The Good, The bad, and the Buggy

flatirons moonlit

Some Advantages of the Small-Batch grow and why industrial warehouses are not the best places to grow “medicine”.

There used to be really good cannabis in Omaha, where I grew up. Thus the name Danktown which I have bestowed on it much to the chagrin of the current residents (I don’t know why- they should be proud of their amazing genetics). You may be skeptical, but I have long maintained that Omaha had some of the best cannabis on the planet in the 90’s.

We got amazing stuff from all over, really. We were blessed to have the Cali and Colorado buds coming through town regularly, and British Colombia was making its inroads through the north. Brick weed from Mexico was also an option. You could get a yugo($60/oz), a Toyota($100/oz), a Lexus ($200/oz), or a Ferrari ($350-600/oz); it depended on how much money you were willing to part with.

A lot of people I knew grew cannabis in their houses in Omaha. That is what made it so good. These gardens were only 10-30 plants that grew in a basement. These massive 1600-plant flowering rooms that we have here in Colorado aren’t even in greenhouses, but old industrial warehouses. Greenhouses that are built for commerce and shipping may not be the best conditions for growing any plant, let alone one that is nickel -and -dimed for up to $7700/lb at the cash registers.

MED revenue Chart 2014-2016

The advantages of a basement grow can best be identified by looking at a Walipini. It is a pit that is dug down about 6’ underground with a roof over it to let in the sun. Many of the advantages of the Walipini are also the advantages of a basement in a 2500 sq ft house. These include insulation and energy storage. The earth walls can soak up the warmth of the daytime sun and when the temperature drops, they will radiate that retained heat back into the cooling down room.

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Insulation is another key factor that makes a walipini a great option. The walls can insulate the interior from the elements, providing a more stable environment. The insulation can also reduce heat loss at night. On hot days, the insulation can keep the temperature cool as well. This would be especially important in a place like Omaha, where the temperatures can change by 40° F on some days. These elements make basements ideal growing environments. This is a great option for any local gardener who wants to have a garden of any kind in their back yard. It only takes a little patch of earth and a shovel (and maybe a day away from the gym).

This is in stark contrast to the massive gardens growing in Denver’s industrial district. Thin tin walls and a tin roof separate the garden from the elements. These greenhouses are ill equipped to handle the extreme heat in Denver. Businesses have to invest a lot of money into inadequate and expensive industrial air conditioning units to keep the plants from frying. This air conditioning leads to other problems too.

These tin boxes not only contain the heat from hundreds of thousand-watt lights, but they are baking in the hot Denver sun. Temperatures averaged mid-90’s from the beginning of June until the end of September in 2015. That is a lot of work for air conditioning units. They are constantly running at their peak for a huge energy cost. The bigger cost, however, is maintaining these behemoths. They leak all over everything, they constantly break down, and are a pain in the ass to maintain.

 

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This leads to my next point; the system is complicated by all of the increased moving parts that are required to make it work. all of these little joints in a massive industrial warehouse are perfect hiding spots for  spider mites and mold. A single hermaphrodite could spread pollen throughout the building that will last for generations if it is not all cleaned out.

These big greenhouses are producing more and more seeded flowers because of this breach in sterility. Harvest crews can go to two greenhouses in a day and take their contamination with them. Some greenhouses have potential investors bringing their contaminants with them as well. Then there is the grow staff. It is safe to assume that one or two of them might be growing something at home; this is another point of exposure. This is multiplied when the grower networks with other growers in the community.

These warehouses cannot close down to clean house and get their massive machine rolling again, so these businesses deal with it. They would rather spray, dip finished flowers in alcohol, and make shatter (more on that later) than suspend growing, empty the room, and sterilize everything. In the end they will undoubtedly have mold-resistant strains and plants that need poison for food.

The indoor grows are for the more specialized industry, not a major multi-national commercial endeavor. It is ridiculous to fight with the sun, wind, rain, and earth for growing superiority. But it is the law, so this is what we have to work with. These businesses are incredibly lucky that dabs reached the mainstream, because hash was never traditionally popular in the States. We liked our flower. Shatter propelled hash into the American ganja game and Trap turned “dab” into a household word. Even news anchors and Presidential candidates are taking to the “dab” to reach voters. Yes, my Middle Eastern and Israeli friends, hash is back in the good ol’ US-of-A.

It comes at a cost to us flower smokers, however. All of those factors that used to make an herb world-class are impossible in a room that doesn’t ever get sterilized. The stressed effects of the plants can’t reveal themselves when their flowers are cooked in alcohol. This takes the five senses away from the scrutinizing consumer. Sure, there area ways to discern good shatter from bad shatter. The problem is that you cannot tell whether the plant was fried under the lights, prematurely cut, or poorly maintained.

On top of that, many of my friends from the other side of the atlantic prefer hash to mix with their tobacco. It has been a common practice for centuries. Shisha means “glass” in Persian. It is the tobacco mixture that people smoke in hookahs. I hate to break it to ya, ‘Merica, but shatter is not anything new.

Shatter will be the vehicle that big Tobacco uses to increase their tobacco smoking market. This is, after all, the primary vessel that people in Europe and the Middle East use to smoke their hash.

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The result is that the worst plants get blasted and return to the shelves at prices that are three times higher than their sistren flowers. This current market demands a chemically-altered product. Their natural product is lower quality and seeds are becoming more common. The market does not need to create a better product because they are making a killing off of their current business plan.

Fortunately, this is just a result of a market with neither a ceiling nor  a floor yet. We are still building the scaffolding as well as digging the holes. The time when you can walk into a gas station and get some spliffs is coming sooner than later. Classy cafes may be the next great small-business revolution: the industry only just begun to evolve and find out where cannabis fits in American society moving forward. Like everything, we learn from our mistakes. In the grand scheme of things, this industry is just a baby. She can’t even crawl yet.

