Friday, May 15, 2009

Protect the Humboldt brand (TS My Word)

Protect the Humboldt brand

Richard Salzman/For the Times-Standard

Governor Schwarzenegger said he is open to hearing the debate on legalizing marijuana for adults, and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has a bill (AB 390) pending before the California Legislature to do just that.

There will certainly be much debate here in Humboldt around this issue, particularly on its effects on our local economy. If and when legalization comes, the best-case economic scenario for local growers and our local economy may be a model similar to that of the wine industry, where there is a market for small-scale operations to compete with larger commercial growers, based on vintage and variety.

Knowing that such a market is even a possibility should motivate our elected officials to act now to protect the Humboldt name or brand, in the way that the name Champagne is protected, and not to let the name fall into the public domain or to take on a generic meaning. In Europe and elsewhere, for a product to be called Champagne, the wine must come from that region of France -- and this distinction is protected by international laws and treaties going back as far the 1891. There is also the “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO), as defined in European Union law and recognized in other countries, to protect the names of regional foods. That law from 1992 ensures that only products genuinely originating in a region are allowed in commerce as such.

A more recent example, but without the legal teeth, is Napa's “Declaration on Place,” which
is essentially an agreement among winegrowers internationally, similar in scope to the PDO.

I hope our county supervisors and state and federal representatives will explore our options to protect the Humboldt name -- as others are already planning to profit, by having trademarked variation on the name Humboldt, and we should limit its use to products actually produced in Humboldt County.

Richard Salzman
Arcata, CA.