By Garrett Rudolph
Christian Hageseth isn’t just peering into the future of the cannabis industry. He’s building it.
Hageseth has more than six years of experience in Colorado’s legal marijuana market, making him somewhat of an old hand at this business, compared to so many newcomers that have jumped into the welcoming waters of legalization.
After founding Green Man Cannabis in 2009, Hageseth’s businesses have been in a state of perpetual flux, adapting to the licensing and regulations Colorado first implemented for medical marijuana in 2010, as well as the constant changes that have taken place with recreational marijuana beginning in 2012. But Green Man’s most recent evolution could be the biggest shift to date.
Hageseth has started the process of building a venue that will combine large-scale cultivation with events and tourism. The lifelong entrepreneur wants the Green Man Cannabis Ranch and Amphitheatre to be the world’s first “weedery,” taking its cues from the craft beer and wine industries.
Hageseth plans to open the weedery in two stages: the large-scale greenhouse would begin production in January or February 2016, followed by the full launch of the tourism and event side before April 20.
“It’s an aggressive goal, but I think it’s something we can accomplish,” Hageseth said.
At one point, Hageseth was a partner in five dispensaries and six grow facilities, before divesting himself from some businesses and focusing more specifically on Green Man, which currently features two dispensaries in Denver and two warehouse grow facilities. The weedery will be a two-pronged approach leading Green Man into the future. First and foremost, the high-tech greenhouse will slash Green Man’s cost of production, Hageseth said.
He estimated his cost of production to be about $850 a pound in warehouses, but expects to bring that down to about $350 a pound when operations are shifted to the greenhouse. Not only is it better for business, but saving that much energy is good for the environment, Hageseth said.
That will also allow Green Man to convert its current warehouses into research and development facilities for breeding projects and equipment testing.
The greenhouse will be built out in a way that allows visitors to tour of the facility without endangering the plants or disrupting business operations. An adjoining amphitheater will be built to host concerts and other events with seating for more than 2,000 people.
The entire complex will be developed for tours, corporate events, dinner and lunch outings and concerts.
After all, “Cannabis and music go together like peanut butter and chocolate,” Hageseth said.
There’s even talk of yoga classes being taught on-site.
As the laws currently stand, consumption would not be allowed at the ranch or amphitheater, but there are possibilities the rules will change within the next year or that Green Man will incorporate hotel rooms where people could consume cannabis products in private, Hageseth said.
The weedery would not only provide several business benefits for Green Man Cannabis, but it would also pull back the curtain of secrecy to reveal a world previously unseen by cannabis enthusiasts throughout the world. Most consumers have never had the opportunity to see a commercial-scale grow in person.
Timing played a huge role for Hageseth’s indoctrination into the cannabis industry.
“It’s not like I met with my high school guidance counselor years ago and said ‘I want to grow weed and write books,’” he said. “I feel really lucky. I really believe that I’m one of the luckiest people in the world. I love the product, I always have. I know there’s a lot of room in this industry for other people, so I hope to see other motivated, conscientious, caring people getting into it and following their dreams.”
Hageseth was hit hard by the housing market crash of 2007 and 2008.
“I owned like 300 properties in 22 states, and I truly lost my ass,” he said.
After a round of golf with his attorney and another entrepreneur, Hageseth began considering marijuana as a possible business venture.
“I was a lifelong entrepreneur who had just lost everything and was looking for something to do in 2009. … I was at a point in my life where I understood business and when I realized what the potential was for legal marijuana, I threw my hat in the ring and haven’t looked back,” he said.
But, as most anybody in the cannabis industry can attest, Hageseth’s enterprise wasn’t an overnight success.
“There’s no blueprint for how to operate in this industry,” he said. “When I first got involved, there was very little regulation, but a lot of new laws passed and a lot changed. A lot of my career in this has just been survival. Something new happens and you have to adjust immediately.”
It wasn’t until the company got past the survival stage that it was able to thrive. That was when Hageseth began to wonder: “Where do we go from here?”
Some see their progress in the cannabis industry as part of a natural evolution of adapting to legal changes and overcoming challenges. For Green Man Cannabis, its evolution was anything but natural. It was a concentrated effort to implement standard operating procedures. It was a matter of getting everybody on the same page, making sure every task could be done by multiple people and putting everything in writing. When Green Man brings on new employees, whether they’re part-time budtenders or a master grower, there are written manuals about “our way of doing things,” Hageseth said.
“Now we’re poised to grow from here from a position of strength and control.”
Hageseth did his own fair share of writing through the process. His book — “Big Weed: An Entrepreneur’s High Stakes Adventures in the Budding Legal Marijuana Business” — was published in April.
Hageseth marvels at where the cannabis industry has taken his life. His business is booming. He’s a published author who’s working out a product placement deal for a Hollywood movie and hashing out plans for a TV show.
“I never thought when I washed out of the real estate business that I’d end up getting into the weed business, which would lead to me writing a book and making a TV show and getting into movies,” he said. “Trust me, this was not a plan.”