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California’s Green Flower Aims To Bring Sommelier Status To Cannabis

November 30, 2021

In a first for the cannabis industry, classes are now in session to become a Ganjier, or cannabis sommelier. California-based company Green Flower has been developing the program since 2019, drawing on the ideas and standards of other similar certifications across disciplines like the sommelier, cicerone, and tobacconist. The 2022 Ganjier Cannabis Sommelier class opened sessions last month, promising to bring a new level of insight and sophistication to an industry in need of connoisseurship.

The program is the brainchild of Green Flower CEO Max Simon and Ganjier managing director Derek Gilman, who were frustrated by the quality of cannabis they saw being marketed as premium at retail. Gilman, originally hired to produce how-to cultivation videos for Green Flower, traveled to California’s Emerald Triangle and was struck by the evident differentiation between craft cultivation and mass-market flower. In particular, he began wondering at the accepted wisdom of using THC content as the benchmark for quality.

“Cannabis is an epicurean product,” Gilman told SNDC. “It’s a product that people consume for health benefits and medical reasons, but also for pure enjoyment. What makes cannabis desirable? Its flavor, its appearance, its aroma—the same things that make other epicurean products desirable—wine, for example, and coffee, chocolate, cheese, and cigars. In wine it’s not the alcohol content that dictates the quality of the wine, but the appearance, aroma, and flavor. It’s that ultimate experience that comes from interacting with the senses. And it’s the same with cannabis—it’s the flavor and aroma and the end experience.”

As currently conceived, the Ganjier curriculum spans ten online courses and a two-day live training in Humboldt County, partially on a working cannabis farm. The online courses, which comprise approximately 40 hours of material, include cannabis history, botany, cultivation, genetics, service, and business. The 31 lessons are delivered by all 18 members of the Ganjier Council, which includes cannabis luminaries like Frenchy Cannoli, breeder Kevin Jodrey, founder of The Werc Shop Jeffrey Raber, and cannabis legal expert Omar Figueroa, among others. The program culminates in a written exam, a service exam testing a candidate’s ability to listen to a customer’s needs and provide appropriate guidance, and an assessment exam in which candidates are given a series of unidentified flower and concentrate samples to evaluate.

“The students that have signed up for the program come from all parts of the cannabis industry,” Gilman said. “We have budtenders at the retail level looking to improve their knowledge and skill set, retail managers going through the program so that they can pass along what they learn to employees and colleagues. We also have the directors of sales for two of the largest cannabis companies on the planet and multi-generational cultivators from the Emerald Triangle as well.”

Gilman is careful to note that though the Ganjier program is similar to a sommelier or cicerone certification, it doesn’t intend to snobify cannabis. He believes that the assessment system the company has devised will be of use in introducing more objective standards for assessing the plant. “Our students will ultimately be serving people what’s available where they are. So by quantifying the characteristics that define cannabis quality, it allows the ganjier to identify value at all price levels.”—Danny Sullivan

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