This past Monday I started working at a producer of legal marijuana in The Evergreen State of Washington. This means I work at a state-licensed farm where the plant of many names is grown, harvested, processed and packaged for sale at retail stores where it can be purchased much like at a liquor store.
I have never seen anything to compare to the quality, quantity and variety of marijuana I saw this past week. I am slightly astounded that not only is this legal, but it is exceptional. It is gourmet marijuana grown with love, respect and mostly organic methods just like a skilled farmer and his or her heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market.
I think I can safely say that few people have ever experienced anything like this. Luckily, my skills fit perfectly with the needs of what essentially is a start-up in a new market. I was available and up to the challenge, so the next thing I knew I was put in charge of digital marketing.
Before I go any further I want to start out by providing some information:
- We use the term cannabis in reference to marijuana most of the time at work so that is what I will try to use here although my natural inclination is to call it pot.
- I am not yet an expert on cannabis, but I am learning.
- I have tried cannabis a number of times throughout my life, but I am not a regular user.
- I do believe it should be legal everywhere, but I also recognize that this is a complex issue.
- I am amazed at what I am learning about the health properties of cannabis.
- The cost of our country’s war on drugs is simply wrong and the consequences are exponentially wrong. For more information see Drug Policy.
- Washington and Colorado are the first two states where cannabis is now legal.
- Washington only began the legal sales of cannabis in July of this year so everything is very, very new.
Basic information aside, I must share with you my new favorite smell because a lot of this week was very much of a sensory nature. I didn’t recognize how much I liked it at first, but now I look forward to the moments when I walk into a room heavy with the smell of fresh green cannabis that has no flower. I had never smelled anything but the dried product, so I was pleasantly surprised by this. If you have ever walked into an arboretum or greenhouse you would understand the mixture of warmth, humidity and an earthy smell and feel but the addition of healthy green non-flowering cannabis plants creates a most pleasant experience and it is not intoxicating.
Any new job can be challenging, but I can easily say this past week was an eye-opener without compare. I began to learn about
- The plant and the strains we grow (currently at 30 although not all are in cultivation at the same time with plans for 100 within a year).
- The innovative super-intensive almost organic growing system that seriously wowed me. Have you ever seen 800 cannabis plants growing in the space of one shipping container? Do you imagine big plants? We grow what I call bonsai style for maximum yield.
- The business and all the regulations and rules the state has mandated.
- The set of wonderful characters who are now my co-workers.
- The players within the industry and where we fit. How do you compete against an established black market?
You must also understand that within the context of this experience, the states of Oregon and Alaska as well as the District of Columbia are set to vote on the legalization of cannabis within a few weeks. With 23 states already having some form of legalized medical marijuana on the books, there is a strong feeling of hope and that we are big part of much bigger change that could sweep across the country.
This change isn’t happening in a vacuum and people are very interested in what we are doing. We had two reporters visit the farm this week and one of them was from a national outlet who was duly impressed by the farm. I haven’t even started talking about the money side of this industry. Just this week the Washington Post ran a story with this headline “The marijuana industry could be bigger than the NFL by 2020.”
Somehow I find myself smack dab in the middle of a Wild West situation with a burgeoning market and movement full of money (BIG money, think gold rush), politics (local, state and national), legal issues, medicine/health/chemicals (THC, CBD), cutting-edge intensive agriculture and more characters than you could imagine.
Immediately recognizing the uniqueness of my situation, I thought I would approach Latino Rebels to see if they would be willing to publish a weekly article about my experiences. They were all for it. For a number of reasons I will not be using real names and will be writing under the nom de plume “Chris Rudi Cruz.”
This is how I choose to begin to share with you what may be the craziest ride of my life. I hope that you find it compelling enough to join me on a weekly basis. I have set up a twitter account @chrisrudicruz and will try to tweet my observations and maybe some photos during the week as time and energy permit.
You can follow Chris on Twitter @chrisrudicruz.