Long Road to Retail: Chapter 5

CO Leaf DecemberLet’s get growing!

By John Strieder

Months of planning, sweat and research have finally put Colorado Leaf in position to plant its first crop. All systems are go for the first harvest, which, after a long cure, will debut in stores April 20 of next year.

Phase one of the new greenhouse is now open — it sports a new, hospital-grade floor coating, tinted white, and a similar industrial coating on the walls that can be washed with bleach and water. Phase two, which will double capacity, was expected to be finished within a month of the first stage being operational. The facility will incubate the first batches, a smorgasbord of Colorado Leaf’s line of staples and seasonal strains. All told, the company will represent about 30 varieties.

At least a few strains on the website will be available only by special order for a premium price. But the vast majority are seasonals or regulars.

Head grower Victor Moran wanted to cater to all tastes. “They cover pretty much every category across the board,” Victor says of the varieties. His top criteria was quality, defined by smell, potency, even type of effect.

Potency is not just a matter of the more the better, Victor notes. The product list includes strains for everybody ranging from casual smokers to heavy users.

The startup plants were purchased from another licensed facility, as Colorado law requires, though finding that seller took quite a bit of research by owners Brett and Keith Sprau.

“You can’t just buy from Joe Schmo or from out of state,” Brett says. “Nobody wants to give away their genetics in this state. If they do want to sell, they want an arm and a leg for them.”

The team called around, talked to growers, tested plants and looked at pictures on the Web. “Companies do sell clones of desired strains,” Brett says. “But the genes are horrible, the product is horrible.”

Another problem plaguing the industry is renaming — sellers will take one strain and mislabel it as another, Brett says. There’s really no way to know what strain people are selling without taking their word for it.

“Just like in any other industry, you can tell who’s in it to help you and who is in it to hurt you,” Brett says.


A bag for all seasons

Colorado Leaf wants to market seasonal strains the way microbreweries market seasonal beers. Its menu includes AJ’s Sour Diesel, the beloved original Diesel strain, which is praised on the company website for “an overwhelming fragrance of kerosene and skunks with little to no tolerance buildup.” The company plans to bring an annual batch to market every 4/20, or as Brett calls it, the “April 20 holiday.”

One nice thing about a seasonal is that it does not have to conform to the schedules of the staple plants. AJ’s Sour Diesel takes nearly 14 weeks to mature, making it an awkward fit with their other plants, which will be on cycles of eight to 10 weeks.

Victor plans to produce most seasonals twice a year, during the Christmas season and on April 20. Colorado Leaf will be growing several seasonal strains along with its regular offerings at any given moment. Victor may also devote a whole section of the facility twice a year to OG strains, which he says are more difficult to grow.

The team is particularly proud of one of its year-round offerings, a Colorado Leaf exclusive that has never been sold before: April Ann, bred from BOG’s unreleased first backcross of Strawberry Kush and Sour Bubble BX3.

The Spraus want a potent product list to set them apart. The selection in Colorado right now is “pretty weak,” Brett says. “Every dispensary is selling the same stuff because everybody is growing the same plants.”

Colorado Leaf’s grow license allows it to sell to retail dispensaries, marijuana-infused product manufacturers and other recreational cultivation facilities in certain circumstances, such as if they lost a harvest. The company has already taken calls from dispensaries looking to buy product.

To better promote the brand, Colorado Leaf is considering prepackaging its cannabis in one-ounce bags with their logo, ready to be set out on a store shelf. This would ensure the brand’s visibility in every dispensary. “Otherwise they could just put it in a jar and claim it’s them growing it,” Keith says. “Nobody would ever know us.”

Also, as the company’s website promises, Colorado Leaf may get into solventless extracts, “which not a lot of people in this state are doing,” Brett says.

They are aware that consumers have rejected some solventless extracts as low quality, and they think they can do better. “I have a couple of special techniques I developed over the years,” Victor says. “I can take it one step further.”

Victor is settling into his role as Colorado Leaf’s lone head grower after the company had originally hired a pair to split duties.

“During the planning stages, it became apparent that one of us was bringing a lot more to the table,” Victor says.


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