A gigantic red ribbon wraps around a 45,000–square-foot facility in Sparks, showcasing a new cannabis cultivation factory claiming to be the most advanced of its kind. At around 10 a.m. last Wednesday, MedMen President and Co-Founder Andrew Modlin cut the ribbon and open the doors to give attendees a glimpse into exactly what will go on in the expansive building.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, MedMen owns and operates state-licensed cannabis businesses in California, Nevada, and New York. In late 2016, it began construction on its new Northern Nevada center comprised of a 26,000-square-foot greenhouse, flowering room, laboratory, edibles kitchen, gas extraction room, LED-lighted horticulture room, and more.
“This is undoubtedly the most high tech marijuana factory in the world,” says Co-Founder/CEO Adam Bierman. “There are a lot of amazing companies growing in Sparks and Nevada is the premier marijuana program in the US,” he adds.
MedMen Vice President of Corporate Communications Daniel Yi told a story about how his Korean parents didn’t know he worked in the cannabis industry and that his mother didn’t see the difference between cocaine and cannabis.
He had previously worked for what his parents would call respectable organizations- places like Edison International and “buttoned-up, conservative companies”. But when his 70-year-old father lost his appetite, he gave him a CBD tincture. “My dad got his weight back, he’s more talkative, and more mellow,” Yi says.
“It’s one thing to light up a joint when you’re 25, another when you’re 45 and have three kids and can use pens and edibles that are more discreet,” Yi says.
Regarding opening up a new cultivation facility in Sparks, Yi says that it is a natural fit considering Washoe County is very business-friendly and easy to work with.
“Everything produced in Nevada is consumed in Nevada. The Nevada market alone will reach $620 million in (cannabis) sales”, he says. Yi noted that since July of last year there has been $195 million in cannabis products sold and the state has collected $30 million in taxes.
Walking into the MedMen facility, stark white hallways lead the way towards different parts of the operation. When an employee clocks in, they go into their respective locker room to shed their belongings and put on a lab coat, scrubs, shoe slip-ons, and a hair net to prevent cross-contamination in the environment they will be working in.
Vice President of Agronomy Dan McClure then walks the group through the guts the building and why it’s considered state-of-the-art. Its cannabis is grown and processed in a 100 percent closed system, meaning that every input is controlled. Nothing enters the environment that is not intended to be there.
In the tissue harvesting room, a MedMen employee is dividing plants into multiple pieces to clean up the strain’s genetics and replicate it exactly, creating a consistency across all products. After the plant is split up, they are regrown in a growth chamber for 20-40 days before transferring into an acclimatization/vegetation room. The growth chamber has bright purple lighting that takes a minute to adjust to, provided by Fluence Engineering. From there the plants move into a brightly-lit central area where plants are observed and placed on an assembly-line like conveyor belt, moving them into the 26,000-sq-ft. flower grow room that can hold up to 25,000 plants.
“We produce 10,000 pounds of flower annually to go to MedMen dispensaries,” McClure says. Next, the group is handed off to Extraction and Manufacturing Manager Jeff Spinder who leads us into the manufacturing wing of the facility.
“I love Dan because every week he’s gonna give me 150 pounds of clean marijuana,” Spinder says. The 5-lb. buckets of flower is whisked “out of the sunshine and into the casino” as Spinder says, towards the trim room.
The trim room has a floor-to-ceiling safe that stores up to 1,000 pounds of flower and huge grinding and rolling machines that crush the flower and pump out thousands of pre-rolls. Across the hall, a CO2 and butane extraction room keeps a double-barreled extractor (nicknamed ‘Mustang Sally’) that compresses CO2 in the cannabis and produces crude terpenes. Towards the back of the facility, a Refining Room has most equipment encased in glass so that staff can see exactly what is going on in the process of refining terpenes, CBD’s, and other extracts to reformulate them.
“We take a lot of samples,” Spinder says.
Lastly, the group is taken into MedMen’s in-house laboratory. It is a state requirement to have an independent third party test the cannabis to provide accurate, unbiased pass/fail results, but MedMen believes that it helps to have some internal quality assurance as well.
“We have an internal lab for consistency and plant optimization. It’s cost-effective in the long-run,” Lab Manager Adina Muskat says. She points out some of the shiny new equipment that tests for microbial, metals, pesticides, and other unwanted components.
After seeing how the factory is used, the group sheds their lab coats and pants and heads back out the door past security. Now that the ribbon is cut and the champagne is consumed, it’s time to get to work supplying Nevada with safe, clean, state-of-the-art weed.