The magic of Humboldt cannabis stems from a combination of rich history as well as extremely fertile growing conditions. Telling the stories about the fascinating history and culture of Humboldt helps keep that magic alive. As the industry matures and becomes more corporate, it’s more important than ever to cling to our roots.
Humboldt County in Northern California is famous for being home to the most exquisite weed in the world. For decades, 80% of the weed distributed in the United States came from this region. When legalization came to California, and large commercial grows sprang up in Southern California, some people began to argue that it doesn’t matter where the plant is grown. This could be true for indoor grows, and this could also be true for distillate production, the lowest grade of concentrate on the market, but this is not the case for the finest, most robust concentrates.
The Humboldt County farmers produce cannabis of exceptional quality, which is a fact known long before the changes in some state laws. If great weed could be grown anywhere, then Humboldt would not have ruled so decisively over Mexican, Jamaican, or even the BC bud grown in British Columbia, Canada.
When shopping for cannabis concentrates, you probably don’t think much about where the weed that filled your vape cart was grown. The truth is, it matters a lot! So if you’ve never considered the environment required to create top-shelf concentrates, let us open your mind to a fresh viewpoint about a term called ‘terroir.’
Cannabis quality is about where it is planted and how it is grown. It is about terroir. Given the importance of terroir in cannabis quality, let’s take a journey into this unique term and what it means to cannabis cultivation. But first, let’s talk about the history of Humboldt County and how it became notorious for producing the finest cannabis in the world.
Part 1: The History of Humboldt County
Humboldt is a rugged part of California with soaring redwoods, a jagged coastline, and plenty of natural beauty. In the early days, pioneering Americans made their way to Humboldt, hoping to strike it rich mining for gold or working in the timber mills. Nowadays, Humboldt finds itself in headlines for a different kind of industry, making waves with its own “green rush” of sorts. One this is indisputable – Humboldt cannabis is far superior to weed grown anywhere else in the state, and, dare we say – the world.
Where is Humboldt County?
Humboldt County is located in Northwest California and is often referred to as the “Southern Gateway to the Pacific Northwest.” The area is bordered in the north by Del Norte County, on the east by Siskiyou and Trinity Counties, on the south by Mendocino, and finally on the west by the sprawling Pacific Ocean. The entire county comprises roughly 2.3 million acres, but over 80% of that is covered by wetlands, forests, protected redwoods, and recreation use areas.
Humboldt is sparsely populated with many remote areas, but its location just 270 miles north of the hustle and bustle of San Francisco means this fertile area has long been in the spotlight. The county seat is Eureka, which is a historic city of 27,000 that just so happens to be one of California’s major commercial fishing ports. Humboldt Bay also boasts the distinction of being the second largest natural bay in the State of California.
Humboldt County Cannabis: How it All Began
Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, coming off of a violent and unpopular war in Vietnam, Americans yearned for a new way of life away from the traditional system. This brought progressives, ‘hippies,’ and often outcasts to the Humboldt area. The basic idea was to form a community built off of shared morals and a living off-the-land ethos. In fact, it was dubbed the “Back to the Land Movement.”
A long history of deforestation meant land was extremely cheap and the new transplants propped up small local economies in the jurisdictions they ended up inhabiting. Countless micro-farms sprung up as part of the plan to create a more sustainable way of living. These farmers soon found out that the fog, nutrient-rich soil, and plenty of watersheds created a rich micro-climate perfect for growing crops, especially cannabis.
Those who first came to Humboldt in search of a simple life had no intention of selling their cannabis for-profit. The plant was simply for personal use and sharing among friends. That said, the quality of the Humboldt cannabis wouldn’t remain a secret for very long. The potent flower began to trickle its way down as far as Los Angeles. This remote part of Northern California now had a name for itself as the producer of the best cannabis in the United States. The price of marijuana coming from the area skyrocketed, and even more people flocked to Humboldt in search of profits from the green rush.
When the Law Stepped In
The U.S. Government quickly caught on to the steep profits being made, which led to a crackdown on farms in the area. This kicked off the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, or C.A.M.P. Helicopters began patrolling the sky over the farms, and many Humboldt cannabis crops were burnt down. Countless farms were destroyed, and growers were forced into silence and secrecy for fear of arrest.
The country began to view Humboldt as it was depicted by law enforcement and the media. This view was unfavorable, to say the least, and Humboldt became known as a destination full of unscrupulous people. This couldn’t be further from the truth of the ethos brought in by the original growers.
To better understand this crackdown, look at this list of arrest statistics following the Summer of Love and Back to Land Movement.
- The number of marijuana-related arrests increased 10 times between 1962 and 1967.
- Marijuana-related arrests rose from 27 percent of all drug-related arrests in 1960 to 61 percent by 1967.
- Marijuana-related arrests surpassed heroin arrests in 1965 and surpassed all non-marijuana arrests by 1965 (I.E. – more people were arrested for cannabis than anything else, at all).
Everything was beginning to change rapidly in Humboldt County, but those that stayed true to their mission never left. Some are still growing that famous Humboldt cannabis on family farms.
