the wine, making it one-dimensional or imparting unpleasant characteristics to the wine, the wine can be considered spoiled,” she said. “In addition, the absorption of terpenes in wine grapes could take place during the entire growth period of wine grapes, which is several months from the size of the pea to maturity. Thus, an accumulation effect is possible in wine grapes, but needs to be investigated. “

Although federal law continues to make the use, possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana illegal, voters in California have decriminalized the use of marijuana by adults for non-medical purposes and have established regulations for it. State for commercial production in 2016. Alameda County updated its code in 2018 to allow permitted cannabis cultivation operations in unincorporated areas. In Oregon, legal commercial production of cannabis has been in effect for over five years. Producers must obtain the appropriate permits and meet state size limits.

In Oregon last year, two winemakers failed to convince a judge their crops would be damaged by the smell of an adjacent marijuana farm.

The Associated Press said Yamhill County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Easterday ruled that Smera Vineyard and Maysara Winery failed to meet the onus to justify banning the Wagner family from cultivate and transform his harvest.

Calling it a difficult and close decision, Easterday said that while the smell of marijuana may taint grapes raises “a threat, risk and concern, there is insufficient evidence at this time by a preponderance. evidence that it will damage the applicants’ current or future agricultural products.

The federal case, filed by the Momtazi family, who sold their grapes to Maysara Winery, is expected to go to trial this month. The Momtazi family allege that one of their regular customers canceled an order for six tonnes of wine grapes because it contained grapes grown on the part of their property adjacent to the cannabis farm. The client, according to the lawsuit, “felt that it was likely that the notoriously pungent stench generated by the marijuana had contaminated the wine grapes and would have a negative influence on the wine made from these grapes.”

The lawsuit said the Momtazi farm was unable to market and sell grapes grown alongside the cannabis farm due to buyers’ fears of contamination and lowered the value of their vineyard property.

The federal lawsuit alleges that the cannabis operation violated the Racketeering and Corruption Organizations Act, or RICO, because federal law prohibits the trading and sale of marijuana. The farm, according to the lawsuit, is a criminal operation.

Growing cannabis indoors is an option, Olberholster said, but it’s more expensive.

In Santa Barbara, residents of Carpinteria Valley have sued cannabis growers, claiming the pungent odor emitted from their greenhouses wafted over their homes and schools. Some said it caused headaches and breathing problems.

“I was told that the Santa Barbara County tasting rooms had to close because the smell of cannabis was so strong and no one could smell the wines,” Olberholster said. “The scent occurs mainly during flowering and processing, but can be very strong.”

In August, the Santa Barbara Coalition for Responsible Cannabis signed an odor control agreement with the Cannabis Association for Responsible Producers to install $ 20,000 carbon filtration systems in their greenhouses to prevent odors from spreading, reported the Noozhawk.com website.

Olberholster said Lake and Mendocino counties have not experienced any issues with their cannabis farms, but grow sites are smaller and further away from vineyards.

A study could determine what that distance should be, she said.

“I think cannabis and vineyards can coexist,” Olberholster said. “All we have to do is find the settings. “


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