Wash. pot grower: Could take months for retail supply to meet demand
VANCOUVER, Wash. -- Clark County's only licensed recreational marijuana grower currently in business thinks it will be several months before prices drop and there's enough bud to go around.
"There's only so fast you can make a plant grow," said Brian Stroh, owner of CannaMan Farms in Northeast Vancouver.
When voters said yes to Washington's pot bill at the end of 2012, Stroh traded in his finance office for a garden.
"We're learning about cannabis every day it is the most steady plant on the planet," Stroh explained.
Stroh got one of the first marijuana producer licenses the state handed out this past spring. He started growing shortly thereafter.
"From the point in time that we start a plant to flower and how long from there it takes to hit store shelves, figure 10 weeks," said Stroh.
He had some product to sell to retailers when the state gave them the green light to open earlier this month, but that caught him off guard.
"When they told us July 8 is when we need to go, we had some product but it's not like we'd been building towards that open."
Stroh runs a "Tier 1" facility. That means he has 2,000 square feet or less of space to grow pot plants.
"We are physically cloning the plants, so what we are getting is genetically identical plants," Stroh explained.
After the buds are harvested, they have to be dried, tested, packaged and then delivered to stores.
Right now 2,600 people like Stroh have applied for licenses; only 334 of those are approved. Yet, not everyone with licenses is actually growing.
"We got one of the first licenses because we were ready to go. We had a facility," Stroh said.
Two other businesses in Clark County have approved licenses to grow, but it's unclear if they're growing or selling wholesale yet. The state has received more than 100 other producer applications from people in Clark County. Those aren't approved yet.
CannaMan Farms supplies two retail stores: New Vansterdam in Vancouver, and another store in Bellingham. The second retail store in Vancouver, Main Street Marijuana, and a retail store in Kelso, The Freedom Market, both get their supply from growers outside of Southwest Washington.
Each of the 26 open retail marijuana stores in Washington depend on multiple growers, like Stroh, who are setting prices due to high demand. Right now, one gram of marijuana costs about $30 including sales tax.
Stroh has a message for customers.
"They're going to have to be patient," he said.
He's being patient too, growing pot as fast as he legally can.
Retailers guess, and hope, the market will even out sooner rather than later. Stroh believes it could be nine months before supply catches up with demand and prices go down.