Thu, May 28, 2020
∙ READING TIME: 15 MINUTES ∙

A grateful look behind the scenes with a member of the Cannabis industry responsible for each step of the Seed to $ale process…

GROWER
Canby, OR

Max White – Aroma Cannabis Director of Cultivation & Co-Founder

Interview by Tom Bowers @PropagateConsultants

How long have you been cultivating Cannabis?
At the age of 12, I suffered an eye injury leaving me blind and with a condition ironically called chronic glaucoma. I became a medical marijuana patient in 1999 at the age of 16-years-old and immediately began growing for myself and other patients. I’m the ripe age of 37 today and there hasn’t been a year in which I wasn’t cultivating Cannabis.

How would you describe your approach to Cannabis cultivation at Aroma?
How does it differ from other growing experiences you had in the past?
When I started in the good ol’ Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) days, it was a vastly different arena. Prices were double or more what they are today. I had one employee – me. I didn’t have to pay attention to operating costs or budgets because let’s face it, the margins were glorious. I only had up to 48 plants at one time, so I could give the ladies names if I liked.

As far as techniques and grow styles, I did it all growing up. I grew in outdoor fields, greenhouses, attics, basements, warehouses. The first grow I ever did was in the corner of our family room growing up. At 16-years-old, my dad helped me build an 8×8 plywood box. I threw a 1000-watt China hat fixture in there and torched my crop – learned and moved on.

Today I find myself behind a computer screen a lot more. With my team, we watch numbers and data constantly. We prepare budgets and projections. The recreational market was a tough start. It has been a crash course in running a business as efficiently as possible. Naturally with scaling up into a more commercial approach, some of the personal intimate touches do not pencil in any longer, but I can say quality is still the main focus.

What is the most challenging part of running a Cannabis cultivation facility?
Learning to run a business. Whether you are selling kind nugs, shoes, cars or cheeseburgers, it’s all the same in regard to running a business. I don’t have any formal business education or degree. I was a simple Oregon dope grower with a drive to succeed. Learning to work with governing agencies, the county permitting process and the tax man has taken some practice – but a good challenge is always healthy and rewarding.

What advice do you have for  cultivators (professional and amateur)?
Be open to learning more than one way of doing things. Ask a lot of questions from a wide circle of professionals. If you can, join community groups or volunteer in a field of desired expertise. Become a good networker! I love the phrase “your network is your net worth” because it is absolutely true. Today, when I don’t know the answer, I do know somebody that does. And they are happy to share that knowledge with me, as I am happy sharing with somebody else in need.

COMPLIANCE OFFICER
Los Angeles, CA

Araksi Vartanian

Interview by Mike Ricker @RickerDJ

You were previously a vital part of the operation at House of Cultivar in Seattle, then you moved to California for a new role. What does a Compliance Officer do?
I see that all our actions are tracked and traced from seed to production to nursery to manufacturing, distribution and retail. If that’s tough to stomach, an easier way to explain it is I’m a detail coordinator for compliant actions within the facility. Basically, what the Bureau of Cannabis Control wants is someone who is there to avoid product diversion and ensure product safety.

Having to deal with said governing body for Cannabis, what do you do to make your job enjoyable?
It is great going back to a facility and seeing that the company is taking the appropriate measures that I incorporated. The fact is that people generally do what they want, but there are fiery hoops to jump through, so it makes my job enjoyable to see this function from the black market to a compliant market.

Where do you see the regulatory aspect of Cannabis heading?
The biggest issue right now we need to get resolved is banking. We have no banking in California. Other states have implemented financial security for the industry, but unless we go with some crazy, random Russian bank, we’re hung out to dry. We make a lot of money for the state and they need to take care of us. We are really scrutinized and our money is just as good as someone who is not playing the game as well, but they are a federally legal industry like insurance or liquor.

What is your preferred way to wind down after spending your day as the last line of defense against the pot police?
(Giggles) I love going for a walk with the dogs, smoking a joint, and taking a good minute to appreciate where I am in life and that I’m a part on this revolution, because this is a time in history that is never going to happen again. This makes me want to go to work the next day.

TRIMMER
Anchorage, AK

Chris Clark – Code Green

Interview by Mike Ricker @RickerDJ

You were previously a vital part of the operation at House of Cultivar in Seattle, then you moved to California for a new role. What does a Compliance Officer do?
I see that all our actions are tracked and traced from seed to production to nursery to manufacturing, distribution and retail. If that’s tough to stomach, an easier way to explain it is I’m a detail coordinator for compliant actions within the facility. Basically, what the Bureau of Cannabis Control wants is someone who is there to avoid product diversion and ensure product safety.

Having to deal with said governing body for Cannabis, what do you do to make your job enjoyable?
It is great going back to a facility and seeing that the company is taking the appropriate measures that I incorporated. The fact is that people generally do what they want, but there are fiery hoops to jump through, so it makes my job enjoyable to see this function from the black market to a compliant market.

Where do you see the regulatory aspect of Cannabis heading?
The biggest issue right now we need to get resolved is banking. We have no banking in California. Other states have implemented financial security for the industry, but unless we go with some crazy, random Russian bank, we’re hung out to dry. We make a lot of money for the state and they need to take care of us. We are really scrutinized and our money is just as good as someone who is not playing the game as well, but they are a federally legal industry like insurance or liquor.

What is your preferred way to wind down after spending your day as the last line of defense against the pot police?
(Giggles) I love going for a walk with the dogs, smoking a joint, and taking a good minute to appreciate where I am in life and that I’m a part on this revolution, because this is a time in history that is never going to happen again. This makes me want to go to work the next day.

LAB TECHNICIAN
Irvine, CA

Mike Tunis & Adam Floyd  – THINK20 LABS

Interview by Wyatt Early @ErrlyWyatt

What is the process a bud or concentrate takes from entering to exiting the lab?

When a sample enters our laboratory it is first weighed, received and accessioned into Metrc and our internal tracking system. Then the sample makes its way over to our photography lightbox, where we take high-resolution images of the sample and its packaging to be displayed on the certificate of analysis.

For a full panel regulatory compliance sample, the first analysis conducted is the foreign material inspection. Here, we inspect the sample under a digital microscope, looking for adulterants such as dirt, mold, insects, fibers, hairs, etc.

Once the foreign material inspection is concluded, the sample is then homogenized – the process of making the sample uniform throughout, so that any sub-sample taken from the homogenized sample will be representative of the entire sample.

Proper homogenization is especially important when it comes to testing Cannabis flowers, primarily because they are very inhomogeneous – with the largest percentage of cannabinoids residing in the trichomes and the lowest amount coming from the leaves and stems.

Once all the analyses required for a sample are completed, the compiled data package is reviewed by senior lab personnel to verify values are correct and that all the analytical instrumentation quality control checks are within specifications pursuant to internal and external acceptance criteria.

Following this final quality assurance check, the certificate of analysis is uploaded to Metrc, the BCC, and released to the distributor who submitted the sample for testing.

EXTRACTION LAB PROCESSING MANAGER
Eugene, OR

Regis Philburn | Echo Electuary

Interview by Amanda Day @Terpodactyl_Media

Dealing with the plant up-close must provide a unique perspective. What have you learned about Cannabis through your processes?
For the purpose of extraction, we seek out different traits such as unique terpene profiles, specific trichome morphology and lower THC to terpene ratios. There has been some breeding done specifically for extraction strains, but we hope to see this develop further in coming years into two distinct subtypes of varietals, similar to wine and table grapes.

What qualities do you look for in extraction source material?
Complex and unique terpene profiles, and clean growing practices and down to earth people/companies are essential factors in choosing our grow partners. Within our own grow we feel that organic sungrown Cannabis produces some of the most complex terpene profiles, but we also enjoy the range of flavor and repeatable results that come with the tight environmental control of indoor gardening. Cannabis enthusiasts are always looking for the next hot strain, so it is important to be aware of, and cater to, new strain trends.

Echo Electuary has been a staple of the Oregon market since before recreational legalization. What procedures have you utilized to provide your customers with consistent products?
We have developed our own methods for flash freezing using dry ice (CO2) and/or liquid nitrogen, in order to best preserve the ‘live’ terpene profile. In our extraction process, we utilize sub-zero temperatures, passive recovery, and precision flow control to achieve a variety of different hydrocarbon extract consistencies. Every batch goes through our dewax/winterization process to remove lipids and other unwanted components. Cleaning is an integral function of making consistent extracts and we rigorously clean our equipment and purify our solvents between batches to keep the extracts pure and free of cross-contamination.

Modern consumers have many options when it comes to dab products. Do you have a favorite type of extract?
What do you enjoy about that form or consistency?  
I enjoy variety and could never be satisfied with just one consistency or type of extract, but in general, I prefer consistencies such as budder (badder) because of its well-balanced THC to terpene ratio, and its ease of use. Homogeneous extracts like budder tend to dab more evenly, with the THC and terpenes vaporizing simultaneously, which is the best all around effect for me personally. I am enamored by well-grown THCA crystals and enjoy vaporizing those as well, usually towards the end of the day.

PACKAGING MANAGER
Frederick, MD

Nikia Harriston – Gleaf

Interview by Wyatt Early @ErrlyWyatt

What is your daily life like as a packaging manager?
Once we get the buds from harvest that have been manicured and trimmed, we start the packaging process. So, we start off with 10 pound batches and my team will package as much as they can from those batches into 3.5 gram drams. Depending on how light or heavy the different strains’ buds are, it can be anywhere from two to five pounds per batch going into eighths. We use a packaging machine we call Bimba, which funnels large amounts of Cannabis into small and precise amounts.

After being packaged, we place the containers into boxes of 224 grams (half of a pound). Each box must be labeled by hand with strain name, cannabinoid profile and terpene profile. To account for this Cannabis being prepared to go to a dispensary, each box must be entered into Metrc. Then we can seal everything up and place them on the shelves for specific dispensaries to receive them.

What is left from that batch is called small bud, which is used for pre-rolls. All of our trim is sent to the lab to be processed into all of the concentrates we make. We have a Futurola grinder to grind the buds, and use a Futurola machine to make pre-rolled joints and phillys. We have a ‘travel sheet’ that shows us which employee completed which process in packaging our products, for accountability and quality control. We track every single gram that leaves our facility, from seed to sale in the Metrc system. Whether it’s fresh bud, product that dropped on the floor, green waste or anything else, everything must be accounted for.

PRODUCT SALES
Tacoma, WA

Christa Dantini – Minglewood Brands

Interview by Mike Ricker @RickerDJ

Selling Cannabis takes patience and the ability to read individuals. How did you build this expertise? 
have been in retail my entire life, since I was old enough to work at the age of 16. And I’m a people person. I’m more about building relationships with the individual than I am with getting the sale, and when you do that you get a keen ear to listen, which leads you to find what they are really looking for. Then figuring out what they need is super simple. When people feel that you are naturally interested in them, you create relationships that last.

You have children. Does selling Cannabis sometimes feel like negotiating with your kids?
It used to back when I was selling shittier products (laughs). But now that I sell the best brands in the Cannabis market, it’s easy – at least in my opinion. The people who were assholes back in the day, giving me the runaround, are now wanting to do business and are more flexible, which is kinda cool.

What is the most gratifying part of being in this business, compared to doing retail?
I think people are really chill and kind overall in this industry. For me, having the flexibility to be a mom and take care of kids and still smash out work is everything. And I love Cannabis. It has so many healing properties and it’s so much more than just a recreational thing.
I feel good about what I’m doing at the end of the day.

How do you feel about the new Trolls movie? 
I haven’t seen the new Trolls movie (laughs again). I think it’s the only one I haven’t seen yet.

STORE BUYER
Ellicott City, MD

Brandon Coleman | Greenhouse Wellness

Interview by Wyatt Early @ErrlyWyatt

What do you do as a buyer for a dispensary?
As a buyer, you are tasked with many responsibilities outside of purchasing Cannabis for your store. To start, I am always keeping track of the inventory of the store in an effort to keep stocks high. I base my buying decisions on a variety of factors. Sometimes it’s feedback from patients wanting more of a certain product or producer, and my relationships with producers helps me do just that. Patients give me feedback routinely, sometimes multiple times daily – everyone has their favorites and wants to be able to buy them.

How do you decide what products to buy?
When it comes to flower and concentrates, I have personally used a vast majority of the products I bring in. I spend a majority of my time managing relationships between myself, growers, processors and patients. Almost everyone uses a different wholesale platform to showcase their product. The biggest systems used are Leaf Trade and LeafLink, as well as individual email blasts with certificates of analysis.

Why does a dispensary need a buyer?
Not every dispensary has a singular person set as the buyer. A lot of times the owner of the dispensary will be buying the products for the store. I have autonomy to make buying decisions without approval from anyone, which I believe gives me a leg up. Combining all of these factors into a patient facing brand/dispensary is really what wraps up my job.

PATIENT CONSULTANT
Cockeysville, MD

Dr. Alex Dix | KIP Cannabis
Doctor of Pharmacy, B.S. Chemistry

Interview by Wyatt Early @ErrlyWyatt

What is your typical consultation experience like?
When a patient comes in for a consultation, whether new or old to Cannabis, I always introduce them to our handbook and a few key concepts within that are crucial for them to understand. The handbook contains various basic topics about medicine, the endocannabinoid system, plant components, dosage forms of Cannabis, pharmacogenetics and a journal they utilize for their personal experience.

We will begin the healing process by locking in their goals. Are they aiming to relieve pain? Sleep throughout the night? Sense happiness? Leave pharmaceuticals in the past? Regardless, once the goals are established, we then dive into the educational scope of Cannabis. With its multiple active ingredients/compounds – cannabinoids – and its terpene properties, the various patient goals are achievable due to the unique structure of the plant. I emphasize drifting away from buying decisions simply based on sativa or indica. Trust the terpenes – they enhance the psychoactive components in Cannabis. The active ingredients and terpenes present in each strain allow for the potential to better target the release of specific neurotransmitters in our nervous system that regulate many processes within our body.

Shortly following, we discuss dosing. Each patient starts with the smallest possible dose first, ensuring sufficient time to yield the full effect. Once analyzed, we can decide if more or less is needed. Different products have different optimal doses and we work together to find the most suitable, safe and convenient method for that person. It may fluctuate, but the journal allows for record keeping and efficient modification, if needed.

The journal at the back of our handbook contains three sections: type, cannabinoid/terpene profile, and a number scale. The type section contains information about the method of ingestion – inhalation, sublingual, topical – dosage form, and information about the provider. Usually for the terpene profile/cannabinoid section it’s best to rip the label off or write down required information. The number scale is used before each dosage and after to assess the effect of each medication and its alignment with the patient’s goals. Additionally, the journal contains space for information regarding the time taken and technique – bowl, inhaled for three seconds, exhaled for two. Overall, the journal contains beneficial information to manage symptoms, track progress and modify accordingly. It’s important for our patients to understand how products relate to the learning points crafted in our handbook. This influences more knowledge and in turn confidence about the medicine regularly consumed.

BUDTENDER
Palmer, AK

Shelby Swanson – Matanuska Cannabis Company

Interview by Mike Ricker @RickerDJ

Budtending is a profession. Where did you gain your expertise before entering the Cannabis industry?
In Alaska we have vertical integration, so I first began as a trimmer for the Matanuska Cannabis Company before coming on as a budtender. Before that I was in the service industry for a long time as a janitor, and worked at the post office and elementary schools. I like working with people and I felt like I’m more comfortable in this type of environment than being in a type that is, how do you put it…normal?

Where do you see the Cannabis industry heading in Alaska?
What amazes me most is the amount of people in the community who use Cannabis as medicine, as opposed to recreationally. Especially with the virus going on, being considered essential business, I see this having a ripple effect in the community – but I’m not sure if it will improve anything moving forward with federal legalization. We don’t really know what it’s going to take to change the laws, so we just keep on doing what we’re doing, which is presenting Cannabis in a positive light. The fact that we are essential business is a great move in the right direction.

If you were to run for the Governor’s seat in Alaska, what would be your main selling point for getting elected?
Oh man (laughs). I don’t know if it would be any one thing, but more like just changing the goal posts. I would rather take care of everybody in our community to make sure they are all provided for before giving big tax credits and free money to the oil industry. There are people out here who are really struggling to even make it to the next day. Our leaders tend to forget about the small people.

What strain would you recommend to a melancholy moose, if one were to mosey into the shop one day?
Ooooh, the Honey Banana by Althea’s Morning Bear. It’s a nice sweet indica that isn’t too dense, so you don’t have to grind it and you can just pack it into a bowl and hit it there.

DISTRIBUTOR
Bellingham, WA

Amber Vaughn – Terpene Transit

Interview by Mike Ricker @RickerDJ

Distribution is an integral part of a moving society. What is different about doing it in the Cannabis industry compared to making deliveries for a company like Amazon Prime?
I think it always boils down to the regulatory nature of what we do, in always having to remain compliant. And we do it with a smile! Comparatively speaking, the big difference is delivery schedules. With a big company like Amazon, you know you’re going to get your delivery sometime before 8:00 PM tomorrow. For us, every store, every situation is a little unique, so being flexible and being able to adapt to each store’s unique quirks is a challenge. But we are not just robots, either. It’s important to us to create a pleasant experience because we know that customer service is the name of the game. So, that is an area that we truly feel differentiates us from the corporate drop and go delivery services. We create relationships, we network, we make friends.

Are you worried about contracting COVID-19 by having contact with numerous people daily?
It is a concern and the best we can do is the best for ourselves. As long as people are doing their due diligence to prevent it, we are happy to be out on the road making this happen. We provide gallons of ISO, gloves and masks, follow protocol to sanitize every day, and everything is UV lighted every day. We just go above and beyond for the prevention of COVID.

Has anything noteworthy happened on a delivery that you would like to entertain us with?
The first year that we started, we got pulled over by the state patrol and we told him we had 1,000 pounds of Cannabis in the back. We asked him if he wanted to see it and his response was, “I want to see it, but I don’t want to go through it.” Then he took a photo of it, which I assume he sent to all his buddies, then sent us on our way.

What is your preferred method for transiting terpenes into your body?
Dabs all day. Except when it’s time to drive, of course.

CREATIVE DIRECTOR
Seattle, WA

Matthew Mikulsky – Chatter Creative

Interview by Mike Ricker @RickerDJ

You were a sponsored skateboarder in your younger days. Where is the creative correlation between the two? 
I’ve always been influenced by Thrasher Magazine and TransWorld, so a lot of my inspiration comes from the wheels, the skateboards and the graphics – that old school look and feel. Everything that Powell and Peralta was doing, Steve Caballero, Bones Brigade, Tony Hawk, that whole crew.

I know there is something special about marketing Cannabis compared to ordinary brands. What is it?
Cannabis is different – wide audience – so you can’t really hone in on one particular person because everybody’s different. So you have to cast a wide net. Keeping my designs simple and clean is important. I’m always thinking about the 21-year-old to the 75-year-old person, male and female. So, the challenge is not having one particular person you’re designing for. Another thing worth mentioning is 11 years ago when I started Chatter Creative; a lot of corporate clients were shunning me for taking Cannabis clients and it feels like some of them are coming around. And even with aunts and uncles, there is a degree of acceptance you can feel more and more of. The perception of Cannabis is changing and it’s cool.

Could you ever work in another field now that you’ve realized your dream of being in the Cannabis game?
I’ll always be a designer. I love to illustrate, so if I wasn’t dealing with brands and marketing, I would probably shift into illustration. In fact, I could see myself doing children’s books.

INTERVIEWS by LEAF NATION CONTRIBUTORS