The epicenter of cannabis in the USA has long been an area of northern California and southern Oregon with rolling hills and a unique history. What makes the “Emerald Triangle” and Rogue Valley so special in the cannabis world is more than just great terroirs. Let’s look at this rich and storied farm land in context.  

What is the Emerald Triangle? 

The Emerald Triangle is made up of three counties near the northern border of California: Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino. Just a couple hours away is the Rogue Valley, running along the Rogue River in Jackson and Josephine counties in southern Oregon. But nature knows no political borders—there are differences between the two areas but they operate in concert and we will consider them collectively. This combined agricultural region is known for high-quality cannabis and has been responsible for much of the cannabis production in the U.S. for many years.

Remember that hemp and marijuana both come from the same plant, cannabis, which naturally contains Delta-9 THC, the single cannabinoid that is under federal-control, and the main psychoactive substance in cannabis. The amount of Delta-9 THC existent in the plant material per dry weight determines the federal-compliance of the final product. The 2014 Farm Bill defined the legal limit at .3% so cannabis with less than that is considered legal hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill expanded on this, making it clear to legal experts that all other plant material and substances derived from legally-defined hemp are also federally-compliant. 

This progress means that even in states that do not yet sanction marijuana, people can use high-CBD, low-THC cannabis products as well as other hemp-derived cannabinoids including flower, gummies, vapes and oils with Delta-8 THC.

How did the Emerald Triangle get its name?

Local historians may not know who coined the term Emerald Triangle but the name is believed to be a reference to the “Golden Triangle” in southern Asia [1]. The area where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet is so called because of the value of the opium and heroin produced by the region since the 1950s [2]. 

Cannabis and opium?!? It is a scary connection but the homage is most likely tongue-in-cheek.  While cannabis is nowhere near as dangerous as opioids, it is nonetheless assigned the same legal category in the United States. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) lists cannabis alongside heroin and cocaine on its Schedule 1 of controlled substances. The DEA states that drugs on this list “have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse [3].” 

Even the DEA has called for more research and development for therapeutic medications.

People who understand cannabis’ benefits and history know that the DEA’s position needs clarity, and even the DEA has called for more research and development for therapeutic medications [4]. But there are obvious similarities between the two markets – notably a great consumer demand for the cash crops, and the illegal status of those valuable crops. 

Regardless of the exact derivation, the Emerald Triangle lives up to its name. There are estimates of 20,000+ farms in the area, some worked by three generations of growers [5]. Cannabis farms have populated the area since long before California or Oregon have had organized medical and adult use programs. 

What are the politics of the Emerald Triangle?

Why here? In the 1960s, hippies from the Bay Area of California traveled north as part of a back to the earth movement—to live off of the land and off the grid. By doing so, they sought to honor and use nature’s bounty for good in opposition to commercialism and war. As these countercultural pioneers established their own society in the rural northern counties, they cultivated cannabis for income. Trial and error and natural innovation followed, and the area became home for forward thinking cannabis production methods ever since [6]. 

As time moved on, cannabis reached more people with its goodness and prices for the controlled substance went up, attracting still more people to the region to grow. However, some of the newcomers may have had more interest in revenue than in honoring the earth and sun. 

Outlaw country

There has been a certain and perhaps necessary “outlaw” element to the areas since their early days as cannabis epicenters. Given that cannabis was, and is, federally illegal, this is easy to understand. Growers needed to avoid law enforcement where possible and still protect their investments [6]. Oregonians have also historically embraced an outsider status tied to the difficult terrain and remote location of early western exploration and expansion in the Pacific Northwest. This mindset is similar to the Californians who migrated north to the Emerald Triangle. 

There is additional overhead required to run an operation below the gaze of authorities. As federal law enforcement made efforts to crack down on grows, farmers went deeper into the environment and further off grid. The unique rugged and mountainous environment of the Emerald Triangle could support these needs. The relationship between the land and the peoples’ needs grew together into the established markets and communities we see today. 

