The legal cannabis market in the United States is evolving rapidly, especially in the concentrates category. Shatter, badder, live rosin — the variations are overwhelming. For Frenchy Cannoli, master hashishin, the modern extracts game isn’t about the latest technological achievement or the most dominant brand name; it always comes back to the plant.
“The problem with the industry is there are so many different products, and the tech to make those products, the methodologies, the tools to use — the only thing that you shouldn’t do is compare,” Frenchy explained from his Northern California home. “The only thing you can do is appreciate the diversity that the cannabis resin offers. All these products merit appreciation of the amazing work by amazing craftsmen.”
A revered name in the cannabis space as a hash-maker, educator, and advocate, Frenchy spent the first 18 years of his adult life traversing the world, making hash in the traditional manner in legendary producing countries such as Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, and India. His first experience smoking the thick, resinous substance set up a trajectory in Frenchy’s life that even he couldn’t predict.
“When I smoked the first time, it was like finding the joy of my childhood,” Frenchy recalled. “You know when you love running just because you’re happy to run? It’s that type of joy of being alive.”
A newly-minted adult, Frenchy began a nearly two-decade stint as a nomad, only staying in one place long enough to produce more head stash. He said he first learned his trade from a friend back home whose family made hash in secret, then expanded his knowledge through other hash makers he would meet on his travels.
“Anywhere you give me some cannabis plants, I can stick them on my hand, I can get that resin,” he laughed. “When you collect resin on your hand, in that resin, the matrix that created the cannabinoids and the terpenes are inside the resin. And there is a reaction that is happening, and there is a transformation over time.”
Designated ‘Cannabis Terroirs’ Crucial To American Cannabis Industry Success
Despite his global experience, Frenchy believes some of the best cannabis in the world indeed comes from the Emerald Triangle area of Northern California. He has been an ardent proponent of establishing a cannabis quality standard using the French concept of “terroir” to market the cannabis growing regions in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, much like the French Champagne region terroir associated with the wine industry.
“The Emerald Triangle is the Bordeaux of cannabis,” he declared. “The U.S. could be what France is to the wine industry. When the Chamber of Commerce of Bordeaux first proposed the wine industry quality standards using Bordeaux as the benchmark, they had no data except the feedback of the consumers. A recognition for quality, a recognition of certain characteristics that define the wine season-after-season are fundamental the concept of ‘Appellation d’origine protégée/contrôlée’ that allows those winemakers to label their product as exclusive to that region. We have all this in spades in the Emerald Triangle region. This is the ultimate reward of recognition for the farmer.”
On October 4, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law S.B. 67, which calls for the California Department of Food and Agriculture to identify designated “appellation of origin” sectors; any products produced from these areas must come from “cannabis plants cultivated in the ground, and grown without the use of a structure, and without the use of artificial lighting in the canopy area.” The bill was the culmination of several years’ worth of work by the Origins Council, a nonprofit seeking to protect the legacy cannabis-producing regions, and had the support of groups including the Humboldt County Growers Alliance and Napa Valley Vintners Association.
“It’s a good start,” Frenchy said of S.B. 67. “Ginine Coleman from the Origins Council did good work making sure that at least it [the bill] protected the basic concept that the plant must be grown outdoor in soil under the sun. It’s not as developed as the original French Appellation d’Origin model but it will acknowledge the cultural heritage of quality of the Emerald Triangle sun-grown farmers/breeders.”
Frenchy argues the only way the domestic cannabis market will be able to compete on an international scale come deregulation of cannabis’ Schedule I status is to protect the trailblazing cultivators who are continuing to define the industry as it evolves.
“The only edge America has in the cannabis industry is the small farmer in the Emerald Triangle, southern Oregon, and the little pockets left and right on the West Coast. That’s the treasure, that’s your heritage. You lose this, you lose all. If the local governments don’t establish legal structures to protect this in five years, America will not be relevant in the cannabis industry.”
Does Shatter Matter Worldwide? Thinking Globally May Change The Concentrates Narrative
Traditional hashish has held a dominant position in the global cannabis market for a millennia. The rise of butane hash oil (BHO) changed the face of the cannabis concentrates space domestically, and as new extraction technologies continue to be introduced, it is likely to continue its dominance — at least in the U.S.
“BHO will keep evolving and creating new products — it’s discovery territory,” Frenchy surmised. “We have not even scratched the tip of the iceberg yet, I’m pretty sure.”
Despite this, Frenchy predicts these next-generation concentrations will not move the needle much internationally.
“Extracts will not have the impact on the world trade that it has in America, for sure. They will become part of the world market, but it will take time, and they have some serious competition.
“People have been smoking hash for a long time,” he continued. “And smoking hash, it’s very, very different than smoking an extract. I find hash smoking a lot more rewarding, and it seems that most people coming from a hash culture find it much more rewarding. To give you a way to define the experience, it’s like a warm blanket in front of a fireplace, it’s a comfy, warm feeling for a long time. Where you’re in a bubble, basically.”
Frenchy may have a passion for the old-school hash adored around the world for thousands of years, but don’t assume it means he doesn’t have respect for other forms of concentrates. He implores the community to recognize one another for their talents and remember to keep the craft’s artistry as the focus.
“I come from a background in the perfume industry, so for me, I have a lot of respect for extraction. I’m not into it, my life is dedicated to hashish, but I know the power of it. I know what can be done with it.
“I wish everybody would be more appreciative of each other’s craft and work and product. Even if you don’t consume it.”
So what is ahead for the concentrates category? Time will only tell, but the time-honored, artisanal hash-making practices of the past are certainly defining where the market will go from here, both at home and abroad.