Last month, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission announced the first 12 licensed marijuana growers in the state, and Lane County’s first, New Breed Seed, is just a quick drive away in Cottage Grove.
New Breed Seed paid $3,750 to become certified by the OLCC as a tier 1 outdoor grower, giving it permission to grow plants within a 20,000 square foot space. With one fully operational greenhouse already producing plants, it should have sellable products by mid-July.
NBS owner and operator Harold Frazier graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in microbiology. Unlike most growers, he is not interested in growing buds that can then be sold at dispensaries, but rather the genetics of particular strains of cannabis and how they react with one another.
“We look to provide the highest quality genetics in our seeds,” Frazier said. “I’m interested in seeing what these plants can do.”
Being certified by the OLCC means that NBS has to keep in compliance with state regulations, including having an outdoor site that is secured by a fence and surveyed by cameras 24/7. Visitors to the site have to sign in and be accompanied by an employee at all times.
These rules are put in place to ensure that the cannabis is not tampered with and maintains quality and safety standards mandated by the state. The rules cover everything from pesticide use to safe testing the product for potency.
“Growers being in compliance means a safer and better product for our customers,” said Myron Brandwine, general manager of Casper’s Cannabis Club near the University of Oregon campus. “There will likely be fewer black market dealers too, which is good for dispensaries.”
Frazier pointed out that some of these regulations also pose problems for growing crops.
“Having to plant your crop on the same fenced-off plot year after year is a basic agricultural no-no,” Frazier said. “It doesn’t allow for the kind of crop rotation that we know plants need to be healthiest.”
Frazier noted however that as the state becomes more accustomed to the idea of legal marijuana, regulations may change, potentially leading to solutions to these problems.
These regulations also create high barriers to entry into the growing business. In order to track and control cannabis, the state creates these rules – and the annual fees – to ensure that only legitimate businesses are growing the plants, and that these businesses will take safety concerns related to agriculture and controlled substances seriously.
While the emergence of certified growers may provide some benefits to dispensaries, Brandwine thinks this could also lead to limited competition and higher prices.
Not all counties in Oregon have or will have licensed growers. Some areas of the state chose to opt out of the recreational selling and producing of cannabis, meaning that while it is still legal to use marijuana recreationally all over Oregon, some areas are barren of places to legally buy it.
Frazier thinks that will change going forward.
“They are losing out on tax dollars,” Frazier said. “Once people get more comfortable with the plants and see the economic benefit of the industry, I imagine more counties will change their opt-out status.”