Legalization of medicinal and recreational cannabis is often swept into the scenes of retail pot shops and “cutesy” edible novelties when it comes to media coverage: little is known about the “behind-the-scenes” operations of the cannabis industry. Growing cannabis, ironically, is the most important part of the cannabis market, because without the raw flower, no derivative products are made, nor are any cannabis sales being made. We’ve come a long way from back in the day when a few plants in the closet during college could help you save $40 a week and maybe even pay for some books. That was a great part-time gig for college students, unless you made a huge oversight like these marijuana growers did:
Despite the “hush, hush” within an industry dominated by cash due to banking regulations and fears, there are some clear players in the world of growing cannabis. These growers face stiff regulations. It used to be in Colorado that retail operations had to grow at least 70% of the product that they sell, causing everyone to have at least a hand in cannabis production. Since then, that law has changed, but a lot of questions are being raised about vertical integration and the role that growers will play in the nationwide cannabis frontier. Here, though, discussion of the top ten cannabis growers vying for market dominance will reveal key elements about each company that could catapult them into the forefront as the nation’s foremost cannabis producer – the Del Monte of weed if you will.
GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:GWPH) is a stock that made it’s way into our article on “5 Medical Marijuana Stocks That Are Legitimate“. The Company launched their IPO in May of 2013: a whopping $31.15 million dollars later, they cemented themselves into the cannabis industry. GW is known for their development of pill-based cannabis medicine and their buddy-buddy relationship with US politicians. Their flagship product, Sativex, is one among the few cannabis-based medicines to receive the coveted FDA approval status. Sativex is primarily prescribed to folks with neurological diseases in States where cannabis is legal as medicine.
When it comes to production facilities, this England-based, American-operating pharma giant has the game in spades. Recently, GW Pharma announced their plans for an 18 hectare greenhouse. In case you don’t know how big a hectare is, the total area this greenhouse occupies equals 1,930,000 square feet.
The Green Solution (TGS)
The Green Solution has obtained funding from iAnthus Capital Holdings as recently as Feb. ’17, in the amount of $7.5 million. In March, ‘17, TGS secured a license for recreational cannabis sales in Aurora, CO while also rolling out plans for a 4,000 sq. foot dispensary in Union Station. Given that TGS already operates 13 dispensaries with plans for expansion, when you add in their recent funding, you have the potential for The Green Solution to overtake LivWell in numbers of dispensaries this year. With that possibility, there will be a need for greater production. Until Oct. ’16, Colorado law required dispensaries to grow enough cannabis to cover 70 percent of all products sold. Now sitting on a lump of funding and eased restrictions on purchasing to stock new stores, look out for TGS to be the McDonalds of Pot and perhaps the Del Monte of growers in Colorado.
Of all cannabis companies nationwide thus far, Native Roots partner owners Peter Knobel, Joshua Ginsberg and Rhett Jordan are all tied for numbers 1, 2, and 3 when it comes to “most cannabis related licenses held”. With 59 licenses for their 17 dispensary locations, Native Roots received neither incubation nor venture capital funding that is privy to the public. Nonetheless, their operational profits are carrying them towards expansion and market domination.
In regards to their grow facility, Cannabis Business Executive stated, “in addition to 17 locations… Native Roots boasts multiple grows, and arguably the largest indoor state-of-the-art cannabis facility in the State.”1
Being vertically integrated will allow Native Roots to undercut competing dispensaries. Being the biggest grower usually means they can offer the cheapest prices just through economies of scale.
MiNDFUL has received funding as recently as April ’16 in the amount of $3.94 million, and they operate dispensaries in both Coloardo and Illinois. With six dispensaries between two States, MiNDFUL supplies all of their locations with cannabis from a central production facility of 43,000 square feet. Beyond just production, this facility is also where MiNDFUL processes their cannabis into concentrates and/or edibles.
What’s interesting about MiNDFUL’s production/processing facility, is that they filter the air so well that little to no smell of cannabis can be detected around the facility. In California, complaints by residents living near production facilities had caused issue, so MiNDFUL was able to learn that lesson early. “We have a great relationship with the Denver police. We’ve been doing training for officers so they can see what a legal grow looks like,” said David Crook, MiNDFUL’s director of sales.
Medicine Man obtained $1 million in funding in Nov. ’16. They run just three dispensaries, but their reputation precedes them. In 2014, TruTV began a reality show that followed Medicine Man’s top administration as they navigated the challenges of building a legal cannabis empire. Because of this exposure, Medicine Man’s social media signals are through the roof: their Twitter growth is up 4,133% and their web traffic is up 8,306%. Brand recognition and plenty of customers per store makes up for Medicine Man having just three locations to a degree, but expansion should still be paramount.
