Thursday, August 25, 2016

Northwest Pearl in Shelton, WA

I first picked up Northwest Pearl cannabis just a few months into my cannabis review career. The cannabis is great and I found out these dudes are cool, too! I reached out early via social media to ask, hey what's with this "L.O. Edition" on this Truthband OG? I got a response that it was a grower's moniker. Right on!

Similarly with "Blue Enzo". Enzo is a grower too. Cool stuff. I didn't really expect that a half a year later, I'd be touring his legal, recreational cannabis grow facility in Shelton, WA after getting absolutely faded and into an depth, flowing conversation on Marijuana Encyclopedia Episode 26 with them! Seriously, the coolest of the cool right here.

They're in Shelton, WA - this abundant little town seems to love the Aging Ent and I love them right back.  #SheltonWeed is great!

Driving into the large fenced compound, we were first greeted by Riker, a beautiful and well behaved doberman. He's named after Commander William T. Riker - turns out Enzo is a Star Trek nerd too! Riker ran up like a good boy and inspected the vehicle, then sat at the door waiting for us to get out. DabTech Danny and I got a good once over before Enzo got to us to greet us. I love dogs. They are only allowed outside the licensed part of the facility, which is everything except the big building. We won't see him again until we're about to wrap and leave.

Facility - Northwest Pearl

We met and shared pleasantries outside the main entry for a moment. It was a damn hot day, but it felt right to talk a bit before heading inside. There is a row of parked cars. It struck me that first and foremost, this is a business. These are job creators, and their industry is fun and cool, but it's a work day and they're letting me take time, get in the way, and disrupt the normal getting the job done. "I appreciate the hell out of this!" I said aloud and in recognition of it. Enzo was chill as always, "For sure."

Inside the main door is a tight, tiny room, the purpose of which is to keep people out who aren't authorized and credentialed. We signed in, got assigned badges and then.. we were able to enter the main area. Which was rather boring superstructure, at first. There was a large walkway with access to a variety of areas, and some storage, electrical panels, and doors leading left and right.

The long hallways are lined with doors leading to isolated grow rooms, and tall ceilings. This place used to be some sort of logging facility, and they had to build rooms, walkways, pour concrete into a massive pit bigger than me in each dimension. The tales this place could tell!

The first room we came to was a young room, still early in vegetation. Enzo lead us around and showed us how they start out as clipped, early clones. They then arrange these young pots in a 'sea of green' style. They'll grow almost up to the lights. As they get a bit older, they'll be string netted to be sure each bud can grow as separately from the others as possible.

Young Veg Rooms - Northwest Pearl

Each room has multiple high-density carbon filters and the air pressure is negative - pushing out when the door opens, to keep contaminants out. The effect is virtually perfectly clean air. The filters are often cleaned and changed. We'll see much more later, but it's here that Enzo told us a bit about the ultra-clean water supply here. They have multiple levels of filtration, ending in reverse-osmosis filters allowing them to have an on-site many-days supply of absolutely clean water in clean storage. Water is everything in the cannabis industry, and this company has got their plan together!

Even at such a young age, these awesome young plants are developing shape and phenotype expressions. It's always so interesting that these plants all are cannabis, I know that lovely shaped leaf! They're all very different though. You can see the colors, the leaf shapes, the structure, so visibly different between strains at such a young age! From the early clones to the tallest of these young vegging plants is just 4 weeks difference.

Next we checked out the mother room. These plants are never in flower, they just veg and veg under skillful tending. It's a unique place. The stock in trade is here, this is where all the clones for new plants come from. Baby making happens when new plants are going to be needed to cycle into empty rooms. That's about once every two weeks, as Northwest Pearl harvests their staggered grow rooms that frequently.

Mother Room - Northwest Pearl

They trim these mother plants up hard and tight as they cultivate and harvest clones, and when they grow too tall (taller than the lights) they'll be replaced by new mother plants of the same genetics. Some of these indica mothers are as much as a year and a half old, while one of the taller sativa strains is just 6 months old.

Harvested from the mother are the clones. They chill here for a while while they're developing until they can be transplanted. The walls are lined with row upon row of young clones under proper conditions for development.

We hung out here and talked about the different strains. Some of these are legendary strains like the Blue Enzo and Mr. Nice Guy, as well as Black Betty, Romulan, and Lemon Cheesecake, as well as the up and coming Water Berry Cherry which I can't wait to taste! This is an amazing space.

Clones - Northwest Pearl

From the mothers we went to the blooming daughters in the flower room. The lights here are HPS - High Pressure Sodium, the industry standard.  These rooms have negative air pressure systems, each room has access to the ultra-pure water they filter and store, and the rooms are cleaned with UV light in between grows.

Flower Rooms

Enzo designed these growing rooms to maximize efficiency, and they've learned quite a bit since they started. There are minor design changes and some modifications they've made but overall things are working out how the team envisioned.