What is the State of Jefferson?

A striking example of the outsider mindset of the Northern California / Southern Oregon region is the State of Jefferson movement of the mid-twentieth century. “The State of Jefferson is a proposed U.S. state that would span the contiguous, mostly rural area of southern Oregon and northern California [7].”  A group of residents of the area felt underserved by, and underrepresented in, their respective state capitals and wanted to secede and form their own territory. 

The proposed State of Jefferson on a US map, encompassing parts of southern Oregon and northern California, home of premium cannabis growing

The proposed State of Jefferson is shown in red.

On November 27, 1941 they released a Proclamation of Independence and established State of Jefferson border access points patrolled by gunmen. The movement was quashed before it could gain much momentum though, when Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941 and secession proponents’ efforts turned to the war [7]. 

This wasn’t the end of the movement though. In 1992, 31 northern counties in California voted to split off from California to form a separate state. Again in 2013 there was a revival of the idea and many northern counties again proposed and passed declarations indicating a desire to separate [7]. 

The ultimate success of independence efforts is unlikely but the popular push illustrates the ingrained, hard-nosed independence of those who make their home and livelihood in the Emerald Triangle / Rogue Valley zone. 

Natural environments

Like California, Oregon has diverse growing environments. The Rogue Valley is located in the heart of the southern growing region, long revered by vintners and fruit growers for its favorable conditions. 

A terroir is the collective characteristics of environmental factors that affect a crops’ phenotype, or how its exact characteristics are expressed.

Portland State University has undertaken research to study cannabis terroirs in Oregon. A terroir is the collective characteristics of environmental factors that affect a crops’ phenotype, or how its exact characteristics are expressed. In wine science, as well for other crops, it is presumed that the land grapes are grown on imparts a specific flavor profile to the resulting crop [8]. The soil composition, climate and topography all play a role. It is in this spirit that the cannabis terroir project follows. 

Early findings indicate there are 6 or 7 cannabis terroirs in the Rogue Valley area which may promote distinct flavor profiles for crops harvested in each [9]. Three main soil types were studied as they are common in the southern Oregon region. There are 12 Soil Orders in total, as classified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Each represents a “grouping of soils with distinct characteristics and ecological significance [10].”


Ultisols – acidic forest soils with relatively low fertility; macronutrients have been leached out. 

Alfisols – forest soils that are similar to Ultisols; less acidic and more fertile.

Mollisols – grassland soils that have high fertility and are rich in calcium and magnesium. 

The Emerald Triangle’s main soil types coincide with Rogue Valley’s with one exception.  

Ultisols – acidic forest soils with relatively low fertility; macronutrients have been leached out. 

Alfisols – forest soils that are similar to Ultisols; less acidic and more fertile.

Inceptisols – mountainous soils with minimal horizon development; recognized as fertile.

Earthy Now High CBD Low THC Cannabis Soothing Relief Salve

What is the best terroir for cannabis?

Climate and topography are the other factors in terroir. The Rogue Valley area is geographically diverse, but generally the temperature stays between 32° and 93° F. The region has the warmest growing conditions in the state, with cooler microclimates scattered throughout its hillsides and valleys [9]. Attuned growers can breed strains to flourish in specific environmental conditions. Some of the microclimates are hotter too, which can actually be ideal for sativas [11]. 

On average there are 195 sunny days in Medford. Oregon, located in the Valley, and 23 inches of rain annually, 15 inches less than the national average [12]. Much irrigation comes from the reservoirs in the region, which are typically replenished from melting snowpack and what rain the area gets [13]. Wells and surface waters in the area are of course tapped too. Times of drought can cause major issues for agriculture in the Valley. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is the agency responsible for managing the water plan for the region but local management agencies, advisory committees, landowners and the public are all active stakeholders [14]. 

