Sustainability in Canna-Business

Posted By Will Denman on Founder's Blog

The rapid growth of the cannabis industry can make timely communication with our community a bit of a challenge. When Solstice co-founder Alex Cooley or I have a rare moment to stop and reflect, it seems new information is available and the conversation has shifted.

Our fundamental mission has always been to offer the highest quality cannabis, and to do everything in our power to legitimize and de-stigmatize the cannabis industry.

Since founding Solstice, three years ago, we’ve pushed for and witnessed a great deal of change in the cannabis industry, while also maintaining a high level of quality within our product. A reason for this has been the quality equipment we use to make our cannabis, including some of the best LED grow lights available on the market. Anyone that is looking to grow their own marijuana might want to check out a site like GreenBudGuru when looking for LED grow lights to use in their production. But, through our whole journey, transparency has been one of our guiding tenets. We believe that it’s important to discuss our view of these changes and role in driving them, as well as how our decisions fit into a larger vision.

We want you as the patient, consumer, vendor, or supporter to know exactly what and whom you’re supporting.

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Solstice co-founder Alex Cooley discusses organic greenhouse cultivation with local farmer.

Going forward, Alex and I will each write a monthly post focused on relevant or emerging issues and events in the world of cannabis.

This month’s theme is sustainability. We’re asking our community and ourselves: What practices create a lasting foundation in this new industry? What values make for an enduring (and ethical) form of growth and success? How do we define success in a brand-new industry?

To kick off the series, I’m sharing some of my own thoughts on sustainability. Please leave your comments, because we welcome the conversation!

When Alex and I started Solstice in 2011, our vision was long-term. We didn’t set out to build a farm or create a brand. Those things became goals along the way, but only as a means to an end.

We wanted to put our passion to work to help shape the cannabis industry so that it could function like any other legitimate business.

Frankly, we hoped the cannabis business could function better than other industries! Both Alex and I, like many others in the cannabis community, have come to the table with a very contemporary understanding of the environmental and human cost of irresponsibly run big business. The tide is slowly turning with more awareness. This is happening across the USA and Canada and will continue with increasing relaxation of the strict regulations imposed. But purchasing the products has never been easier in both nations. Although how to buy weed Canada is a question frequently posed by many people. Nonetheless, the stigma regarding cannabis conversations is slowly dissipating.
So, our first step was to “normalize” the conversation around cannabis and take some of the charge out of its language. A hundred years of misleading propaganda has burdened words like “marijuana” and “weed” with a lot of cultural baggage. It’s amazing how a word can be the source of so much fear. Now there are companies out there, like Puffmen, who are making a living out of the legalization of marijuana.

We chose to use the term “cannabis” instead to shake loose some of this plant’s prohibition-era associations. We focused on cannabis’ considerable positive attributes, its medicinal and nutritional value, and its economic potential. We believe that every voice that speaks honestly and positively about cannabis is a step in the right direction – a step towards normal.

I personally believe that the only way to truly change something is from the inside out—to be an active part of a solution. So, we decided to shift the dialogue away from confrontation with lawmakers and towards cooperation. In 2010, Governor Christine Gregoire sectionally vetoed Senate Bill 5073, which was intended to tax and regulate medical cannabis in ways similar to Colorado. In response, we established relationships with local legislators and regulators. We also opened up and offered ourselves as resources for knowledge about both the industry and the properties and possibilities of the plant itself.

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Solstice production facility where plants are individually tagged and associated to numbered collective gardens and patients.

The King County Prosecutor’s office reached out to Alex, and he, along with a working group and a team of attorneys, wrote the “Collective Garden Model,” which is how safe access to medical cannabis still operates today. Our hope was, and continues to be, that our professionalism and sincere support for responsible regulation will inspire our state’s biggest decision makers.

We believe that building a lasting structure for the recreational cannabis industry will require similar cooperative action. Current WA State Liquor Control Board (WALCB) parameters make it illegal to produce cannabis for both the medical and recreational markets in the same facility. For Solstice, this has resulted in a much slower process in finding and building a separate viable facility for recreational cannabis cultivation.

Though derived from the same source, medical and recreational cannabis have different applications. We believe they should be regulated and taxed differently, and that they do require different dialogues to educate consumers. However, some of the new parameters simply make it more difficult for legitimate businesses to flourish.

Sustainability in the cannabis industry is also about awareness of its environmental impact. Some estimate that 1% of the nation’s electricity is used to grow cannabis indoors. That’s a massive footprint, and one we are committed to help lower. Besides farming cannabis in environmentally sustainable ways, Solstice partners with and donates to non-profits who support environmental causes. We will be making announcements about these partnerships in the coming year.

The cannabis industry is new enough that it can shape and mold itself in any way it chooses. Imagine building an entire city from the ground up, using all our collective knowledge about sustainability. I believe that within the cannabis industry, we have the opportunity to do just that. But true sustainability is about the 20-year vision and not the quick buck. I want our children to grow up in a society that is able to engage in an honest conversation about this amazing plant, one that regulates, markets, sells, and consumes it in sustainable ways. We’ll do our best to make it so.

Alex has been invited to speak this month at both Hempfest and CannaCon. He will be addressing these issues and more, so please stay tuned for videos and podcasts from the events. As I mentioned before, we welcome the conversation and hope to inspire it. So, maybe to get the ball rolling: What do you think are important sustainable practices for the cannabis industry?

Will Denman, Solstice Co-Founder

Will Denman is President and co-founder of Solstice, a Seattle-based cannabis production company specializing in high quality, responsibly grown cannabis. At Solstice, he oversees processing, finance, and brand management. Will Denman helped craft the “Collective Garden Model” under RCW 69.51.A, which facilitates current medical cannabis access in Washington state. Will was a founding member of the Coalition of Cannabis Standards and Ethics, whose mission is to develop ethical guidelines and quality standards for the legal cannabis industry. He has been a key advisor to the Washington State Liquor Control Board, regarding the implementation of Initiative 502 on topics such as taxation, banking practices, compliance, traceability, and best practices. This advice includes co-authoring Legal Cannabis Production Costs: Estimating Costs Based on Medical Cannabis- a research paper establishing current costs of cannabis production under a variety of commercial applications.

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