Cheech and Chong No More

by Josh Pringle, Marketing Manager, CO2Meter.com

The following are my observations from a recent trip to Denver for business where I was fortunate to meet with two growers.

The Cheech and Chong caricature of “Hey man, how’s my drivin’… I think we’re parked man” are over. Magazine articles about the stoner culture, shady backroom deals, and garage grow rooms are a thing of the past. Welcome to 2015 and the advent of scientifically based cannabis growing operations in America, as pioneered in Colorado. The growers and the State have combined to create a new business standard for cannabis growth and extraction.

With the change in Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis, early growers thought they could open a grow room or extraction facility and make a ton of money. Some of them did. However, over time the State has gotten smarter, and the standards for growth and extraction have gotten tougher. The “fly by night” operations are quickly fading away. Several factors have come in to play that lead to this dramatic shift.

Legalization

The legalization of recreational cannabis in Colorado has taken the substance from the shadows into legitimacy. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this step by the citizens of Colorado was the game changer, and has created a genuine cannabis industry.

Oversight

With legalization came government oversight. Do not decry the government in this instance. The work they have done has added safe business practices into the industry. For example, local municipalities have created clear guidelines about the use and monitoring of CO2 in the grow rooms and extraction facilities. These standards leave no room for interpretation, but more importantly, they are intelligently written so that the small businesses clearly understand why the issue is important. I have no doubt that many of the codes in CO will become models for the rest of the country over time.

Another example of good government is the state’s vetting and licensing of employees for the industry. Colorado conducts criminal background checks and providing a pre-screened pool of legitimate employees for the cannabis businesses to pick from. As one business owner told me “the state has screened all these people in advance. I just get to choose the best for my business.” There isn’t a single small business owner in any field that wouldn’t appreciate preapproved applicants rather than scouring Craigslist or Monster for a new employee.

Money

“Growing and extracting is like growing money” an owner of a cannabis operation explained to me. He’s right. But the problem with “growing money” is that is banks and financial institutions have not altered their standards and practices enough yet to handle the cash intake from the cannabis businesses. In some instances the cash is still viewed as “dirty drug money”.

As a result, some businesses end up with piles of cash sitting in their vaults. They pay their suppliers in cash when possible. If this industry wasn’t so fraught with controversy, organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Administration would be fighting tooth and nail on their members behalf’s to get these banking regulations changed now.

But not every cannabis business is constrained like this. The more legitimate businesses are viewed as such in the finance world and therefore are treated differently. They have more access to loans and assistance which puts them in a position to grow and expand which will in the long term consolidate the industry. Over time, the business-focused, science-based growers will win out and move the industry forward.

While some in the state house still decry legalization of cannabis, don’t think they aren’t happy about it too. Politicians of every stripe like to spend money, and tax collections and tourism have added millions of dollars to Colorado’s bottom line.

Science

Scrubs. Hair nets. Booties. Security key pads. Air circulation and filtration rivaling pharmaceuticals. Closely controlled access. Closed circuit security. Precise and regimented fertilization. And of course, precise injection of carbon dioxide into the growing environment.

These attributes are the sign of a well-trained, well intentioned, serious scientific grower. They aren’t just throwing on some lights in the basement hoping to grow some great stuff.

These are meticulous scientists that are treating this as a business and working to control all the facets of the operation. Regardless of the type of business, be it cannabis or computer chips, or cookies, serious business operations undergo these transformations to ensure quality and safety.

The next states to follow are Washington and Hawaii. These states are already taking cues from Colorado on standards and practices. The University of Hawaii is considering setting up a dedicated lab to study cannabis plant biology and growth. While states like Florida (where I live) are mired in the moral debate about marijuana, other states are reaping the rewards. Like it or not, legalization is slowly sweeping the country, and early adopter states will reap the rewards.

Posted by CO2 Meter on May 06, 2015.
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