The Emerald Triangle also seems to have a conducive outdoor environment for cannabis to thrive. It has a climate of cool nights and warm days in the summer, as well as ideal soil and wind conditions [15]. Humboldt County usually stays between 39° and 75° F. It receives 55 inches of rain annually, 17 inches more than the national average [16]. 

Irrigation in the Emerald Triangle also comes from many sources. Surface water diversion, spring diversion, wells, rain collection, and other offsite sources are all ways farms water their crops [17]. 

Final thoughts on the Emerald Triangle: Right time and place

Yes, two of the most prolific locations for growing cannabis have the right conditions for agricultural success, but that’s not enough to establish them as flagships of the industry. After all, we know cannabis grows in most climates and on every continent except Antarctica [18] so there must have been more to it. 

The attitudes and politics of the West Coast and Pacific Northwest played a crucial role in building up the cannabis industry. The individual Emerald Triangle / Rogue Valley communities have grown in tandem with the industry, and both are inextricably connected at this point. They represent the capital of cannabis for the United States and much of the world. 


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between CBD and THC?

CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are both naturally-occurring cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, and both have the exact same molecular structure: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. A slight difference in how the atoms are arranged accounts for the differing effects on your body. THC is the main psychoactive component of the plant—the part that can make people feel “high” or intoxicated. CBD is not psychoactive and is used for beneficial effects of its own.

Do you get high off of CBD? 

High CBD, low THC cannabis can produce a range of effects from clear-headed alertness & energy to calm & relaxation. CBD is not psychoactive and is used for effects of its own.

The strength of the effects on a particular person will be different depending on a few things: the dosage level, body weight, food or other substances in the system, personal body chemistry, and experience level with cannabis products.

All of our products are federally-compliant, ie. hemp derived and containing less than .3% Delta-9 THC per dry weight.

Will CBD products show up in a drug test?

There is a risk of failing a drug test. It depends on the type of CBD product one is using. Drug tests for marijuana generally identify THC or its metabolites. Although tests do not screen for CBD, full spectrum CBD products contain low quantities of THC that can make a person fail a drug test. If you anticipate taking a drug test, we suggest checking with your employer or test administrator for clarity prior to taking full spectrum CBD products.

What is a COA?

A certificate of analysis (COA) is a document attesting to a product’s laboratory analysis for cannabinoids and in some cases adulterants, heavy metals and pesticides. It is an essential tool for cannabis producers and customers to ensure quality and trust.

Earthy Select Delta-8 Delta-10 Full spectrum oils

We need cannabis prison reform. The United States’ War on Drugs has devastated millions of American lives since President Nixon launched it and President Reagan shifted it into high gear. A major contributor to the unnecessary arrests, and families being destroyed, is the fact that cannabis is targeted by this war. Cannabis has been on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Schedule 1 list of controlled substances alongside hard drugs like heroin and cocaine since 1970. However, it’s been used therapeutically, medicinally, ceremonially and recreationally by humans for millennia. Will America ever catch up? 

With legislation changing around cannabis use in many states, how are states dealing with changing existing laws? What are they doing for the folks who have prior arrests or are currently incarcerated for cannabis related crimes? 

What is cannabis prison reform?

Cannabis prison reform refers to changing the way that rules around cannabis use and punishment operate and affect people. Wikimedia characterizes prison reform as “the attempt to improve conditions inside prisons,” but also to make the penal system more effective, working hand in hand with alternative sentences that don’t include incarceration. It includes ensuring that those who have been negatively affected by having a past cannabis crime on their record are treated fairly and equitably [1].

Do we need cannabis prison reform? 

We do. Many states in the U.S. are adopting medical use or adult use legislation to allow citizens to use cannabis within certain guidelines. Meanwhile, cannabis with more than .3% per dry weight is still an illegal controlled substance by federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) rules. 

