Pubdate: Sun, 17 Nov 2013
Source: Napa Valley Register (CA)
Copyright: 2013 Lee Enterprises
Author: Kaydon Coburn


He envisions Napa Valley tourists not just sipping wine, but also 
taking a toke.

"The wine and the weed world have to come together and get along," 
said Crane Carter of the Napa Valley Marijuana Growers (NVMG) organization.

Carter is attempting to be the first in the Napa Valley to establish 
a cannabis tourism brand and industry that is coupled with wine 
tourism in the valley.

The Napa Valley Marijuana Growers, under Carter, has a website, 
business licensing, a registered domain name and sole proprietorship 
to branding the NVMG name and logo. He is seeking venture capitalists 
to invest in the ground floor of what he believes to be the beginning 
of a large, emerging industry for those who wish to do business with 
legalized growers and dispensaries.

Carter, a St. Helena resident, and the first licensed marijuana 
grower in the city, has a business plan to attract visitors for not 
only wine, but marijuana consumption.

"Times are changing," said Carter. "I've watched the marijuana thing 
evolve in the Napa Valley. I've watched the companies and individuals 
that have supported this war on drugs. I've watched others that have not."

"I can market these particular wineries," he said, and invite 
visitors "to enjoy the wellness of our valley."

As medicinal marijuana is increasingly accepted legally throughout 
the country, and Washington and Colorado have legalized recreational 
use for adults, many believe California will pass legislation for 
recreational use in the near future.

According to the Napa Valley Marijuana Growers website, "Napa Valley 
tends to be an adult oriented location to visit. Napa Valley 
Marijuana Growers is here to provide with helpful information about 
businesses, locations and happenings that welcome and support our attitude."

"We (NVMG) can drive sales to your tasting room (and) visitors to 
your tasting room from throughout the world. It's great for our 
economy and the wellness of the valley, period," Carter said.

The website states: "NVMG aspires to support businesses ... and 
provide services for like-minded people who are proponents to refute 
the prohibition of marijuana." It asks supporters to join a "fun and 
informative site for thought, recreation, resources and hospitality 
at Napa Valley Marijuana Growers."

In previous interviews Carter claimed to have "big corporate support" 
of more than 65 tasting rooms, wineries and tourism-related 
organizations for his plan.

However, the general acceptance of a cannabis marketing partnership 
among the vast array of wineries throughout the valley may be mixed.

"It is interesting, but may be a premature discussion," said Chris 
Canning, executive director of the Calistoga Chamber of Commerce.

"It will be accepted by a very small number of folks ... on a novelty 
basis, not as a mainstream endeavor," Canning said. "It will be a 
very niche market. The bigger issue is going to be competing with our 
current No. 1 crop, which happens to be grapes."

"It's somewhat of a moot point until marijuana is legalized," Canning said.

Many wineries decline to comment on the topic, noting the sensitivity 
of the subject and having no knowledge of Carter's ambitious plan.

"I haven't seen his business plan or anything, so it would be hard to 
make any intelligent comments. We don't know anything about it," said 
Steve Ross, cellar master for Cosentino Winery.

"It is news (to us). ... If our board were asked to take a position, 
then I would have something to say. It's not something we're working 
on as an organization," said Patsy McGaughy, communications director 
of the Napa Valley Vintners.

"Until it's legal, there's really no basis for us weighing in on the 
topic," said Allison Simpson, senior vice president of marketing with 
Visit Napa Valley. "It's not something we would put marketing focus behind."

"We have a strategy to focus on the Napa Valley being the premier 
wine, arts and wellness region," Simpson said. "As the business 
environment changes, then we would adapt, look at that strategy, and 
potentially expand our marketing focus to include other activities 
that draw people to the area. Whether it would be legal cannabis 
availability, or an amazing plum," Simpson said.

"Napa Valley has a history of wellness that predates the wine world," 
said Carter. "If you find wellness in a glass of wine, what's wrong 
with marijuana? Don't exclude these people who do find wellness in marijuana."

Carter said his ultimate goal is to have a brick-and-mortar location 
with a visitor center that "serves the wellness of the Napa Valley 
along with the wine industry."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom