The Advantages of Vertical Farming When it’s All About Canopy Size

Original article from MMJ Daily October 26, 2020.

Oregon was one of the very first states in the US that legalized medical cannabis. Initially, the regulations allowed growers to have only a specific number of plants, thus limiting the size of the operations. “Everything was dictated by the number of plants you could grow,” says Jason McAlister, Director of Cultivation with Tokyo Starfish, a cannabis operation based in Oregon. “This ultimately meant that everyone here became very good at growing large plants and trying to produce the highest quality product possible.”

TOKYO STARFISH recreational production facility

From plant count to canopy size
The situation changed when recreational cannabis was also legalized. “With that change, also new rules came,” Jason further explains. “One of these was that instead of a plant count, we could go for canopy size – literal physical square footage – which allowed us to reconsider how we grew.” Indeed, Jason remarks that Tokyo Starfish was growing with HPS lights, hung 8-10 feet up from floor, and using 15 to 20-gallon pots. When the plants reached a certain size, they were brought to the flower room following the strict medical guidelines.

PIPP Verticle racking system

“But then, there was this company here in central Oregon called Smart Grow Systems (SGS) that was pioneering LED lighting powered by Remote DC power- designed specifically for vertical farming,” he says. “So, we met with those guys and started testing their lighting equipment. After one year of testing, we converted the entire facility over to their LED system. This was definitely a turning point, as we wanted to grow vertically, and LED is in our opinion the best type of lighting use in vertical farming. A quick whiteboard session later it was easy to see the benefits of a vertical racking system that would allow us to put multiple canopies in one room.”

G(r)o(w)ing vertical
Thus, Jason and his team started looking for the perfect vertical racking system that could be used together with the LED lights of their choice. “We had to make sure that the quality of the end-product was as good or better than before,” he says. “But obviously, at the end of the day we had to find something that worked optimally with the workflow of the facility, and that’s why we selected Pipp Horticulture’s vertical racks.”

Jason further recounts that Pipp had a relationship with SGS, which made the implementation of their LED a particularly smooth process. “It worked out very well,” he says. “Pipp figured out the light attachments and fans, and how the lights and racks would integrate with each other. It was a win-win to go with the Pipp racks.” Tokyo Starfish then proceeded to install the new vertical racking system themselves, which is their thing as Jason points out; “we build and install everything ourselves. Admittedly, the Pipp system was extremely easy to install, but even easier was the way it operated: the racks are very mobile and have handles that allow you to move the racks to open workspaces, or use the lights more precisely between the plants in the racks.”

Smaller plants, but many many more of them
“The system has allowed us to re-examine the flow of how we grow. Now we are growing much smaller plants – based on the height of the rack: instead of growing a few hundred large plants, we grow 15,000 small plants.” Jason continues to explain that the implementation of the vertical system not only made them re-evaluate how they grow, but also other aspects of the cultivation. “You have to re-examine how to keep up the mother plants, and how you handle the cloning, for instance,” he says. “But at the end of the day, we have tripled our canopy, thus tripling our yield while reducing energy cost significantly.”

In order to set up everything properly, Pipp Horticulture has worked closely with Tokyo Starfish throughout the process. “Working with Pipp from day one has been on point with our goals,” Jason says. “They came into the facility, took measurements, and basically walked us through the whole process. They have qualified installers who can come to your facility and assemble the rack system. But we like to do things ourselves and the ease of assembling their rack system made quick work for us.”

As the industry moves towards consolidation, operational efficiencies will have an even greater role in every cannabis cultivation. “To accomplish that, vertical farming is one of the best options we’ve found,” Jason observes. “The combination of optimized cultivation space, smooth workflow, and LED lighting makes vertical farming a particularly good solution for producers who have the resources and hindsight to adopt the methodology. We believe this will be particularly critical as the most efficient operations should be able to produce a higher quality end product at lower operational and environmental costs, which for Tokyo Starfish, we hope will help attracts more customers and retail partnerships moving forward.”

VICE NEWS: Pro Athletes Who Love Weed Are Taking Cannabis Sponsorships

Cannabis and sports might not seem like they mix. But for some athletes, the drug is an integral part of their success.

Original article published on VICE by Deana Bianco May 26, 2020

On a typical Saturday, at 4:30 am, Boulder, Colorado-based competitive ultramarathoner Flavie Dokken takes 5mg of Wana Recreational Tarts, puts on her running shoes, and heads out for a five-hour run. But Dokken is not your typical stoner, she uses cannabis as part of her workout routine and she is sponsored by Wana Brands, a cannabis company that produces cannabis-infused products. Dokken told Vice that the gummies help her tune into her breathing. Although Dokken uses THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive element of cannabis) during training, she stops using it a week before race day because of drug testing.

“Active lifestyle” might not be a set of words commonly associated with cannabis use. But cannabis companies are trying to change that by sponsoring athletes and athletic teams, getting them to post photos of products on their Instagram grids or put brand stickers on their athletic equipment, in order to gain visibility with the athletes’ fans.

Brands like Nike, Saucony, and New Balance, synonymous with the running industry, do not allow their athletes to be associated with cannabis. But that doesn’t mean they never partake. Dokken said she knows of a handful who do. Not only are they secretive about their use, but they also avoid affiliating with her for fear of guilt by association. She said that these athletes, “won’t follow me on Instagram,” but she also states that when she wears her Wana gear on the trails in Colorado, “people give me a high-five, which is awesome.”

Even as big brands don’t want to talk about cannabis use, it is increasingly officially sanctioned for competitive professional and amateur athletes: In 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code removed CBD from their list of banned substances, and allows an athlete to have THC in their system during a random out-of-competition drug test. But THC is still a prohibited substance for post-race or in-competition drug tests; this all means athletes are fine to use cannabis during the off-season and even during training, but cannot compete with the drug in their system.

In 2018, Canada legalized marijuana with the Cannabis Act, which prohibits athletes from being sponsored by cannabis companies. Canadian MMA fighter Elias Theodorou is trying to change that. He uses cannabis for pain management for bilateral neuropathy in his upper extremities (chronic pain in his wrists, elbows, upper neck, and spine). “Doctor prescribed cannabis is the best medical option to manage my pain,” he told VICE. “Traditional, first-line medications like pain killers, opioids, and NSAIDs have all had detrimental side-effects to my body as both a patient and athlete.”

Theodorou, who has been sponsored by Pert Plus, Mattel, and Coors Light, explained, “This fight is not only about working with cannabis companies, but also the need to knock down the barriers and negative perception other companies may have with cannabis.”

Mendi, a CBD startup company, has “athlete ambassadors” who help promote their products, including soccer player and Women’s World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe, and her girlfriend, WNBA player Sue Bird. The athlete ambassadors receive Mendi products to promote on their social channels and attend Mendi events. The company was founded by Rapinoe’s twin sister, Rachael, who is also a former pro soccer player. Although CBD is banned in the WNBA, Bird uses it in her off-season. She told New York Magazine, “It’s great for recovery and it relaxes me. I usually take it at night so I can sleep, which helps with recovery, and have had amazing results.”

While the use of cannabis might seem diametrically opposed to what an athlete values—inaction versus action—calm, relaxation, and rest are integral to athletes’ overall success and well-being. But athletes don’t even limit use to off-hours in our modern times: In 2019, The University of Colorado Boulder released a study on over 600 runners with legalized cannabis that found 80 percent of cannabis users mixed workouts with cannabis use. Although cannabis is not a performance-enhancing drug, Dr. Rosemary Mazanet, Chief Scientific Officer of Columbia Care, claimed to VICE it can help diminish performance anxiety. “You’re able to be more in the moment and have more fun, to be more limber, to be more flexible,” said Manazet.

Pulmonologist Vandana A. Patel stressed to VICE via email that smoking cannabis can negatively impact an athlete’s performance. “Inhaling cannabis can cause structural lung injuries, like building air pockets in the lung which can rupture under increased physical stress.” Because of this, many athletes, like Dokken, stick to edibles.

The owners of the Oregon-based dispensary Tokyo Starfish all previously worked in the snowboarding industry before they transitioned into opening a dispensary. Tokyo Starfish-sponsored professional snowboarder, Max Warbington explained that the dispensary focuses on the lifestyle aspect of snowboarding rather than the performance aspect.

Tokyo Starfish-sponsored snowboarder Nora Beck told VICE that she uses cannabis during snowboarding when she needs to relax. She explains, “It’s like you’re on hyperdrive and you just need to turn the volume down a little bit.”

“Tokyo Starfish is actually invested in snowboarding and they understand that I’m out there doing my job as a pro snowboarder and just the fact that I have the Tokyo sticker that’s like a total bonus for them,” Warbington said. As a pro snowboarder sponsored by Tokyo Starfish, Warbington sends the company videos and photos throughout the winter. He also wears their T-shirts and hoodies and markets them to snowboarding fans on his social media.

When asked whether he feels like there’s a stigma as an athlete sponsored by a cannabis company, he replied, “I think they’re probably always will be [a stigma] just the same as there’s a stigma with alcohol because it’s a substance that people abuse.”

In a phone interview with VICE, Warbington said he is particularly conscious of his image. “I definitely don’t want to push it [cannabis] on the youth and that’s why I always like to preach that.” He does not allow Tokyo Starfish to post images on their social media of him smoking pot, though Warbington sometimes posts a picture of a joint in his personal Instagram stories. He said, “I always second-guess it every time because of my influence.”

Brands like Tokyo Starfish and Wana are trying to combat negative associations with cannabis. They want the public to affiliate the recreational drug with an active lifestyle. Warbington said it’s really important to him that people know he and his Tokyo Starfish teammates do not personify the “lazy stoner” stereotype. Far from it. “We’re out here smoking weed,” he said. “We’re the first person up [on the slopes in the morning] and the last one to leave the mountain.”

Tokyo Starfish is Making Waves in Oregon

With action-sports stars as brand ambassadors and a tourist-friendly menu, Tokyo Starfish is one of the brightest retailers in […] Oregon.

Original Article by Rob Hill, published to MG Retailer Magazine August 23, 2018.

TOKYO STARFISH Box Factory location in Bend, Oregon

Tokyo Starfish’s brand story began almost twenty years ago. During a snowboarding event in Japan, Jason McAlister, Kale Gray, Keith Legum, and Gary Bracelin bonded while exploring the kaleidoscopic city of Tokyo. They were especially captivated by the view from their hotel, which looked out on a cross-section of five roads crawling with cars and neon lights. If they squinted, the vista looked like a gargantuan, psychedelic starfish.

After the trip, the four remained good friends. And they never forgot that view. Fast forward to 2013: Legum and Bracelin were attending a school fundraiser when Bracelin suggested they start a retail cannabis business. Legum proposed they recruit McAlister and Gray. Then, as if sent by the cannabis and snowboarding gods, a location presented itself. “It was a turn-of-the-century cottage that had become a dog grooming place and antique shop,” said Gray. “We completely opened up the space and remodeled from the ground up.”

The Bend, Oregon shop became a strange and alluring phenomenon, like the city in which the group met. Both locals and tourists took notice of the new retail establishment with its bizarre name and echinoderm logo.

Roles to play

Each of the four founders plays a specific role: Legum, who always has been fascinated by architecture and design, was charged with building out the space. Gray handles marketing and branding. McCalister, in charge of operations, is the details dude, while Bracelin oversees buying and distribution.

DID YOU KNOW…
ABOVE TOKYO STARFISH IS A TWO-BEDROOM, ONE-BATH, CANNABIS-FRIENDLY BUD ’N’ BREAKFAST APARTMENT [THE ONLY ONE IN CENTRAL OREGON] THAT CAN BE RENTED.

During construction, Legum’s driving concepts were “homey,” “friendly,” and “bucolic.” Those three words still define the experience. “From the second a customer walks in the door until they leave, customer service and the shopping experience are number one,” said Gray. In addition, he noted, the owners insist the shop reflect their love for the outdoors, action sports, and hanging out together. The quaint, snow-cabin-esque aesthetic Legum created exudes coziness and warmth. Flourishes like extracts displayed on skateboards, neatly folded apparel and coffee table books stacked in custom-made wood racks, vintage SnoPlanks snowboards here and there, and a mountain bike station on the porch gave Tokyo Starfish a singular vibe.

“He [Legum] did a great job of taking all of our insane ideas and spitting them out into one cohesive-looking place,” Gray said with a chuckle.

The dispensary’s signature attributes aren’t confined to the first floor. Located above the shop is a two-bedroom apartment the partners had intended to turn into an office. Instead, at Gray’s suggestion, they created Bend’s only bud ’n’ breakfast. The spot has been a big hit, he said, and rentals add extra revenue.

“It was an opportunity to expand the experience of the shop,” noted Gray. “People who stay there love it. Many want to move in permanently.”

Although Bend hosts a smattering of professionally run and well-stocked dispensaries, with more on the way, Tokyo Starfish has become not only a local favorite but also a must-visit tourist spot. Many local guidebooks encourage tourists to stop in. Located near mountain biking trails, fishing pools, and snowboarding peaks, the shop has become a sort of ground zero for the action sports crowd to stock up before a day playing outdoors.

As for products, Tokyo Starfish places priority on growing its own flower with an emphasis on potent CBD strains. After all, a day on the slopes or cruising the rugged, snaking trails can leave active folks with aches and pains. In addition to stocking flower from most of the local farms, Tokyo Starfish also offers what Gray called “connoisseur CBD strains” exclusive to its in-house grower, TG Industries. Extra-potent flower like Blue Shark, Harlequin, and Harle-Tsu fly off the shelves, he said.

He also said business growth has exceeded expectations. Between retail, wholesale, and grow, the company now employs thirty-five people. Gray is particularly proud of that. “Being able to create jobs for people is pretty awesome,” he said.

The shop sees nearly 400 customers a day; more during tourist season. While flower composes 50 percent of sales, cartridge and edibles sales are growing rapidly. That makes perfect sense to Gray: Both items are on-the-go-friendly. “Pre-rolls are picking up steam, too,” he said.

A ‘secret weapon’

Tokyo Starfish’s secret weapon may be its brand ambassadors and buzzy event sponsorships. Professional snowboarding star and friend to the owners Max Warbington tops the list. Tokyo Starfish sponsors Warbington’s sold-out Quarterpipe Campout weekend, which takes place May 20-21 annually. Warbington’s signature showdown brings together some of the top riders and ancillary characters for a non-stop weekend of riding, partying, and catching up with old friends, all of which is filmed by cinematic master John Stark. Tokyo Rose also participates in the Dirksen Derby 10, river surfing with ambassador Jorma Nagel, and Mount Bachelor hiking excursions with a who’s who of the action sports world.

“We all come from the action sports world, and most of our employees do too,” Gray said. “Warbington is a local pro snowboarder who is a big advocate of ours, as we are of his. He’s one of the best because he goes out and makes things happen for himself. It’s really cool to have an advocate who brings things to the table that we can help with.”

Enjoy a High Level of Service at 10 One-of-a-Kind Marijuana Dispensaries in the U.S.

Originally article by Mike Richard on The Manual April 19, 2019.

Pot culture has come a long way since the days of pseudo-Rastafarian head shops, Cypress Hill’s puerile glamorization of weed in the ’90s (see also “Hits from the Bong”), and the High Times monthly centerfold. Credit the mainstreaming of marijuana and the massive influx of cash that legalization has brought to dispensaries in almost a dozen U.S. states. Now, many are pouring their profits into legit product research, high-end retail designs, and “green glove service” for a more discerning clientele. These 10 marijuana dispensaries across the United States, in particular, offer unique customer experiences to match their one-of-a-kind, designer storefronts.

The High Expedition

Talkeetna, Alaska

The High Expedition
The High Expedition

Two hours north of Anchorage, in the tiny mountain town of Talkeetna, Alaska (population: 876) lies The High Expedition. It’s no doubt the most remote dispensary on this list. The rustic, log-cabin storefront feels more like an old-timey general store with only a “Cannabis Purveyors” sign on the outside to hint at the building’s true nature. The building is steeped in history as it served as the home of famed mountain climber Ray Genet who perished on Everest in 1979. Today, a modest museum inside the store commemorates his life and and the mountaineering achievements of others. It’s difficult to imagine a more appropriately “Alaskan” dispensary.

Planet 13

Las Vegas, Nevada

Planet 13 Las Vegas
Planet 13 Las Vegas/Facebook

It was only a matter of time before Vegas erected the largest, most over-the-top dispensary in the country. Situated a mile off The Strip, Planet 13 is a sprawling, 40,000-square-foot behemoth that’s equal parts dispensary and entertainment complex. Customers will find a dizzying array of cannabis-related wares from tinctures and topicals to edibles and extracts with 42 cash registers waiting near the exit. However, the mega-dispensary is also big on creating a multi-sensory experience to make this a destination unto itself. Massive LED-lit lotus flowers mark the entrance while motion-activated, colored flooring, otherworldly orb lighting, and a huge 3-D projection wall make the inside feel more like a contemporary art museum. In spring 2019, Planet 13 announced an expansion to include a cafe, a pizza restaurant, and a 115-foot glass wall to showcase the making of their products in the attached production facility.

Tokyo Starfish

Bend, Oregon

Tokyo Starfish
Tokyo Starfish Bend Box Factory Location
best marijuana dispensaries us tokyo starfish bend oregon interior
Tokyo Starfish South Hwy 97 Bend

Tokyo Starfish is the antidote to Planet 13’s “bigger is better” mega-dispensary ethos. The Oregon-based shop promises a boutique, small-town experience where the […] budtenders legitimately care about their clientele — enough to remember their individual preferences and tastes. What truly sets it apart, however, is that it’s likely the only dispensary in the country that operates as a “Bud and Breakfast.”  Just upstairs from the retail space is a two-bedroom apartment for rent. Naturally, it’s 420-friendly.

Harvest

San Francisco, California

Harvest Shop

San Francisco boasts more high-end dispensaries per capita than almost any city in America, so competition is fierce. What sets Harvest apart from its Bay Area counterparts is a design and experience that feel more like an organic grocer than a high-priced head shop. Most of the products including edibles, concentrates, topicals, and, of course, flower, are sourced from local, organic growers and producers. Plus, unlike most high-end pot shops, the products here are openly displayed throughout the store for customers to readily inspect, smell, and handle.

Diego Pellicer

Denver and Seattle

Diego Pellicer

The multi-state Diego Pellicer chain has long been recognized for the beauty of its storefronts — an upscale aesthetic that’s equal parts apothecary and old-school haberdashery. This emphasis on style befits the brand’s namesake, a 19th-century hemp entrepreneur. But, these shops aren’t all sizzle and no steak. They promise some of the highest-potency strains in the country with THC levels that routinely test higher than 30% (that’s very, very strong). The best part? The prices are surprisingly reasonable.

Theory Wellness

Great Barrington, Massachusetts

Theory Wellness/Facebook

It’s already getting harder and harder for marijuana dispensaries to distinguish themselves from the competition. Beyond flashy designs, dirt-cheap prices, and knowledgeable staff, outlets like Theory Wellness are looking to “seed to sale” (think “farm to table” for weed) business models to attract eco-conscious, small-business-friendly customers. The rural, Berkshires-based Great Barrington location receives all of its product from a sister shop in nearby Bridgewater where the company’s entire inventory is grown, harvested, and packaged.

Om of Medicine

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Om of Medicine

Where most dispensaries lean on glossy, futuristic, Apple-inspired designs, Om of Medicine looks to keep the pot-shopping experience quirky, bold, and fun. The Ann Arbor-based shop is a blend of modern yoga studio and art gallery. The lounge area encourages customers to linger with comfortable orb chairs, a guitar for guest use, and even monthly comedy shows.

Barbary Coast

San Francisco, California

Barbary Coast

Barbary Coast Dispensary finds its way onto every list of “best marijuana dispensaries in the U.S.” and with good reason. Here, the sophisticated high-design defines the experience. It’s not the only dispensary in California to offer a customer lounge, but its lounge sets the bar for what a modern-day smoke shop experience should be. With Tiffany-inspired chandeliers, gentlemanly leather seating, and rich wood throughout, the atmosphere is equal parts speakeasy and old-school barbershop.

Dockside Cannabis SODO

Seattle, Washington

Dockside Cannabis

Seattle’s Dockside Cannabis SODO has all the hallmarks of a modern-day pot shop including a nice, open floor plan with a bright, designer decor. But, what sets it apart is the legit cannabis museum inside. One corner of the shop is dedicated to the science and history of all things cannabis. The collection was born largely of Ohio activist Don Wirtshafter’s hoard of related memorabilia including old-school medicine bottles. The entire collection covers more than one hundred years of pre-prohibition cannabis history dating as far back as 1830. Terpene scent jars and a “feel table” round out the shop’s unique multi-sensory experience.

New England Treatment Access

Brookline, Massachusetts

Neta Care

While NETA’s name has all the sex appeal of a walk-in clinic, their Brookline location is stunning. Situated in a historic bank building with soaring ceilings, tall arch windows, and a beautifully restored dome ceiling, it’s no doubt the most dramatic setting of any dispensary on this list. But what sets it apart is the incredible menu. All of its vaporizer products are dosage- and strain-specific, and the list of high-end edibles includes Belgian chocolate. What’s more, the staff is among the best-trained in the state to make the best recommendations for customers’ specific needs.

New Marijuana Shops Underway in Bend

Owners jockey for remaining real estate

Original article By Kathleen McLaughlin on The Bulletin Jul 28, 2019.

The Bend marijuana shop Creative Crops has faced nearby competition for the duration of its two-year existence, and now, the business and its Scott Street building are for sale.

Co-owner Denise Drazil said her customer base is increasing, despite the fact that a large chain, Mr. Nice Guy, bought out her competitor around the block on Davis Avenue late last year. Drazil and her partners — her three grown children — decided to list the shop for sale because of unexpected changes in their lives. “If we do keep the business, we’re going to do OK,” she said.

Marijuana business owners say a dwindling supply of eligible locations and a backlog of applications before the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has created an opportunity for shop owners to sell.

It’s been almost four years since the Oct. 1, 2015, start of recreational marijuana sales in Oregon. Since then, more than 600 shops have sprung up around the state. By now, those pioneering retailers can see that “things are going well, or they’re not,” said Kale Gray, co-owner of Tokyo Starfish, which has three locations in Bend [and one in Salem]. “We’re seeing consolidation in the marketplace.”