The HPS lighting is the cause of the yellow cast everywhere. There are a few ways to work around this, but we wanted to give a more genuine experience. Or, more likely, I'm still learning how to do this, never really touched a camera before June 2015, and still barely use one. One day I'll really comprehend this aspect of things. Until then we worked hard to get natural color up close, and did a good job there, especially with these dark indicas down low.

You can see how the taller sativas grows stalky and they are nearly touching the lights, but the dense, short, bushy indicas are barely half the height! These plants are still relatively early in flower, but in about 6 more weeks these will be massively flowered. They'll be rich, aromatic, and resinous.

While they grow in veg and flower, these plants need to be tamed all the time. There are many reasons to trim a leaf off a cannabis plant. Size, shape, color, location mostly. They need to make sure the bottoms of these plants remain clean, managable, and pest-free. It's nearly impossible to keep pests out and away from wild, bushy leafy plants.

So, a huge amount of time and effort is spent on trimming these plants. This maximizes nutrient use, reduces the likelihood of pests or disease, and generally delivers the best cannabis.

Trim Team - Northwest Pearl

In here we caught up with the responsible one, Angelo aka L.O. and his trim team. All these people are trusted by the company, by Angelo and Enzo and Uncle Tony (who we'll meet in a bit), to do what is right and best for Northwest Pearl every single day. We only got a shot of him hard at work, because he refused to stay still long enough. Without hard work, it won't get done!

Trim Team 2 - Northwest Pearl

The most experienced garden team members are Charles and Daniel, who have both been with Northwest Pearl a long time, even though they have very different experience levels. Daniel, the dude in the white shirt, has been here since Day 1. His input and experience is critical to the daily operation. He's from Shelton making him an integral part of the local network. Meanwhile, on the right, Charles is family, and has helped the business in a variety of ways when needed. He's a flexible resource who can drop into different roles and be trusted.

Northwest Pearl is committed to making this enterprise even more family than it is, and have a strong practice of hiring from within. When they needed to expand the trim and garden team, Ashley stepped up from packaging and took on the role. She's rocking it, and becoming an expert at the role.

Another incredible person here at Northwest Pearl is Uncle Tony, who brings business experience and a touch of a (slightly) older generation to the team. When we sat and talked, Uncle Tony talked appreciatively about his team. He emphasized the hard work - and he's making legend of their accomplishments, while sharing exciting moments in the history of Northwest Pearl. He's also a dedicated, serious business man.

Legal marijuana is not an easy business, and it's not one that is a smooth road. There are significant business decisions that have to be made, new clients need to be won, bills have to be paid. Water, electricity, expansions, permits, fees, brown-nosing, and paperwork. Because it's a business, it still has all these critical aspects that need to be resolved on the daily.

It definitely is not easy, but it's loved. What I got from every single team member here, is that it's love and family keeping them together and succeeding. Love for each other, cannabis, the dream ... they're working to success together. That's real.

Because the facility was very quiet, I was almost surprised when we entered the last spot on the stop - the production room. There were more people in here kicking ass than there were in the rest of the building, including us! I spoke to all the team members here, briefly. Everyone was working, not touring.

Processing Room

I went through the production area smiling and greeting people. I like to make eye contact, how I usually do. I then met the head of the processing team, Justin. He was rolling joints like a madman, and even gave us a demonstration of their handrolled joints, which alongside the rosin-painted, kief-rolled, solventless Jeffrey are new flagship products for this brand.

This was a busy room, and I spoke with every single person here for a moment. There was an array of experiences - people with a decade in the industry, down to one young lady whose first day it was. Most of the workers don't smoke cannabis themselves, and consider this a production time job in the recreational horticulture industry. Which is exactly what it is.

From here, we went to the office, chilled with Uncle Tony a while and spoke some more. The family background here is absolutely apparent. Tony is excited to be taking part in the industry.  He's pumped that Angelo and Enzo came together in this business, and drew him into it. It's busy, there's a ton of work to be done, but he does it with quite the ready smile and laugh.

People - Northwest Pearl

People 2 - Northwest Pearl

On the day-to-day, reality at Northwest Pearl is similar to many other small businesses. It's a growing business with ever increasing everything. First production and outflow coupled with the everyday accomplishment to increase what's coming in from clients. Bills to pay, clients to gain and satisfy, packaging, stock, staffing, I-9s, W-2s, the Liquor and Cannabis Board, and so much more. It's a business, not a party. A fun business, no doubt.

Our conversation lead us out the door, and actually Tony posed a really tough question, one we'll address next time we sit down and speak - hopefully on the Marijuana Encyclopedia! On the way out, the moment we crossed the threshold from the main building

Hard work builds success, and it's in place on the daily here. It's clear everyone at Northwest Pearl is on the hustle. I appreciate that and I'm really glad that this licensed legal cannabis company is sponsoring, and our media ventures. Thanks so much for the love. You guys are real.