Some parts of our culture and hence some of our societal systems have come to think of marijuana users as criminals first, rather than categorizing them as what they are: natural health remedy users caught up in hyper criminalization of a natural remedy. This is largely based on the ignorance, fear, and racism that initially led to cannabis prohibition in the U.S. The decades-old deception has found roots as a cultural concept even though the cannabis plant and its components have vast potential as a set of beneficial health tools. 

It is easy to find propaganda that says cannabis users are degenerate and that marijuana is a gateway drug to harder drugs. The DEA itself states that Schedule 1 drugs have “a high potential for abuse,”  “​​no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S.,” and “a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug, substance, or chemical under medical supervision [2].” 

The claims are dubious for cannabis though. Regarding the first, “a high potential for abuse,” the government defines using an illegal drug itself as abuse, and the government defines marijuana as an illegal drug. So the mere use can be termed abuse. This circular thinking doesn’t define abuse in a meaningful way. Is addiction a fair measure? Research has shown some evidence that approximately 9% of cannabis users may develop addiction to it. But looking closer, those studies may use marijuana “dependence” to mean the same as “addiction.” The two issues are quite different. Dependence means that a person feels withdrawal symptoms when stopping use, whereby addiction means the person can’t stop even though use is harming them [3]. The 9%” finding may therefore be much lower or irrelevant. 

Second, what about “​​no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S.?” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved cannabis-derived and cannabis-analog health products that are available if prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider [4]. 

The cannabis-derived drug product is called Epidiolex, which is mainly a purified form of cannabidiol (CBD). It has been approved for treating seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome. The FDA says this particular drug product is safe and effective for its intended use [4]. 

Three synthetic cannabis-related drug products have also been approved. Marinol and Syndros both contain the active ingredient dronabinol, a synthetic Delta-9 THC, and are approved for therapeutic uses including for nausea from cancer chemotherapy and for the treatment of anorexia associated with weight loss in AIDS patients [5]. Nabilone, another synthetic cannabinoid similar to THC, is the active ingredient in Cesamet which is “indicated for the treatment of the nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy in patients who have failed to respond well to normal antiemetic treatments [6].” If these drugs are approved, how can there be no accepted medical use? 

The third schedule claim is “a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug, substance, or chemical under medical supervision.” Medical literature does not show instances of fatal cannabis poisoning, and no studies associate it with direct risk of death or other problems at a meaningful level [7]. Plus, as we looked at above, medical uses of cannabis-based drugs are indeed available with medical supervision, as approved by the FDA.

We need more data but it’s been difficult to acquire, partly because the prohibition on cannabis meant that actual scientific research of the plant was somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible to do [8]. In recent years, many states have approved medical and adult marijuana use, and the DEA removed hemp from the Schedule 1 list of controlled substances with the 2014 Farm Bill and 2018 Farm Bill. These changes brought a push for more and better research. Opportunities to gather hard data are growing and we look forward to more comprehensive research and results in the future. 

More money, more problems 

The corrections industry has run rampant. Mass incarceration and minimum sentencing have lead to the incredibly high amount of incarcerated Americans. Overcrowding and underfunding of governmental facilities naturally followed the incarceration surge, creating a need for privatized prisons. So there is financial incentive to these private prison companies to maintain the status quo, including keeping cannabis illegal. This is associated with issues with the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) at large. The PIC is “the expansive network of people and parties with vested interests in mass incarceration” that supports mass incarceration [9]. The PIC is a much larger problem but drug crimes play a major part, perhaps being the biggest force behind giant increases in mass incarceration of recent decades [9]. 

2020 estimates were that 2.3 million people were incarcerated in the US, with another 4.5 million on parole or probation [9]. The numbers are staggering, especially if you factor in the other people who are affected when one person goes to jail for cannabis. Should we multiply by 3 since the average family size is 3.15 people [10]? Should we multiply by 9 since that’s the average number of close friends a person has [11]? Or many more, since our tax dollars pay the astronomical price for all this, up to $182 Billion annually [12]! 