Yet marijuana’s retail footprint is expanding in Bend, which is home to 24 shops, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. A new store is under construction in the former Riverbend Brewing sports pub building at 2650 NE Division St., just up the road from The Herb Center. Frye of Bend LLC applied for a retail license at 2650 NE Division, but it has not yet been issued, according to the OLCC.

Entrepreneur Jacob Jenkins said he hopes to open his first store, CannaVida, at 325 NE Franklin Ave. by Sept. 3. The location is the former home of the medical marijuana shop Garden Kings.

“There’s still a lot of people that think you can make a lot of money at it, and you can,” said Josh Kelleher, a Southern Oregon real estate broker who works with cannabis businesses, including Creative Crops.

While some shop owners who’ve been in business from the start of legalization are looking for an exit, plenty of entrepreneurs still want in, Kelleher said.

There’s an advantage to starting a marijuana business at this stage of the industry’s evolution, Jenkins said. “Now, there’s some actual statistics to base your future on.”

The CannaVida store on Franklin Avenue will be part of a vertically integrated business that includes production and processing, Jenkins said.

Jenkins hopes to set CannaVida apart from the competition with a technology-centered sales floor. The store will be equipped with iPads where customers can learn more about the inventory and see suggestions based on past purchases, Jenkins said.

As with other types of retail, location is key to marijuana stores’ performance, Kelleher said. A store with “decent” performance will have gross sales of $1 million per year, he said.

In Bend, there aren’t many places left where one could legally open a store, said Nick Harsell, former owner of High Grade Organics on Davis Avenue, just east of the Bend Parkway. That made it easier to market his shop, which he sold to Mr. Nice Guy for an undisclosed amount.

In May 2018, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission declared it was too backlogged to process new marijuana license applications of any kind after June 15 that year. The “pause” only added to High Grade Organics’ value, Harsell said.

The OLCC does not allow marijuana retailers to transfer licenses, but the agency will facilitate the surrender of one license and issuance of another for an existing business, spokesman Mark Pettinger said.

“It was definitely a leveraging play,” Harsell said of the licensing backlog. “There was no other way to get a dispensary.”

The “pause” that OLCC enacted is still in effect for retail businesses, Pettinger said. “You may remember that we had a surge of applications in the run up to that date,” he wrote in an email. The agency is still assigning those applications to investigators, and until that’s complete, it won’t work on anything that was submitted after June 15, 2018.

Separately, the state has placed a moratorium on processing new applications for marijuana production. That could be in effect until Jan. 2, 2022.

Bend’s larger marijuana businesses are looking to expand in other parts of the state.

Oregrown Industries, which has a store downtown, will open three locations between Labor Day and the end of the year in Cannon Beach, Portland and Eugene, CEO Aviv Hadar said.

Buying out existing stores might have been quicker, but Hadar said the company and its investors wanted premium locations. The Eugene store at 211 W. Sixth Ave. is near the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, he noted.

Oregrown intends to pair the high-traffic locations with expensive interiors.

In Portland, the vaporizer company Pax Labs will build a store within Oregrown’s store at 1111 NE 12th Ave., Hadar said. “That Portland location’s going to be a tourist mecca.”

Tokyo Starfish is looking for opportunities in the Willamette Valley, Gray said.

“We opened up multiple locations in town because we feel that people shop for cannabis like they go to 7-Eleven — the one they like the most, nearest to them.”

Oregon Faces Black-Market Marijuana Problem

Illegal market grows in Deschutes County

Original article by Suzanne Roig on The Bulletin Oct 14, 2018.

Legal cannabis grown in Oregon. Photo: Andy Tullis

Law enforcement authorities intercepted $48 million worth of black-market marijuana headed from Oregon to 37 states over a three-year period, and officers blame the illegal exports on a statewide glut of regulated marijuana and low prices.

Some of the black-market marijuana comes from illegal growers, some diverted from legal recreational producers, processors or retailers and some comes from medical growers, acknowledged the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which oversees the Oregon’s legal recreational marijuana program.

Most of the illegal product seized — about 14,500 pounds — was probably grown on U.S. Forest Service land, and came from Jackson, Multnomah, Josephine, Lane, Deschutes and Washington counties, according to a report from the Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federally funded program that collects data from 14 counties in Idaho and Oregon.

“This could be larger in scope than the data sets show,” said Chris Gibson, executive director of the Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. “We have a state law that says cannabis cannot go out of state, and that’s our focus.”

Deschutes County has seen a six-fold increase in the amount of seized marijuana so far this year, said Bend Police Lt. Brian Kindel, who is part of Central Oregon Drug Enforcement team. In 2017 the CODE team confiscated about 100 pounds of cannabis, compared to 600 pounds in the first 10 months of this year, Kindel said.

“We’re only stopping a small amount of it,” he said. “There’s a lot more going out. We’re not getting all of it.”

With more than a million pounds of excess cannabis logged into the Oregon cannabis tracking system and retail prices at a record low, black market sales — skimmed product from the legal recreational market, medical growers or illegal growers — have become tempting and profitable.

In many cases, it’s as easy as loading up an SUV and driving it to another state.

Officials say it will take a multipronged approach to combat black market sales. Allowing Oregon-grown cannabis to be sold in other states could relieve the pressure caused by the surplus, said Gary Bracelin, owner of Bend cannabis store Tokyo Starfish.

Many argue in favor of tightening regulations to prevent diversion, when cannabis grown in the regulated market finds its way on the black market.

Three recent criminal cases in Deschutes County underscore the rise of illegal growing and processing sites. One of the cases was even from a Oregon Liquor Control Commission sanctioned site.

