How Nevada's first legal pot-growing facility does business
Sierra Wellness Connection’s medical-marijuana facility in Northwest Reno is a nondescript concrete structure with few entrances and no windows, and looks a bit like a vault with the aesthetic of a late-’70s gym. Nevada’s first licensed pot cultivator is weeks from opening its 2nd Street dispensary and selling its first grow, but you wouldn’t know that from the center’s parking lot, where your only giveaway is the occasional employee in a bunny suit, a la Breaking Bad.
Inside, though, the space feels sophisticated and huge, with all manner of ways to monitor the fragrant plants without contaminating them. Sierra Wellness president Morgan Carr, who launched his medical-marijuana career in Denver, has experimented with more than 150 strains and works with 16 here in Reno, including popular staples like Sour Diesel and local ones such as Tahoe Cherry Pie.
A rare tour last week brought a handful of Boomer-aged men in nice shoes—investors, all of them. The mood was cordial, with everyone calling treasurer Deane Albright “Deano,” and former University of Nevada, Reno president Joe Crowley piping up from time to time with his quiet sort of wit. “I’m a victim of historical circumstances,” joked the oft-publicized Crowley, who’s director of Sierra Wellness, “but I’m here because I’m a board member, and I believe in the cause. The amount of publicity medical marijuana is getting is just immense, and I am increasingly persuaded that this is the way to go.”
His business attempts sustainability in various ways, such as alternating light schedules in grow rooms, avoiding peak energy use mid-day, installing lights with cooled hoods to reduce power consumption, and using circulating water that’s changed just once a week.
“Even though we’re using an incredible amount of power here, we’re not really using as much as we could be,” Carr said.“We try to be very conservative, and that goes for water as well.
“It’s a weed,” he continued. “It’s not as easy to grow as everybody says, but you can have some deficiencies in nutrients as the weeks go on, as long as you keep up with them and as long as you’re changing your reservoirs [and monitoring] your pH,” among other things. “This is a science. It’s not just something I’m doing in my basement.”
The plants’ THC content is up to 10 times that of black-market varieties, Carr said, and the potency is always tested and disclosed.
Cultivation manager Jeff Grossman’s wife, Eva Losey–Grossman, runs the dispensary across town, and said she encourages job applicants to be forthcoming—to not hide the fact that they’re already savvy about the product, in other words. She’s designing her place to feel as much like retail space as possible, despite detractors like bulletproof glass, steel window covers and security doors that are heavy enough to be surprising.
The company isn’t without competition, of course. Silver State Relief, which opened July 31 in Sparks, bought plants from local cardholders who already grow their own.
The Sierra Wellness storefront will probably sell around 15 pounds a week, Albright said. “And it’s all tested,” he added, referencing state labs as well as private ones. “It’s strenuous stuff.”