States making progress

Long term progress means fixing the system and preventing the arrests and subsequent woes of the criminal cycle that harm people. Some states are making headway in this regard. One tool that States have is creating legal access to cannabis. As of late-2021, 36 U.S. States and territories allow medical use of marijuana [13], and 21 States and territories permit its adult use [14]. Given that using cannabis (within the rules) is not against the law in these states, arrests will not happen, and the number of people caught up in the system should decrease dramatically. 

California was the first state to sanction medical use in 1996 [15], and in 2012, Colorado and Washington were the first to allow recreational adult use [16]. 

The latest states to make the change in 2021 are:

  • New York – legalized recreational cannabis 
  • Virginia – legalized recreational cannabis
  • New Mexico – legalized recreational cannabis
  • Connecticut – legalized recreational cannabis
  • Alabama – legalized medical cannabis

Honorable mentions to: 

  • South Dakota – recreational cannabis initiative was overturned by circuit-court 
  • Mississippi – medical cannabis initiative was overturned by state supreme court

Which states will legalize cannabis next?

Some in the industry think we’re getting closer to federal legality. In lieu of that, some of the remaining states without marijuana laws are pushing medical and adult use initiatives, and there is pressure for lawmakers to take action [17].

  • Maryland – an adult use bill failed in 2021. It may return as a referendum vote in 2022
  • Missouri – legislation is proposed to create an adult use market
  • Oklahoma – a constitutional amendment allowing adult use was proposed for 2022 
  • Ohio – the state process is complicated but an “initiated statute” may be on the ballot in 2022 
  • Arkansas – efforts are behind a 2022 amendment to allow adult use 
  • Pennsylvania – advocates are working on proposals and there seems to be some bipartisan support for legalization
  • Florida – advocates are working to have an initiative on the 2022 ballot

In the mean time, to learn more about Delta-8’s legality, check out: Is Delta-8 THC Legal in Your State?

The Federal approach to legalizing cannabis

Does real reform need to come from the national level? It would help. We must remember that cannabis in any form with more than .3% Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is still a federally-controlled Schedule 1 substance, and illegal on a national basis. 

The 2018 Farm Bill introduced a new concept on the cannabis front. The Bill stated that the federal government considers cannabis with less than .3% Delta-9 THC (the main psychoactive component of cannabis) per dry weight to be “hemp.” Cannabis with more than .3% Delta-9 THC per dry weight is considered illegal “marijuana.” Under the Bill, all other plant material and substances derived from legally-defined hemp are also federally-compliant [18]. 

The distinction is at once helpful and frustrating. It is helpful due to the fact that in states without sanctioned medical or adult use rules, people can use hemp-derived cannabinoids without fear of breaking the law. This access is crucial for many people who find therapeutic benefits from high CBD, low THC cannabis products like CBD Oil that they can now legally purchase under the Farm Bill. 

The hemp/cannabis distinction is frustrating because it unnaturally defines two plants from one, based on a seemingly arbitrary amount of one of the plant’s hundreds of components. Without clearer federal regulations, states make their own laws independent of the federal government’s, and the landscape is further complicated 50 times over. 

Possible Federal action to legalize cannabis

In November 2021, Republican Representative Nancy Mace from South Carolina proposed the States Reform Act, or H.R 5977 – To amend the controlled substances Act regarding marihuana, and for other purposes. Mace says a “super-majority of Americans support an end to cannabis prohibition,” and the Act would remove cannabis from Schedule 1 and allow states to control it locally [19]. It remains to be seen how much support and momentum will build around this push. If passed, the Act would also help people who have been arrested for federal cannabis crimes. It would mean release from incarceration, and expungement of criminal records for federal cannabis offenses. The key word is “federal”  because states would deal with the expungement of state cannabis offenses through their own judicial systems. 