 

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When you are ready to do battle with Kong, but meet Poison Ivy instead.

12/12/15

The Herbal Cure

985 Logan St

Kong

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There are close to 1000 medical and recreational pot shops in the State of Colorado (949 when published. There have been a few gems and a ton of duds. This industry moves so fast as barriers to trade are coming down and coming up regularly. There is no way to discern who is good at growing herb from someone with a ton of money to spend on a new venture and just wants to make a buck.

It is much easier to have a lot of money than a lot of knowledge. The people with the knowledge are almost always lost in the vast sea of eligible labor. An entire staff could change in a year, so the herbs grown last year may not be the same as the herbs grown this year. This is a little “Quality Control” check on a place I liked last year. Two different harvests in a year is a small sample size, sure, but it can still can tell a lot.

You know what they say about being dazzled by the bullshit? The staff are always nice and the façade is covered in graffiti. I am a sucker for some good graf.

I have seen my fair share of Kong growing, and it always looked like little pineapples. I didn’t trust the owners, however, and rarely smoked their weed. It is in a large category of weed that had been ruined before it has even been tried.

But I love to tackle my prejudices, so I gave it a go. It smelled like a fresh cut lawn; more like a grassy field than a bag of grass. It was like a grassy field with pepper in it. The smoke was soft and delicate. It tasted a bit dry and scratchy, but it was not too harsh on the throat.

Kong is such a beastly name that I was expecting to get knocked over the head and my limbs torn apart. Instead, it was more like Batman’s nemesis, Poison Ivy than the excitable King Kong. It seeped into my being at the cellular level rather than the bash and beat down approach.

Just like the dreaded day camp plant that temporarily ruins the dreams of children everywhere, this Kong seemed like a minor irritation than a wild beast swatting at our Air Force. The Empire State Building would have been too much for the mighty looking Kong. The groundskeeper would have squashed this poor plant once it broke through the concrete.

Just the Right Amount of Sweets at the Mile High Green Cross

Mile High Green Cross

12/11/15

Kandy Alien –Indica

Grade: A

Mile High Green Cross is another place that comes highly recommended. It is in a good location in South Broadway (the Green Mile), and it is next to one of the greatest names for a bar anywhere, The Fainting Goat. I was greeted by a bubbly little cutie who seemed absolutely thrilled to sell herbs. I never wanted to leave. In the end, though, Kandy was the only lady to leave with me.

While not as pretty as the girl behind the bar, the Kandy Alien is still good to look at. This Kandy was a nice, light lime green. The crystals glimmer on the buds and the pistils are sparsely scattered about in the buds. The smoke is smooth and goes down easily. A hint of sweetness comes out in the tail end. This Kandy is subtle. She does not hit hard like many indicas. She is more like cilantro on a taco. It is not the main ingredient, but it can make a good taco great and a great taco even better!

 

Oasis Superstore is Stupendous

Medicinal Oasis

11/21/15

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Lemon O.G.

Colorado pot shops can be strange places. They occupy boxes of all shapes and sizes. Some are just tossed-up front rooms in giant warehouses and others are sheds that could have been bought at Home Depot  and parked in a couple of parking spaces.  Former Pizza Huts have been reconverted as well as places that look like they would be just as comfortable housing a Head Start complexes. Medical Oasis has its own craziness to it. It is in a massive building. When I entered the lobby, I saw “doors, doors everywhere”! Frankly, I was looking for a rabbit to lead me along and a talking doorknob to insult me.

I managed to find the right door, and on the other side was an extremely long room and all sorts of cannabis. The staff was quite chatty and very friendly. The budtenders here even know their customers by name. The staff also remembered the previous orders of their customers and used that as a measuring stick to consult on their next purchase. Be it joints, grams, or much larger purchases, the budtender skillfully steered their locals to their preferred purchase.

It felt like a neighborhood coffee shop (only without the coffee). Just like in a vibrant café, the wait in line is just as entertaining as anything on TV. This is the kind of service that I like to see; it gives the customer a sweeter taste when they feel comfortable spending their money. This is a key intangible that separates a business in the service industry from the rest of the pack.

The Lemon O.G. is already better just because of the service I had. It smells a bit better, it looks a bit better, and it tastes a bit better. I can’t deny the warm fuzzies. I will acknowledge them and move on to how this Lemon O.G. really smells and looks and tastes.

It smells much better than it looks. It is brown and red. ”Ugly ducks” can grow into swans, and so it is on to other factors. It hits kind of harsh. Yet, it has a menthol kind of cool to it. It is almost stoney, but a second bowl had to be packed.

The second bowl brought out the flavor again. It tasted like Cap’n Crunch. This Lemon O.G. hit like a ton of bricks. It is heavy and heady. This is joint or blunt rolling herb. Just like good blunt weed, you need a lot to get stoned and it dies off quickly. This makes the Lemon O.G. just “meh”. This is some concert or party weed. It is ganja for when you want to smoke a ton of herbs.

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Island Sweet Skunk

While the Lemon O.G.  may have been a bit premature, I was excited for the Island Sweet Skunk. The buds were nice and big. They smelled complex and spicy as well. These dark green buds were pockmarked with hairs like divots on a golf ball.

The smoke is light and delicate. It was so light that I was a bit unsure if I smoked anything at all. The high is much more balanced as well. It is subtle and hits the back of the eyes. It is a reasonable competitor in the thick sea of mediocre get-out-the-door fast-food cannabis shops.