We roll it, we smoke it, we vape it … but have you ever wondered how marijuana is made?
With recreational marijuana legalization around the corner, there’s a lot happening behind the scenes. The world’s biggest medical marijuana producer gave Global News a behind the scene look to show us how they are prepping for the big day.
Canopy Growth in Smith Falls, Ont., is a 500,000-square-foot facility that used to be a Hershey’s chocolate factory. Now, it houses hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of cannabis products. The Canadian company has gone international but is now focusing on their home turf.
“So we’re gearing up. Recreational legalization is going to be a total game changer for us from a market size perspective. It’s going to go 20 times the size that it is right now, and that means we’ve got to get growing. We had to get growing four, five months ago to make sure the shelves wouldn’t be bare,” says Jordan Sinclair, vice president of communications at Canopy Growth.
So it all starts in what producers call a mother room. Mom plants are grown from seeds and they give life to hundreds of other marijuana plants. As they grow, clippings of the mom plant are dipped in a rooting solution and planted in small soil pods.
“It will live in a beautiful environment where it’s always 18 or 19 C, the lights are almost always on. It’s like t-shirt and pants weather. It’s beautiful,” Sinclair says.
A mom plant is “cloned” more than 600 times before it retires. Once the clones are in soil pods, the leaves are trimmed to ensure all water and nutrients go directly to the root. It is then placed under a dome and moved to the clone room.
This is a high humidity environment you definitely don’t want to be caught in. The humidity is roughly at 70 per cent to enhance root development. Since the roots are very small, they are not able to take in much water without drowning. High humidity, instead of watering, allows the clone plants to slowly absorb small drops of water.
The plants are then transferred to a vegetation room where they enjoy springtime conditions, temperatures ranging from 20 to 25 C. In this stage, producers are focused on developing healthy foliage and a strong structure that will be able to support flowers, more commonly known as “buds.”
They strictly control the light, temperature, carbon dioxide and nutrients throughout this stage of growth.
Once the plants are large enough, they’re moved to the “flower room” where they will experience hot summertime conditions: 12 hours of light, followed by 12 hours of darkness. This is essential to allow the plant to produce “buds.” And those buds are the Holy Grail of this whole process. It’s where you’ll find CBD, known for its therapeutic effects and THC, the compound known for getting you high.
There are more than 700 different pot strains. The plant’s genetic make-up acts as its blueprint, but its environment plays a major role, too. And everyone has preferences, such as Purple Kush, Girl Scout Cookies, Pineapple Express, to name a few. Depending on the plant, you can have pot that keeps you awake or have pot that makes you relax and sleepy.
“When people are going into a store, are they buying because they are going to play video games or they are going to go to a dinner party or a comedy club or something like that? So, really, you want to match the occasion with the product itself,” Sinclair says.
Once the flowers (or buds) have matured, the plants are then harvested and sent to the trimming room. The plants are trimmed by hand and then placed in a machine called the “Twister.” The name speaks for itself: it literally twists and trims away any excess leaves and stems, leaving the perfect bud.
Once that’s done, the buds are ready for drying.
Then we have the most important step: quality control. The marijuana is brought into a lab for testing to make sure it is safe. After that, the refined buds are ready for packaging.
At this stage, a group of lucky staff members smoke, vape or ingest the product to figure out its effects. Does it make you feel like you’re on a cloud? Does it give you a body buzz? This info is used for the product description.
Once it’s legalized, it’s expected there will be a big demand for legal pot, so Canopy Growth has three eight-hour shifts, producing five- to 10-gram packages, or filling bottles and soft gel tablets with oil.
Once packaged, it is sent to the vault. And it’s built like Fort Knox, housing more than 15 million grams of cannabis worth over $150 million. This vault is more secure than most national banks. It has 18-inch thick concrete walls, more than 30 cameras, motion sensors and floor sensors.
Justin Trudeau promised that recreational marijuana legalization would come Oct. 17. That means Canopy Growth’s products, such as Tweed and Leafs by Snoop, will soon be available at a store near you.
But Canopy Growth isn’t the only producer getting ready. Producers across the country are working at full throttle, producing millions of dollars’ worth of pot to meet the new demand.
So next time you light up, besides pondering the meaning of life or the world’s greatest mysteries, remember that your buzz is a result of a lot of hard work.