Emerald Genetics isn’t just a cannabis collective, it’s a “revolutionary solution to major sociological and economic problems [that] many depressed communities face,” explains founder, Matthew Smith-Caggiano.
In 2014, Caggiano established the hyper-local medicinal marijuana collective with the intent of creating a unified effort to support the Northern California economy. The company is a collaboration of professionals including; veterans, doctors, real estate agents, biologists, business owners and educators.
“We’re a collective of veterans and community members trying to help lead a new way of business. We have the knowledge and experience working in large teams to accomplish great visions,” he added, “Not only do we strive for best quality products, but we strive for doing things right in all phases of business as well as giving back to our community.”
In accordance with the company’s motto — “Environment, Community and Cannabis” — Emerald Genetics works in coordination with individuals and organizations within and outside of the cannabis community, including regulatory and governmental agencies such as; the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, Eureka City Council, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department, and the Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services.
Like many entrepreneurs that define the industry, the decision to found Emerald Genetics came to Caggiano after profound personal experiences.
He joined the cannabis revolution in 1992 while attending high school in Harrisonburg, Virginia. “Cannabis was highly persecuted in the southern states but its presence still remained, although in brick form with stems/seeds,” he explained. “I was amazed how this wonderful plant could come from a seed, then started treating seeds like gold and experimenting with genetics at about 16 years old.”
He soon learned “how much safer cannabis was than alcohol when some co-workers wanted to camp out after work and teased me when I wanted to grab my herb, rather than get drunk.” The next day, Caggiano awoke in the hospital, “lucky to walk again or be alive after falling down a cliff by a river. My Cannabis philosophies became convictions through this experience and I denounced alcohol for the last year of high school in favor of herb.”
After high school, Caggiano joined the U.S. Air Force at age 17 with an enlistment date of 9/11/1996. “Despite all my friends consuming cannabis leading up to entry, I had to give it up for a better chance at life.”
During his service, he again witnessed alcohol’s potentially destructive effects, as “consuming alcohol was a huge part of relieving stress in the military,” he said.
Just three months from his 21st birthday, “I was pulled over on base and blew a .07 which is under the .08 legal limit. Since I was not officially 21, and although I could have died for my country at 18 years young, the Air Force reduced my rank/pay […]” he added. “I managed a $40,000,000 test aircraft and was responsible for pilot’s lives but could not have a beer.” Soon after, he enrolled in college to study biology.
When offered reenlistment, Caggiano decided his “freedom was priceless,” left the military exactly one year before 9/11, and moved to San Luis Obispo, California where he found his first connection to Californian cannabis. “It was one of the most liberating feelings of my life, besides driving off the military base,” he said.
“I was now experiencing world renowned reggae music such as my first live reggae show of Black Uhuru’s Michael Rose! […],” he added, “Now fast forward to 15 years later and Mr. Rose is going to be the headliner this year to an event I founded, the Humboldt County Cup.”
Caggiano moved to Northern California to attend Humboldt State University for wildlife management and then served with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. “At this time […] there was a great divide amongst the environmental community and cannabis community,” he added. Here, he discovered that people in the cannabis industry feared advocacy due to; incrimination of cannabis cultivation (whether for medicinal or commercial use), losing their professional jobs (i.e. mental health professionals, doctors, healers), losing their livelihoods to big business, and environmental degradation.
“Although other groups were able to express their views about cannabis, fear hindered cannabis advocates from exercising their freedom of speech.,” said Caggiano.
As a result, his passion as an advocate grew; he founded Humboldt NORML and Emerald Genetics.
“Emerald Genetics is not only the plant, but it’s the people and the reputation we must uphold as stewards of the earth and community. It’s a social movement dedicated to giving back at least 10 percent through unified collective efforts.”
“As a veteran, [and VP for the Humboldt Weed for Warriors Project], we strive for veteran employment. Some of our products are made by veterans. Furthermore, we donate some of these products monthly to 25-30 vets in need.”
“We are a veteran owned collective based in a world renowned area containing the best product in the world — [we’re] good people who want to give back,” Caggiano said.
The company delivers cannabis and non-cannabis related products and services at near cost rates. These high-quality products are cultivated in a clean environment, free of pesticides or fungicides.
In addition to their award winning products, Emerald Genetics emphasizes sustainability. “My six-year experience working with the Fisheries Department provided great insight to our local water resources,” he added, “My expert knowledge managing aquatic resources allowed me to make new recommendations for the cannabis community that were not talked about,” such as considering streamflow based water diversions from December – February, “so that farmers could plan when to divert water during high precipitation events the USGS and NOAA models can shows us.”
Through his correspondence with state and regional organizations, Caggiano has helped debunk myths about water consumption, he added, “Although cannabis and almonds got the bad publicity, wine and beef are much more costly to the environment on a single use basis.”
“There’s only so much water, so we must manage our resources wisely,” Caggiano said, “All agriculture should abide by these rules if we want anything left for our community.”
The company, said Caggiano, aims to be the rule, not the exception: “Emerald Genetics will strive to set the example because it is the right thing to do and not because legislation makes cannabis the double-standard, while pesticides and water continue through other agriculture.”
Written by Melissa Hutshell