Wine and weed? Oregon vineyards try pot farming

Wine industry branching out

In this April 4, 2017 photo, Bill and Barbara Steele walk through their vineyard outside Jacksonville, Ore. The Steele’s moved to this corner of southwestern Oregon more than a decade ago to produce their own wines and are now turning their attention to small-scale marijuana farming. The legalization of recreational marijuana in Oregon two years ago has opened the door for explosive growth in this fertile region and a handful of wineries and vineyards are diversifying by investing in the crop. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)

JACKSONVILLE, Ore. (AP) – Oregon’s legalization of recreational pot two years ago is creating room for the wine industry to branch out in the southern part of the state.

Vineyard owner Katherine Bryan laughs as she discusses the wines available for tasting at Deer Creek Vineyards in Selma, Ore. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)

The fertile region borders California’s so-called Emerald Triangle, a well-known nirvana for outdoor weed cultivation.

Recreational marijuana won’t be legal in California until next year, but a few miles north of the border in Oregon, a handful of winemakers are experimenting with pot.

These growers want to increase their appeal among young consumers and in niche markets and cash in on the recreational marijuana boom.

Vineyards are also ripping out grapes in favor of weed or leasing acreage to private pot growers.

The enthusiasm comes with a caveat. Marijuana is illegal at the federal level and wineries must keep separate tax lots for wine and weed or risk losing their federal license to bottle and sell wine.