Three years ago, Medicine Man produced all of their cannabis out of a 40,000 sq. ft. industrial facility strictly for cultivation. Since then, plans have been in the works for an $11.5 million satellite production facility, though no formal announcement of its construction has been made yet.
For the past five years, owner William Simpson has worked to establish Chalice Farms as a leading grow supply store in Oregon and Washington. Beyond offering retail cannabis and grow supplies to the public, Chalice Farms operates their own farms that have yielded award-winning cannabis. Their “Chalice Cure”, a proprietary curing method that creates a sweeter and smoother tasting cannabis flower, causes higher levels of essential oils.The end result is what Chalice believes to be the “highest quality products” for “those who seek it”. Chalice Farms also proudly operates on a Perpetual Harvest, ensuring quality, varied, cannabis strains, available year round.
Based in Maine, Wellness Connection produces cannabis for four medical dispensaries. Founded in 2011, Wellness Connection focuses on patientcare first. With a staff of just 68, Wellness Connection saw revenues of $15 Million in 2015. Though Wellness Connection operates four dispensaries in Maine, they have been embroiled in legal trouble after being found using pesticides to combat mold, despite the fact that some pesticides used violated State rules concerning cannabis production. Instances of pesticide use were recorded at both Wellness Center’s Auburn and Thorndike growing facilities.
Though these legal issues are serious, they don’t rule out Wellness Connection as a potential wildcard in cannabis production dominance: they run half of the dispensaries in Maine.
Operating four locations in Colorado, Euflora has a production facility but they also offer 3rd party products. They operate as a recreational dispensary and their store layout is designed to look chic and clean like the Apple store. Euflora’s appeal is in their high-tech, clean, customer front end. Each strain has a sample in a plastic jar available for smell and inspection while an iPad displays slides of information about the strain.
In 2015, Euflora opened a 7,000+ sq. ft. greenhouse paired with a 2,000 sq. ft. attached retail store where customers will be able to peer into the actual grow operation through a glass panel. Now they need to put some dollars behind this idea and scale as quickly as possible.
Serving the Arizona medical cannabis market, Bloom largely produces cannabis to make proprietary, branded products. Bloom has four locations in Phoenix, Tucson, Sedona and Copper Country. Brazen on their homepage is the motto, “Lowest cost, highest quality”, which is vaguely familiar to LivWell’s commitment, and LivWell swept CO with 14 locations. Bloom stands to dominate Arizona, which would lead to a necessary expansion of cannabis production. Bloom proudly states on their website, “We Grow Our Own.”
Northwest Cannabis Solutions
Founded in 2015, Northwest Cannabis Solutions has proven to be a steamroller of a cannabis production company. They’ve erected an enormous, state-of-the-art growing facility paired with a pristine extraction lab and a full-service kitchen for making edibles. They employ over 150 Washingtonians and have established a mind-blowing 200 retail partners that carry their products in Washington alone.
National expansion for Northwest Cannabis Solutions may be easier than for retail companies: since Northwest Cannabis Solutions is strictly a producer, they cut tons of overhead on brick-and-mortar retail locations. Reinvestment of profits into larger and more plentiful production facilities is Northwest Cannabis Solutions’ prime directive, right after maintaining the highest quality products available. On the same token, a smaller profit margin is realized when selling wholesale cannabis products to dispensaries rather than directly to the consumer.
In a past article titled “11 Marijuana Stocks That Claim To Be Growing Weed“, we talked about the large Canadian growers that can be compared based on the 100s of kilos they harvest every quarter. That’s a pretty important metric, kilos grown per quarter. If you’re a startup that you’d like us to add to the above list, you’ll need to either let us know the kilos you harvest per quarter or the size of your grow rooms (or fields) in square footage (most our readers are Yanks). Drop us a line in the comments section below if you think you’re growing more marijuana in the United States than GWPH is.
A message from Kentucky for Hemp – Your article about the largest operations growing marijuana is accurate due to the use of the word marijuana in a legal sense. But our farm in Kentucky produced 40 acres of outdoor cannabis for CBD, plus 16K square feet under greenhouse. This year it will be bumped up to 80 acres. That’s over 72,000 beautiful sticky cannabis plants with high quality bud last year and an expected harvest of over 140,000 plants this year. Take that Big Pharma. 🙂
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