In the most recent case, two Bend residents were charged with unlawful manufacture of marijuana and unlawful possession of marijuana for allegedly exporting cannabis products out of state. They are alleged to have used picture frames to hide cannabis to mail from a farm on Back Alley Road in Bend to Massachusetts. Law enforcement officials seized 93 mature marijuana plants and 55 immature plants, 5.8 pounds of dried marijuana and butane hash oil.

In another case, police charged two Crooked River Ranch residents with unlawful manufacturing of marijuana and charges related to allegedly running a butane hash oil operation used to produce a concentrate.

And in September, the OLCC revoked the license of a legal marijuana producer, High Cascade Farms, after numerous violations were uncovered along with alleged black market activities.

“We acknowledge there may be licensees conducting illegal activity, but it comes to light through anomalous activity in the cannabis tracking system, which is especially noticeable since our monitoring and detection has improved,” said Mark Pettinger, OLCC spokesman.

“Even before the High Cascade case surfaced, we were paying attention to the unusual ‘wasting’ activity and in some instances asking for video recordings to reconcile and do compliance checks,” Pettinger said.

With one cannabis growing site for every 25 users, Oregon has the ability to produce more than 2 million pounds of marijuana per year, far beyond what it can consume, leading law enforcement to believe that the surplus is contributing to diversion into the illegal market.

In addition, prices have fallen in the legal market from over $3,300 a pound to about $330 a pound, and cannabis businesses say some enterprising people are taking advantage of the lower prices and shipping product out of state, said Kindel, of the CODE team.

“What we’re seeing now is because it’s become lucrative to ship out of state, and Oregon has a reputation for quality cannabis,” Kindel said.

“Illegal grows are still at heart, illegal,” said Bracelin. “With the legal market and the glut, prices are so good for consumers to buy legal cannabis, I would guess the local black market is actually a pretty bad business model. Black market growers probably opt to ship out of state where they can get better prices. Illegal black market growers have been doing this for years.”

Bracelin said that regulated cannabis growers and retailers take a great risk diverting legally grown cannabis into the black market. They face license revocation and criminal charges by selling to the black market, he said.

“I’m not so naive to think this does not happen,” Bracelin said. “There will always be bad players.”

Lizette Coppinger, an owner of Cannabend, a Bend retail cannabis outlet, believes that legalizing the exportation of cannabis is important and could grow the cannabis industry. Legal exportation would enable growers to sell off the surplus to other states, Coppinger said. Allowing the export of legally grown cannabis to other states where pot is also legal could wipe out black market sales, she said. As of mid-2018, nine states and Washington, D.C, have legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults over the age of 21.

Said Bracelin: “Oregon is stifling its newest bounty crop and craft industry. While we fight over counties and state’s borders and federal acceptance, other countries are moving much faster and looking at international import/export markets.”

A byproduct of export would enable regulated shops, growers and processors to showcase the best Oregon growers have to offer. Products with high THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content, unique terpenes and flavor all can be found at the corner retail outlet.

“There’s so much talent, and it’s a fun process,” Coppinger said. “You don’t get that in the black market. You don’t have any choices, just what the dealer offers.”

In Oregon the OLCC has taken steps to prevent the diversion of legally grown cannabis to the black market. This summer saw the start of Operation Good Harvest, a program that requires a growers to notify the OLCC when harvesting begins.

Nearly 70 inspections were done of outdoor grow sites, Pettinger said.

“We acknowledge there may be licensees conducting this type of illegal activity, but it comes to light through anomalous activity that comes through the cannabis tracking system, which is noticeable since our monitoring and detection has improved,” he said.

When growers identify plants as waste, they must take them off their inventory, report the waste to the OLCC, store the plants under video surveillance for three days and dispose of the plants by mixing the plants with yard debris, wood chips or sawdust and taking it to the landfill if composting is not feasible.

This summer also saw the transfer of 2,000 medical growing sites that grow for three or more patients in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program to the regulator authority of the OLCC. Those growing sites must tag and register their plants in the cannabis tracking system.

Another step the OLCC took to tighten the system came in August when it began limiting the daily purchase amount for medical card holders to 1 ounce.

Previously, the limit was 24 ounces for medical card holders. The restriction lifts in six months.

“None of us have figured out where the point of diversion is occurring,” said Carol Yann, Oregon Medical Marijuana Program section manager. “The majority of our growers are growing for themselves. We want to get a handle on the diversion.”

Marijuana Tourism Comes to Bend

Original article by Joseph Ditzler, published on the The Bulletin Aug 28, 2016.

John Flannery, a partner of The Bend Tour Co.

Dispensary tour could be “icing on the cake”. Look for an open-sided, six-seat, electric touring car making its way along Bend streets starting in September.

It will mark the advent of marijuana tourism, the next phase in a town already a destination for skiers, beer drinkers and bicyclists.

“By offering this type of tour, we’re demystifying cannabis,” said John Flannery, a partner in The Bend Tour Co. “We’re helping take away the stigma.”

Tourism geared to marijuana is not new in Washington and Colorado, states that preceded Oregon in legalizing recreational marijuana for adults. Portland has its own pot tour. But the Bend Tour Co. plan represents the first of its kind in Bend, Flannery said. He sees tourism as a means to entertain people while educating them about marijuana and Oregon law surrounding it.

“It’s a great tour of town but with a different set of discussion points,” Flannery said. “For a lot of people, it’s the icing on the cake.”

Marijuana is taking its place among businesses that play on Bend’s popularity as a destination along with kayak rentals, flyfishing outfitters and brewpubs, said dispensary owners. They reported a jump in sales starting in June, an increase tied to the availability of edible products infused with the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, but also to the tide of visitors during the first summer of legalized marijuana in Oregon. The Visit Bend website in spring added a drop-down menu that lists the […] marijuana dispensaries in the city. Visit Bend, the agency that contracts with Bend to market the city as a destination, takes a neutral stance on marijuana, its chief executive said.

“The way we see it, now that it’s legal in Oregon, we list them just like we’d list a grocery store or a brewery,” said Kevney Dugan, president and CEO of Visit Bend. “If you’re legally operating under the laws of the state, we can’t dictate who can or can’t be part of the (tourism) industry. Grocery stores, hair-cutting salons, mountain-bike rentals all have that listing. Tourists want that resource.”

Flannery’s tours will provide clients an opportunity to purchase marijuana but not to partake of it. State law prohibits consuming any form of marijuana in public places, and the Legislature last year amended Oregon’s Indoor Clean Air Act to include marijuana and vaporizer pens. The act prohibits tobacco smoking in the workplace, including hotels and motels, with some exceptions. The clean air law permits smoking in cigar clubs and smoke shops, with conditions attached. A marijuana business group in Oregon expects plans for a lobbying effort during the next legislative session to carve out a similar exception for marijuana smoking clubs or lounges.

“What we have to do is get around the Indoor Clean Air Act, that’s the main problem,” said Donald Morse, director of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council. “We’re hoping to allow these clubs, and that would help tourists. They can buy a joint, but they can’t smoke it in their hotels.”

However, dispensaries sell more than dried marijuana flower, which is commonly smoked. Since June, they may also sell drinks or edibles that contain 15 milligrams or less of tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana, or a 1-gram container of concentrated THC extract. Adult consumers may purchase up to 7 grams of dried flower or one edible or extract at each dispensary per day under temporary rules for recreational marijuana sales.

Local dispensary owners reported a June sales surge they attributed to sales of edibles like gel candies, ice cream and kombucha with THC, as well as the seasonal tourist influx. Mark Capps, co-owner of Oregon Euphorics, a SW Century Drive dispensary, said 20 percent to 30 percent of the shop clientele were out-of-state visitors. Like other dispensary owners, he said tourism accounted for a bump in sales, along with the sales of edible products.

Edibles “open up the market to a lot of people who may not smoke marijuana but will ingest it otherwise,” he said.

[…]

Dispensary owners and employees estimated between one-fourth to one-third of their customers are tourists whose dispensary visits are incidental to some other activity, whether camping, climbing, a concert or a wedding. For many, a marijuana dispensary is a novel concept.

“We’ve seen many first-time people through the shop that are interested in checking it out,” said Jason McAlister, co-owner of Tokyo Starfish, a dispensary on NW Arizona Avenue.

His business partner, Gary Bracelin, said business jumped appreciably in June because of several factors. Work on a city sewer line on Arizona Avenue that hindered access wrapped up in June at about the same time as THC-infused edibles became available. Plus, Market of Choice opened its new location just east of the dispensary, which attracted more consumer traffic. Bracelin attributed the approximately $2 million increase in tax revenue collected by the state in June, about $5 million total, to the availability of edibles.

“With that being said,” Bracelin added, “tourism is having an impact.”

While the mainstream business community still holds marijuana at arm’s length, some sectors are warming to it, he said. Bracelin said he expects to build on his and McAlister’s ties to the outdoor recreation world. Bracelin founded Bend Outdoor Worx, a business incubator for the outdoor recreation sector, and McAlister is a professional snowboarder. Bracelin said those ties may help elevate the Tokyo Starfish brand. He said he expects to take part in community events as a corporate sponsor, but declined to be more specific.

“We are working on some ideas and, you might say, waiting for resistance to soften,” he said. “Yeah, we want to be community partners and be involved in community events. Our options aren’t really open to us, yet.”

Drink Weed Every Day

Two local companies bottling cannabis-infused beverages

Original story by KEVIN GIFFORD published on BendSource.com, July 13, 2016.

With limited quantities of edibles now on sale to the Oregon recreational marijuana fancier, curious dispensary visitors are finding themselves exposed to a wealth of THC-infused candy, chocolate, cookies, and every other snack-y foodstuff under the sun. Even more of a surprise to some: there are now two locally-brewed and bottled cannabis-infused beverages to choose from: Magic Number ginger beer and “kannabucha” from Bent Beverages, both in Bend.

One of the first canna-beverages to the local market was Magic Number, a line of 12-ounce bottles of ginger beer. The name stems from the fact that each label shows the “magic number” of THC milligrams inside: 3, 10, or 25 at the moment, although a medical card is required for the last one. The Bend-based company released a Cold Brewed Coffee in 3mg and 10mg doses in March and plans to release other flavors in the future, such as root beer, chai, and tonic.

They’re joined in the market by Bent Beverage, which produces “kannabucha” in three flavors, including Berry Bomb and Momo Peach Ginger. The company—founded by a 10-year marijuana-growing veteran and a Colorado homebrewer—grows all of its own product. Both companies are committed to using organic ingredients.

Note: neither of these beverages is alcoholic. Having both booze and THC in the same beverage isn’t something the OLCC is quite ready to wrap its head around, although it has certainly been tried by homebrewers in the past. Customers without medical marijuana cards can purchase a maximum 15 mg THC dose of edibles per visit to the pot shop at the moment, and all food and drink will list the dosage on the label.

Consumers can find both brands right now at dispensaries such as […] Tokyo Starfish. But how do they taste? Well, just like ginger beer and kombucha, really—both are quite fine. It’s what comes afterward that makes them, in their own way, just as “adult” a beverage as local craft beer. Our advice for beginners: If you drink, say, a 15 mg-labeled kombucha and nothing happens, do not drink another one immediately! Give it an hour or so and see how you’re feeling before going nuts with it.

Oregon Officials Say State is Overgrown with Recreational Weed

Originally published on Hightimes.com, May 29, 2018 by A.J. Herrington

Oregon cannabis growers have been flooding the legal market with their plants. And no one can say with certainty how this will play out.

Oregon recreational cannabis growing outdoors. Photo: Mullaways Medical Cannabis/ Wikimedia Commons

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, the state agency charged with regulating Oregon’s two-year-old legal cannabis market, has reported that growers in the state are producing far more recreational weed than is being consumed at the retail level.

According to OLCC data, licensed cannabis cultivators produced more than one million pounds of dry cannabis flower in 2017. But retailers sold only 108,330 of herb to consumers. That leaves an additional 891,000 pounds of weed in the market.

However, officials aren’t sure that the state is really growing too much pot. Mark Pettinger is a spokesman with the OLCC. He said that analysts are still trying to determine the connection between retail sales and production. He noted that retail sales aren’t the only market for the flower. So, the difference might not indicate a glut of cannabis.

“We just can’t draw a corollary between the amount on hand, the 1 million pounds, and sales,” Pettinger said.

He noted that with so many variables and a newly legal industry, regulators don’t yet know what the data means.

“There’s a lot of unknowns about this,” Pettinger said. “We’ve not even processed two full years of legal recreational cannabis through the OLCC system. It’s been a challenge to forecast this market.”

He also noted that retail flower sales are not the only market for the state’s cannabis production.

“We need to do a deeper dive into the data and look at the value-added products (concentrates, oils, edibles, and tincture). We need that to answer the question of how much inventory of flower is enough for the regulated market.”

Survival of the Fittest

Although regulators don’t yet have enough information to identify trends, the market is showing signs of overproduction. Wholesale prices are already dropping, even as more growers are applying for licenses to begin cultivation.

After an impressive harvest in 2017, average prices for sun-grown cannabis dropped more than 50 percent in a matter of months– from $1500 to about $700 per pound, according to local media. Prices of $400 per unit, or even less, were not unheard of.

Lizette Coppinger, founder of Bend-based cannabis dispensary Cannabend, believes that some growers will be forced out of business as the market continues to mature.

“Oregon is going through a survival of the fittest phase, and only the top producers will survive,” she said.

Prices More Stable for Indoor Flower

Coppinger also noted that wholesale prices for high-quality indoor flower are more steady. Consequently, retail prices for top-shelf bud at dispensaries like hers haven’t dropped much.

“We have not cut prices because we still pay top dollar for the flower we buy,” she said. “It is the outdoor market that is suffering from the oversaturation of flower and competing against each other to survive. The producers we work with have not had to adjust their pricing as the quality of the product has only gotten better.”

Gary Bracelin [one owner of] cannabis cultivator and retailer Tokyo Starfish. He told local media that as the cannabis industry in Oregon and elsewhere matures, market forces are bound to take over.

“People are going to jump in because it looks promising,” Bracelin said. “The free market takes over and normalizes the supply and demand of the emerging market. California will probably go through the same growing pains. It’s simple economics.”

Summer Strains

Local budtenders weigh in on what they’re recommending for summer stoke, and also dealing with a pandemic

Original article published to The Source Weekly Bend, June 24, 2020 by Nicole Vulcan.

Amid the ongoing stress of a global pandemic, summer has arrived. Some days that might mean hitting it hard on the water or trails. Other days, it might mean coping with lingering stress and worry about finances or physical and mental health. At Bend’s cannabis dispensaries, budtenders dole out a lot of emotional support while they help people choose products that meet their current needs.

Local budtenders agree that Magic Number sodas are delicious! - COURTESY MAGIC NUMBER

We checked in with a few local ‘tenders about what they’re recommending for these competing—and sometimes concurrent—priorities of summer 2020.

Dana Catt, Tokyo Starfish West

For getting out on the trails: “I’m loving the new formulas for Magic Number sodas,” said Dana Catt, a budtender at Tokyo Starfish. The sodas offer some hydration as well as a mellow high, and she says she likes to mix them with other juices to make a “cannabis cocktail.”

For pandemic stress: Catt recommends Tokyo Starfish’s CBD daytime tincture, a 10:1 formulation of 10 parts CBD to one part THC, which she said helps to relieve her stress.Enjoying this story?We depend on your support to help fund our coverage. Support local, independent media with a small monthly or one time contribution. Thank you!

Maggie Fry, Dr. Jolly’s

For summer fun: “The Cherry Vanilla soda and Ginger Beer from Magic Number,” recommended Maggie Fry of Dr. Jolly’s. “The flavor is awesome and the high is super pleasant—less hard than edibles, and perfect for hikes or taking it to the river.” The sodas, made by a local company, come in varying dosages, from 10 milligrams to 25 or even 50.

For pandemic stress: “I smoked a lot during quarantine,” Fry said, with mostly indica flower. “The Dr. Jolly’s Sunday Driver, an indica, is one I like to smoke throughout the day to calm down and mellow out. Happy to have flower there to keep me sane.”

Justin Pohll, Top Shelf Medicine

For summer fun: Whether he’s fishing, working on motorcycles in his garage or taking the dog out for hikes along the Deschutes River, Justin Pohll of Top Shelf Medicine enjoys sativa-dominant hybrids. “You get that uplift and drive to go out and do things,” he said. “Durban Poison is one I really like—a great flavor, great effect that is overall euphoric.”

For pandemic stress: “Hybrids or indicas,” Pohll recommends. “There’s lots of flower being smoked right now—lots of edibles, too. Now that people have time at home, they’re getting creative with their baking and experimenting with other types of cannabis products—trying their own recipes. I also like the Highland Provisions gusher gummies—great flavors. What’s really cool is they’re using an agave tincture as the liquid, so your body is going to feel the effects more quickly.”