Clearing the record 

As misinformation about marijuana is corrected, and laws around it are reformed, it is equally important to help people convicted for breaking those laws in the past. It expresses respect for the law and for citizens, and acknowledges that the law is flexible and equitably applied. Furthermore, convictions have collateral consequences like limits to accessing government benefits and restrictions on licensure [20]. It is doubly unfair to subject people to these effects if the law is no longer the law! So it is encouraging to see that H.R. 5977 is addressing this for federal offenses. States would be in charge of dealing with it for state cannabis offenses. 

Three of the states mentioned above, that are looking at legalization in 2022, include expungement of past convictions in their proposals. Missouri’s plan includes “automatic expungement” of past cannabis convictions. Ohio’s plan  would do the same for many past nonviolent cannabis convictions. Arkansas would similarly reverse convictions for some people serving time for nonviolent cannabis convictions. 

States that have previously legalized have also addressed past marijuana convictions at differing levels of success. In fact, 41 states and territories have record-clearing provisions that can apply to cannabis convictions [OO]. This doesn’t mean that it’s easy to clean up one’s record. For instance, in Illinois, a recent state to legalize, certain “minor cannabis offense” records are automatically expunged but others must be petitioned in court, possibly necessitating a lawyer’s help. Even if automatic expungement applies to one’s law enforcement record, their court records are not expunged and must be separately petitioned [21]. It all adds up to more disparity between states in terms of how they handle cannabis related legislation. Federal clarity could help minimize the discrepancies, but as in the case of H.R. 5977, might not. 

How to help with cannabis prison reform

If you want to help fight injustice, stay informed of the laws in your state. Are there outdated, harsh, unfair, racist anti-drug laws where you live? Do your research, talk to your neighbors and representatives, vote on referendum ballots—make your voice heard. Here are three organizations doing important work in cannabis prison reform, who can use your support. 

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has been fighting for marijuana law reform and legalization since 1970. You can donate and get involved. 

The Last Prisoner Project is dedicated “to freeing every last prisoner of the unjust war on drugs, starting with the estimated 40,000 individuals imprisoned for cannabis [22].” You help with donations or assisting with petitions and letter-writing drives. 

The American Civil Liberties Union is dedicated to defending democracy and liberty. Your tax deductible donation will help. 

Cannabis prison reform goes hand in hand with cannabis legislation generally. The more the two work together, the better the outcomes will be. Many states are making headway on their own and others are poised to continue the trend. Federal legalization and reform will go a long way to leading the country into the healthy and productive relationship with cannabis that advocates have imagined for decades. We get closer to that promise every day. 



Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between CBD and THC?

CBD and THC are both naturally-occurring cannabinoids from the cannabis plant. They have the exact same molecular structure and a slight difference in how some of the the atoms are arranged makes the difference. THC is the main psychoactive component of the plant that can make people feel high. CBD is not psychoactive and it’s used for its own benefits, without intoxication. 

Is CBD legal?

Yes, thanks to the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills, hemp and hemp derived CBD were removed from the definition of marijuana and removed from the DEA controlled substances list, meaning they are federally legal to use, sell, and transport in all 50 states. 

Even though these products are federally-compliant, individual states may have their own regulations about purchasing or using hemp derived products like CBD. Please check your local regulations. 

Will CBD products show up in a marijuana drug test?

There is a risk of failing a drug test. It depends on the type of CBD product one is using. Drug tests for marijuana generally identify THC or its metabolites. Although tests do not screen for CBD, full spectrum CBD products contain low quantities of THC that can make a person fail a drug test. If you anticipate taking a drug test, we suggest checking with your employer or test administrator for clarity prior to taking full spectrum CBD products.

Is CBD safe? 

Yes, hemp and hemp derived products like CBD are safe when they are produced with proper and safe practices. Look for a product’s COA. A certificate of analysis (COA) is a document attesting to a product’s laboratory analysis and testing for cannabinoids and adulterants. It is a useful tool for CBD producers and customers to ensure quality and trust.