It's 9:00 a.m. on a Friday and I just pulled up to a nondescript Warehouse in Denver's industrial area.
Only 7 years ago this find would have been a major new story, and perhaps placed my personal safety at risk. You see, there are tens of thousands of marijuana plants growing within this Warehouse. But today I feel no danger and there is no major story to break. I am simply here to take a tour of one of the largest and most cutting edge legal marijuana grow facilities in the state of Colorado.
One of the first things you notice upon entering LivWell Enlightened Health's growth facility is its size. Every day LivWell's army of roughly 250 farmers out of a total employee population of nearly 600 produce enough high quality cannabis to supply the company's 14 recreational and medical storefronts. Add to that the demand from hundreds of other dispensaries to which LivWell sells its infused products ( including "Leaf's By Snoop", legendary rapper icon Snoop Dogg's brand of cannabis that is exclusively produced by LivWell), and is no wonder LivWell has built its primary production facility to such a scale.
And yet, a tour through LivWell's Grove reveal something even more remarkable than just the state of its operations: it is the attention to detail, the clockwork like precision, and the extraordinary passion envinced by the staff that truly earn LivWell's reputation as the future of high grade cannabis production.
It all begins with LivWell's owner and CEO, John lord, who largely credits his company's passion at the forefront of the Cannabis industry to his determination to apply the traditional business practices in manufacturing management techniques he learned as a successful businessman to the nascent cannabis industry.
"When we first started, there was no market research reported to consult," says Lord. "There was no textbook on how to grow commercial cannabis. We learned it all by conducting methodical research and development, and those efforts continue to today."
Indeed, the influence of Lord's traditional business background is evident in nearly every aspect of his company.
"We exert granular control over the entire supply chain. With greater control comes greater efficiencies in production and greater consistency in our products," says John Lord owner and CEO of LivWell Enlightened Health.
Each employee begins his or her career at LivWell with two weeks of intensive classroom and on-site education at LivWell university, the company's industry-leading training program. New technologies and processes are subject to a gauntlet of experimentation and rigorous study by the PHDs in scientists that make up the company's dedicated research and development team before ever being utilized in the farm.
I find myself processing what I'm being told while gazing out at yet another enormous room filled with healthy and beautiful cannabis plants, and innocently ask if I may speak to the master grower.
"If that person existed, I would be delighted to make an introduction," quips Lord.
It turns out that unlike many other cannabis cultivators, you will not find anyone with the title Master grower here. Instead, the company trains its employees to follow strict standard operating procedures (SOP's) similar to those you would find at any traditional manufacturing plant.
"SOP's are critical to not only producing high quality cannabis," says lord. But also to produce and consistently high quality cannabis period you don't go to the supermarket and sniff boxes of Wheaties until you find a good batch. You expect the each box to be just as good as the last, and we want our customers to experience that same degree of consistency in our products."
Delivering this kind of consistent experience to consumers is no easy task. Cannabis is, after all, and agriculture product, and is therefore vulnerable to the same fluctuations in production that affect all farmed goods. Yet the practices and technologies put in place by Lord and his company have all been designed to meet this challenge.
"We exert granular control over the entire supply chain," says lord, with greater control comes greater efficiencies in production and greater consistencies in our products." As we continue to tour, it suddenly occurs to me to take note of what I am not seeing, very hot rooms with humidity so thick that you could cut the air with the knife, and the rose upon Rose of blinding lights that admit much of that heat. If you have ever taught, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Instead, I find myself gazing at the purplish glow admitting from the thousands of LED lights strong atop row upon row of cannabis plants. No blinding lights, and no sticky and oppressive heat.
"It is taking the company nearly 3 years to get the process and light frequencies to the point where the LEDs could move from our R&D garden into the main farm. But the effort has paid off," said Lord. "Our Farmers tune these lights to the exact frequency best suited to each stage of the cannabis plants' cycle of life in order to maximize healthy growth in production volume."
Although the company must use many more individual LED lights compared to the number of traditional high pressure sodium bulbs, the energy efficiency gains are more than worth it. LED lights put out so much less heat that live well's energy bill has dropped dramatically. Indeed, live well is that yet the only cannabis company to receive a rebate from Xcel energy for its energy efficiency gains.
The company's use of LEDs is thanks in large part to the aforementioned R&D team, which alongside LivWell's Farmers is responsible for all of the innovations within LivWell's grow. From the state of the art, computer-controlled "fertigation" system that determines and delivers specific feed mixes to each individual plant in the facility, to the in-house genetics research that brings new strains to live well shelves, the R&D team has far more in common with similar departments and traditional agriculture and manufacturing businesses then with the dread-locked and tie-dyed stereotypes conjured up by prohibitionists.
Needless to say, I am beyond impressed.
My tour of LivWell's grow finishes in the company's marijuana infused products (MIP) kitchen which, in addition to the adjacent extractions lab, produces Infusiasm brand concentrates, Stealth Stick disposable vape pens, and the entire line of Leafs By Snoop products, which include wax, shatter, and a variety of edibles. After witnessing the expertise and professionalism included by LivWell's farm staff, it is no wonder why Snoop Dogg chose live well over every other Colorado Cannabis company to bring his Leafs By Snoop brand to life.
It has taken several years, but LivWell's efforts to build one of the premier cannabis companies has clearly born fruit. And this is still only the beginning. The company soon plans on taking its expertise to emerging legal legal cannabis markets elsewhere in the country, and perhaps eventually to the world. Under the purple glow of LivWell's LEDs the future of cannabis looks bright, indeed.