An Offer They Couldn't Refuse

Francis Ford Coppola collaborates with Humboldt Brothers

by Erin Young
Photographs by Justin Hargraves

Apparently, a successful career in filmmaking, winemaking, writing and restaurant and hotel ownership just didn’t cut it for Francis Ford Coppola. Now he is venturing into the budding California cannabis industry with the help of Humboldt County farmers.

In 2018, Coppola launched Sana, a project that seeks to produce a high-quality line of cannabis. Given Humboldt County’s reputation as the world’s cannabis epicenter and the distinct terrior (the combination of environmental factors including soil, water, climate and farming practices that affect not only how well the plant grows, but how the resulting fruit or flower smells and tastes) of its products, it was important that the cannabis come from the region. According to Kathleen Murphy, Sana’s vice president of innovation, Coppola believes that “just like some of the best grapes come from Napa and Sonoma, the best cannabis comes from the Emerald Triangle.”

In addition to top-grade bud, Coppola was interested in sustainable, ethically grown cannabis. Cue Humboldt Brothers. Founded by longtime friends Johnny Diem (CEO) and Brett Todoroff (chief farming officer), Humboldt Brothers and its knowledgeable, dedicated team have actualized a shared vision of sustainable agriculture. Operating under the philosophy “farm to flower,” Humboldt Brothers uses what Diem calls a “new spin on old-school farming techniques.” Lead by head of cultivation Nate Johnson, the company is paving the way for high quality, sun-grown, biodynamically farmed cannabis by planting in correlation to moon cycles, harvesting rainwater, utilizing alternative energy and using all-natural pest management techniques.

Though cannabis grown indoors or in greenhouses is popular with consumers, Diem believes that there will be a “renaissance of sungrown cannabis.” Like grapes, cannabis carries a “sense of place” derived from the water, climate and soil, which give it a unique taste and smell that he says indoor-grown cannabis generally lacks. Indoor cannabis has the innate benefit of looking pretty without having to battle the elements; indoor buds are pristine, sparkly with resin and sometimes higher in THC. But there can be downsides. For instance, without exposure to natural predators, indoor plants are left prone to infestations of mites. This is often corrected using pesticides. And regardless of how pretty the final product may be, Diem believes that “the goal should be about how it makes you feel” and that putting in the effort to do it right is worth it.

After an extensive search to find the right producer, Coppola caught wind of Humboldt Brothers from a mutual contact in Napa. At this point, Coppola had yet to find a producer that offered the right product to fit his vision or that operated their business in a compatible way. Likewise, Humboldt Brothers turned away what Diem called, “other high-end companies that just weren’t a good fit.” When they met, Coppola pitched his idea and was able to sample various flowers to choose exactly what he wanted to include in his line of luxury cannabis. From their partnership, the Grower’s Series was born.

Brett Todoroff, left; Johnny Deim, right. Courtesy of Humboldt Brothers.

The final product is a variety box containing a selection of three different types of organic cannabis (one indica, one sativa and one hybrid), as well as rolling papers, a small pipe and matches. All of this is housed in a bottle-shaped tin labeled with the famous Coppola name and the respective “vintage.” The package is perfect for the cannabis-curious and for those looking to explore some of the best of what is available in California.

The Grower’s Series is a nod to the parallels between wine and cannabis. Murphy believes that consumers’ familiarity with wine may offer a bridge to cannabis consumption and tourism. There are still no official appellations, or geographical growing areas, recognized by the government for cannabis. But the California Department of Food and Agriculture hopes to be able to start approving appellations by 2021, drawing yet another link between the cannabis and wine industries, and, of course, creating a host of opportunities for Humboldt County to officially establish itself as the “Napa of cannabis.”

Humboldt County has long been considered a leader in California’s cannabis production and the recognition of Humboldt Brothers’ work by a cultural icon like Coppola is a step toward destigmatizing the cannabis industry and the region that depends upon it. As Diem commented, the collaboration is “not just about Humboldt Brothers — it’s about Humboldt County.”

The Grower’s Series is available online. Find more information at

Erin Young is a wine educator, consultant and Wine & Spirit Education Trust student. She lives in Eureka.