The Metaverse Is Expanding: New App Aims to Empower Cannabis CommunitiesThis crypto-powered e-commerce app is making the largest cannabis-growing region in the country more resilient and sustainable.
Justin Calvino is a member of the Emerald Triangle community and is the founder and creator of The Emerald Road App. The Emerald Road App is making Mendocino to cannabis what neighboring Sonoma Valley is to wine – an exceptional standard. The e-commerce platform for purchasing and selling cannabis goods and services is more than just that; it’s a real-world integrated metaverse that benefits the local Mendocino community and the cannabis growers across the industry.
THE ROOT OF IT ALL
In 1970 the Nixon Administration outlawed cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The schedule 1 drug’s new status was then used as leverage to vilify anti-war groups, shut down events and marijuana growing operations, arrest community leaders, and drive hippies out of cities. Some of them made their way to northern California to build and into farmland in rural communes.
As violent and rash as it was, this marred history marked the founding of The Emerald Triangle, an agriculturally rich area of Northern California consisting of three counties: Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino. Ironically, this region hosts an ideal environment for cannabis cultivation and has become the largest cannabis-producing region in the U.S. today, yielding around 1.7 million pounds per year.
A NEW SOLUTION FOR A TRADITIONAL COMMUNITY
In 1996, when lawmakers legalized medicinal cannabis, local communities started to capitalize on the new demand, agricultural resources, and industry product knowledge from the generation that settled in the region. During this period, most parents and grandparents of the strongest and most selective cannabis strains were bred.
However, when recreational cannabis became legal in California twenty years later, many legacy cultivators in the region were forced to conform to stringent state regulations for commercial use, subjecting them to pay sky-high fees or risk being crowded out by mainstream competition.
Calvino founded the app to benefit the growers and artisans in the region. As a legacy cultivator, he understands the frustrations and hardships that industry workers face and built the app to help preserve the quality and economic outcome of those growing and crafting cannabis products.
HOW IT WORKS
Once the app is downloaded, visitors can create an account and obtain a membership. Members can then enter the virtual marketplace in the app-native village and connect with vendors to buy, sell, and learn about the products and services grown and crafted in the Emerald Triangle.
The app's platform is supported by its own community-tied cryptocurrency, The Emerald Road Token, which aims to maintain a 1:1 value ratio to USD to make the coin more secure than other cryptos. These utility tokens are intended to drive economic wealth to Mendocino County’s small, local businesses by making it easy for consumers to invest directly in producers, creators, and service providers. Calvino resolves to boost the community's economic security by making the app a direct-to-consumer venture, likening the members and customers to honeybees, where “the honeybees are pollinating the community, and the token is a pollen,” for local businesses. What's more – these tokens are native to the platform and exclusive only to the Emerald Road app and therefore don't require mining, making each transaction an energy-saving operation.
Customers can “use tokens to buy anything on the platform – cannabis, yoga mats, and NFTs,” according to Calvino. The tokens can be traded for graphic NFTs of the brand’s logo.
A key feature that makes the platform attractive to both buyers and sellers is its quick and easy payment process. It facilitates B2B and B2C transactions with licensed cannabis growers and suppliers in seconds and requires buyers to be invested in its token and the app's goals before making a purchase. This infrastructure ensures strong relationship building with both businesses and direct consumers and creates a sense of exclusivity, creating room for members-only events, NFTs, product samples, and more. This exclusivity invites curiosity, which drives commercial interests, tourism, and producer control.
The Emerald Road app puts the control and gains of the cannabis market into the hands of the small businesses upon which the industry was founded.
This app makes the community more resilient in the face of middlemen – initially required by Proposition 64 – pharmaceutical monopoly and large-scale corporate takeovers in the region. It gives growers the economic resources to compete with these entities by allowing them to cater to specific palates and needs and specialize in particular breeding practices and strain production without fear of being crowded out of their own market or inhibited by insurmountable legal regulations requirements. Smaller cultivation operations also mean fewer agricultural inputs like mass-scale pesticides and over-utilized land, permitting more eco-friendly practices.
The richness of this metaverse leaves room for future improvements. And Calvino foresees the future expansion of the app’s model into other communities in the Emerald Triangle, as well as into other industries, noting that the key to making an industry or company economically secure and circular is to “keep money in the individual market” by “use[ing] money to put into the people building [it].” The project’s ability to compete technologically puts it ahead of other ventures in the cannabis industry, but its success will be determined by how well it can attract members.