What Legal Weed Meant for Humboldt County
The original group of hippies and farmers had no idea that their Humboldt cannabis would become known worldwide. When the government cracked down, these same farmers fought tooth and nail, backing the original efforts for cannabis legalization in California.
In 2021, the same plant that was so severely prosecuted over is now a massive business. California is just one of the many states that have legalized recreational as well as medical cannabis. As more and more money floods the market, it’s important to remember the origins of our industry and the farmers who were the true OG’s.
Part 2: What is Cannabis Terroir?
Terroir is a French term that you may have heard in relation to wine. It literally means ‘earth’ or ‘soil,’ and it describes the entire environment where the wine grape is grown. It’s a combination of factors, including sunlight, soil, humidity, temperature, and other climate conditions, that impact the way the grapes grow. These factors contribute to the unique and distinctive characteristics of a particular grape.
Consider Burgundy wine. To be labeled ‘Burgundy,’ the wine grapes must come from the Burgundy region in France. No other grape can claim this name.
The same goes for Champagne. If the grapes were not grown in Champagne, you cannot claim this name for your bubbly white wine. Chablis, Bordeaux, and many other wines are named for the region in which they were grown. These regions are called appellations, and it’s how winemakers can identify and market their wine.
Because the grapes are grown in their respective regions, you can rely on what you might get from the wine. While different vineyards will have variations among their Bordeaux varieties, there will always be a common thread in flavor and effect among bottles of Bordeaux. What distinguishes these wines, and many fine wines from mediocre wines, is the terroir.
How Terroir Affects Cannabis
The essence of terroir is very much felt in the cannabis industry. While this does not apply to artificial environments such as indoor grows or greenhouse, it is true for the outdoor growers of the Emerald Triangle, especially in Humboldt County.
How does terroir affect cannabis? Exactly the same way it affects wine grapes. Strains of cannabis are just like varietals of grapes in that they offer reliable effects and flavors when continually grown in similar conditions year after year. A Blue Dream grown in Humboldt County does not taste the same as a Blue Dream grown in Massachusetts, nor should it. It also won’t hold the same effects.
We believe that not only the soil and sun affect the quality of cannabis but the ways in which the weed is grown as well. For example, if grown from seed instead of clones, cannabis plants grow longer and have a stronger root system that spreads further and deeper into the soil, where they can access more nutrients. Weed, allowed to grow full-term under the sun naturally, can produce a larger variety and greater concentrations of terpenes and other substances than plants grown in the shortened cycle of light dep.
The cannabis terroir helps determine how robust the terpene profile will be and what type of cannabinoid percentages you will see on a test result. An optimal cannabis terroir will produce flower that overshadows cuttings from the same plant grown indoors. To sum up, the cannabis terroir directly influences a plant’s smell, taste, effects, and benefits – its entourage effect. Humboldt cannabis is a direct reflection of the tireless dedication of the farmers in the region, mixed with the magic of their precious terroir.
Unique Terroirs of Humboldt County
The Emerald Triangle comprises three counties along the northwestern coast of California: Trinity, Humboldt, and Mendocino. Throughout these regions, you’ll find the most incredible cannabis in the world. Long before it was legal, legacy growers have been perfecting this craft for decades. Each of these counties is considered an appellation all its own, with multiple terroirs encompassed within their borders.
Humboldt County contains several different microclimates, each containing distinct soil and climate conditions.
- Coastal Mountain
- Inland Mountain
- Coastal River Valley
- Inland River Valley
- Coastal Forest
- Inland Forest
One thing we know for certain is that the cannabis terroirs of the Emerald Triangle are home to incredible cannabis that produces award-winning extracts and concentrates. Of all of Northern California, Humboldt cannabis reigns supreme.
California Cannabis Appellations
Much like the appellations surrounding vineyards in France, California cannabis growers wish to honor their craft in a similar fashion. Particularly in Humboldt County, where growers and their families have risked their own freedom to uphold the values and quality standards that make their weed so incredible. Humboldt is famous worldwide for its weed, but without a proper coalition to establish guidelines, anyone can say their crop is Humboldt cannabis. It’s a certification that might seem minor to the average consumer, but it’s extremely important for anyone who deeply reveres tradition and legacy.
In September 2020, California governor, Gavin Newsom, signed Senate Bill 67 into law. This bill reserved appellations of origin for very specific qualifications. The plants must be grown in the ground, under the full sun, at all times. There can be no structures like greenhouses, light dep systems, or other shade cloth or covers. Artificial lighting is prohibited. The goal of SB-67 was to ensure that California cannabis appellations meet the same international standards upheld by those in the wine industry.
SB-67 allows licensed growers to classify their crops by appellation of origin. The final products cannot be advertised or marketed as such unless they are truly grown in these appellations. This is a huge push in the right direction for cannabis, specifically as we advocate for the continued legacy of the terroir of the Emerald Triangle.
At URSA, we fully support and believe in the magic of this cannabis terroir and can only produce the high-quality concentrates and extracts we do because of the dedication of these growers. It is our belief that Humboldt cannabis and all of the Emerald Triangle contain the perfect land for cannabis cultivation, and we strive to honor this legacy through our entire product line.