POST CATEGORY: Special

Inside NWCS

April 01, 2017 | WES ABNEY

Northwest Cannabis Solutions, one of Washington's most successful producer-processors, has realized their vision to go truly large-scale. Photos by Daniel Berman.

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nwcs-quote1.jpgTucked off a quiet I-5 exit in Tumwater is Northwest Cannabis Solutions — the state’s highest grossing and volume producer of pot in the rec market. The mega facility feels more like a mainstream manufacturing plant than a pot farm — that is, until you step inside. The two giant buildings are the offices of 150 full-time employees engaging in every single part of the producing and processing of taking pot to market.

We took a trip out to the facility last month and were blown away by the scale and professional attention to detail in what is likely the largest Cannabis company in the Northwest. Our trip started where it all begins, inside the garden. The first step is passing through the employee locker room, where anyone working inside the production facility starts and ends their day. Complete with showers and individual lockers, we climbed into disposable full-body scrubs and passed through the forced air door into the most professional grow facility I have ever seen.

The growing process starts in the clone room, a multi-level system of racks filled with vegetative plants in varying stages of growth, from fresh cut clones to ready-to-flower plants. From there the plants are taken into one of 52 different growing pods, all organized by strain and technique. This is where the ingenuity and precision of NWCS really shines. Each pod is a long and narrow room with a rolling garage door, and room for roughly 32 lights, but that’s where the specific similarity ends. Every single pod has a slightly different technique, technology, nutrients or system, all geared toward taking a strain and pushing it to the best level possible. 

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For Will Linn, vice president of sales and tour guide for the day, the reasoning behind the different pods makes perfect sense.

“It’s all about what each strain likes and seeing what we can do to make things more efficient or better. We are always trying new things, variables and techniques to produce the best products better,” Linn said. “People always assume growing on a big level produces low quality weed or can’t be done right, but our model proves it can be done right when it’s controlled, efficient and you have a great staff working with good genetics.”

With 10,000 plants in flower at any given moment, NWCS embodies large-scale growing. Once the plants are harvested, they are wet trimmed and then cured in a temperature and humidity controlled room before being separated for their final destination. 

The highest quality buds are sorted for their premium line of flower, Private Reserve, the middle quality buds end up in the Legends line, and the popcorn buds end up in joints or being processed into oil. 

After wrapping up in the flower room and shedding our scrubs, we moved next door into the processing and packaging facility. Walking past the front desk leads into a giant open space that feels like a mainstream manufacturing and shipping facility, mixed with a Costco-type environment of weed. Giant forklift racks contain pallets of every supply, ingredient and piece of equipment necessary for running the business. If a ballast or light goes bad or an ingredient like sugar is needed in a kitchen, there’s a pallet in inventory ready to go with no delays. 

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The organization and thought put into the management and workflow shows the true value of the business model. Still, most noticeable is how clean the facility is, with everything in place and organized, a thriving hive that runs 24/7 to keep products moving out the doors.

“We don’t look at this like the pot industry,” Will said. “They designed this as a highly efficient corporation that just happens to sell pot, and we want to set a standard and run this like a true business. We are positioning not just for now but for the future, and we are constantly looking at ways to improve and continue to be the best.”

The facility has a huge variety of concentrates and edibles being processed, starting with the oil. Inside the spark-proof lab are multiple machines extracting Cannabis with CO2, butane and distillate, all humming and churning out slabs of beautiful, tasty oil. The oil is used based on grade, with top shelf oil going out for dabbing or vapor pens, and the lower grade being used for food products. The kitchen, a space over, has ovens that can crank out 500 cookies an hour, and produces a wide variety of Cannabis products.

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Finished products go into inventory, where there is a team that manages the stock of every type of product sold, making sure there is never a shortage, and preparing orders for manifesting and delivery to one of the hundreds of stores that carry NWCS products.

“We cater to every niche or demand from the casual consumer to the connoisseur to a patient looking for our capsules,” Will said. “We want to have a product line for everyone.”

The company has eight different brands, all targeted toward a different category of consumer. The newest, Crystal Clear, is a dabbable distillate that will be hitting the market this spring. The idea behind the brands is to cover all parts of the market, and ensure the ability of the company to adapt and innovate. All these factors have led to NWCS being the top grossing producer and processor in Washington, and the value translates for consumers and dispensaries alike.

“At the end of the day, we want to deliver the best products possible at the best price, and the company was built to put volume before profit, and it has worked because we are as efficient and hardworking as we can be,” he said. “For me, I love being a part of the company, and the opportunity to sell all these products is a dream come true.”

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