BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) --Many could have predicted that creating an industry for a previously prohibited plant would have its hurdles.
But one of the biggest issues facing the cannabis world right now is fairly basic: Where, and how, do they grow and process the actual product?
Supply-side problems have already impacted sales, with many of Massachusetts’ recreational shops imposing purchase limits right out of the gate.
But fear not, New England marijuana enthusiasts: There’s a massive construction project underway on the South Coast of Massachusetts, and it looks like it will transform the cannabis industry here.
After years of planning, and about six months of building, AmeriCann Inc. has completed the first of three 30,000 square foot greenhouses designed specifically for cultivating and processing cannabis in a sustainable way.
Now, Bask, a veteran-owned medical marijuana dispensary, is preparing to move into Building 1 and scale up their production big time. And they're just the first.
When the entire project is finished, the three separate buildings will be home to eight local cannabis companies, where they can grow, process, and manufacture marijuana products all under one totally transparent roof. Last week, I went to check out the first completed building.
My visit started by driving down a long and winding dirt road in Freetown, MA, to the end of a large dusty industrial park, where I found a nondescript concrete building with a few work trucks sitting outside.
That’s where I met up with Tim Keogh, the CEO of AmeriCann, Inc. He handed me a hard hat and took me on a tour of the completed Building 1, explaining the optimized layout of the site.
He also told me how the technology inside will work to reduce the cost of utilities for cannabis production by about 70% compared to regular indoor grows.
Although no sales will happen there, and only employees will be regularly going inside, the building’s entrance will nonetheless be setup with surveillance cameras and ID checks at the door.
After a few simulated key-fobs, we entered the future staff spaces, with locker rooms (which Bask’s solo female cultivator is especially excited about!) There was also plenty of office, lab, and research space up front.
We then followed the hallway into what will eventually be trimming and drying rooms, kitchen space, and a room with a plethora of electrical boxes with computers inside. Those will control the greenhouse’s humidity, temperature, water input, and extractor fans.
Then there was the water tank room, where just one day’s worth of water supply will be kept. Each of the towering tanks reached almost to the ceiling of the warehouse. They were big... like the height of a ranch style house kind of big. A ladder leaning up against one of them had a hard time touching the top.
A quick walk away from that cool concrete side of the building, and we were into the glass greenhouse portion itself. The transition felt much like walking from a refrigerator into a sauna.
With blinding light from the blue skies above, I walked a long corridor that sprouted six expansive grow rooms off to the left.
Each greenhouse room is roofed with glass and covered in lamps that can simulate summer and daytime sunlight when needed. Extractor fans at the back will neutralize the marijuana-smell by funneling air outside with minimal odor.
Each grow room is connected to the next one by a clear wall, all designed to give the plants twenty hours of sunlight, and four hours of darkness, to trick them into thinking it’s time to grow big.
Keogh described a plant layout that will make sure each lumen is used to the max inside each room. Hundreds of cannabis plants will sit on tables that can shift one way or the other with the turn of a handle, to make sure each one gets to soak up the same amount of rays.
It'll be the same design as the sliding platforms that Bask Dispensary already uses in its backroom grow operation, just on a much much bigger scale.
Not only is this an eco-friendly greenhouse setup that uses mostly natural sunlight, but the space itself is providing current cannabis companies the much needed space to literally grow their business.
Keogh tells me, right now, most licensed cannabis growers use converted buildings like old mills, which have trouble with environmental consistency and give a less than optimal final product. In those mills, there is also very little room to scale up production, and the workflow often doesn’t make sense.
The entirety of Building 1, with its concrete offices, kitchens, and its six glass grow rooms, will be exclusively used by the Medical dispensary, Bask. The company opened in Fairhaven MA in February 2018, and, like most others, it has been growing its cannabis supply in the rooms behind their storefront ever since.
Bask’s CEO, Army veteran Chappy Dickerson, tells me their processes won’t change much when they migrate into the AmeriCann greenhouse, but the move will allow his team to go from processing about 188 cannabis plants a day to nearly 400 plants a day.
That escalation will help Bask sell more products out of its own dispensary, and it will bolster its wholesale side as well.
One of the most serious bottlenecks for the marijuana industry is the lack of a physical location to cultivate enough cannabis to meet the demand.
AmeriCann’s endeavor seems to be offering a much needed place to do the real work behind the business.
When more towns allow massive sustainable grow spaces like this to pop up, we’ll see more cannabis product flood the market.
Higher supply versus demand means pot prices will then be able to drop. And that’s when the Massachusetts cannabis industry can really start to compete with its underground market.
You can learn more with AmeriCann's CEO Tim Keogh and Bask's CEO Chapman Dickerson on this week's episode of Blunt Talk on the iHeart Radio app.
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