How CannaSol Farms owner Jeremy Moberg laid the groundwork to allow state-sanctioned, sun-grown marijuana in Washington
Story by Greg James
Photos by Ken Pedevilla
In 2011, when the Washington State Liquor Control Board was wrestling with various suggestions for rules and regulations that would determine how the newly legal marijuana industry would operate, there was one persistent — and loud — voice at every public meeting. That voice belonged to Jeremy Moberg, and his message was consistent: Cannabis farmers should be allowed to grow their crop in the same way as the vast majority of farmers grow crops around the world — in a natural setting, and under natural sunlight.
Number of strains:
More than 100
Average of 30
80% bud/20% concentrates
Alice in Wonderland, Green Crack, ATF, Cashy’s Honey CBD
“Our goal back then wasn’t to deny indoor farmers the right to grow marijuana under electric lights,” Jeremy said. “We just wanted the Liquor Control Board to understand that sun-growers were just as capable of cultivating under secure conditions as indoor growers, and that our methods had been proven over time to create quality product that was on a par with anything you could produce under controlled environment agriculture conditions.”
Jeremy often pointed out to officials that growing under electric lights favored those on the relatively cloudy west side of the state, which includes Seattle and the state capital, Olympia. He lobbied that traditional outdoor methods made better sense to all the applicants who wanted to locate their businesses on the sunnier, more rural, eastern side of the state.
In a way, he managed to turn the debate into a classic case of the “haves” versus the “have nots.” He pitted wealthy Seattle-area interests who favored production under artificial lighting against cash-strapped pot farmers located in traditional agricultural communities, which would benefit from growing marijuana under natural sunlight on land that had been used for cattle and fruit production for decades.
The turning point came when fellow environmentalist David Rice, an aspiring outdoor grower himself, lent his support to the fledgling group, and researched appropriate security measures that could be used to ensure outdoor grows would be just as secure as indoor facilities.
Jeremy, Buffalo and David eventually won. Unlike Colorado, which originally mandated that all cannabis had to be grown in an enclosed environment (either indoors or in a greenhouse), Washington’s rules allow state-licensed producers to grow their crops under 100% natural sunlight (albeit with the same security measures required of indoor grows, including cameras, fences and tracking software).
“What Jeremy did was pretty amazing,” David said. “Like most individuals who are successful crusaders, he was persistent, vocal and had the ability to make a lot of good points that supported his position.”
With the win, Jeremy and others would now be able to grow marijuana in roughly the same way as farmers growing corn.
“We were definitely happy we prevailed,” Jeremy said, “and it made a lot of sense to many of the folks I know who wanted to cultivate cannabis in rural areas close to their homes, and who didn’t have the opportunity or cash to rent or develop facilities in expensive warehouses.”
According to Jeremy, the fight was really about fairness, and giving the “little guy” a level playing field (pun intended).
CannaSol is born
Jeremy named his farm CannaSol, which is a play on the words cannabis and “sol” (sun in Spanish). In short order, he established himself as a premier producer of top-shelf flower, and one of the leading employers in the rapidly expanding cannabis farming community centered in Okanogan County, Washington.
“My goal wasn’t just to produce great quality buds,” Jeremy said. “I wanted to go beyond that and make CannaSol into a brand that would become recognized for its superior quality, great packaging and friendly staff. I also want customers to want to do business with us.”
Jeremy was one of the first sun-growers to be awarded a license, and quickly got to work in the early summer of 2014. His plan was to get as many plants in the ground as possible before the summer solstice. He barely made it. By July, he had a thriving outdoor crop that was triggered into flowering with the help of light deprivation hoop houses. In August, he carried out his first harvest, and had the distinction of being the first sun-grower to get legal marijuana to market in the U.S.
Jeremy’s attention to detail and constant drive to grow better marijuana is immediately evident when viewing the size and density of the flowers on his maturing plants.
Some say the difference between indoor and outdoor cultivation is one of quality versus quantity. Indoor producers like to point out that total control of the environment leads to a higher-quality, more consistent product, albeit one that’s more expensive to produce. They claim the lack of control for outdoor growing results in a less consistent, lower-quality product that is considerably less expensive to produce. Jeremy disagrees.
“When you do it right, sun-grown marijuana costs nearly as much as indoor pot to produce, and we’re certainly on a par with the best indoor guys quality-wise,” he said.
“The big factor is simply how you do it. At CannaSol, we’re fanatical about quality, tight controls and maintaining ultra-high standards.”
In the fall of 2015, CannaSol Farms was a hive of activity as dozens of workers were actively involved in the upcoming harvest. The farm’s employees all seemed to have a look of purpose on their faces, and it became apparent that CannaSol operates on what might fairly be described as a slightly less-than-laid-back environment.
Jeremy is proud of his pioneering farm, and admits to being careful about how things are done.
“In many ways we’re a model for this largely rural county, and the entire marijuana business in general,” he said. “We’re definitely pioneers, and I want the public to see us as an asset that contributes to the economy and the local community.”
In the fall of 2015, Jeremy hosted a table at a charity auction for the Loup Loup Pass Ski Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that owns the local slope. CannaSol Farms also helped raise funds for fire relief after the destructive wildfires that hit central Washington last summer.
“We’re here to stay, and we’re going to contribute like any other business,” Jeremy said. “I think it’s really important that people in this industry are seen as a positive force in the local community.”
Last year, Jeremy grew a variety of strains, including Green Crack, Durban Poison and several dozen others. According to Jeremy, his strain mix is now about 70% sativa.
“Recreational users want sativa, and it lines up better with the business and its current direction, so that’s been our focus lately,” Jeremy said. “Indica is easier to grow and flowers a lot faster, but doesn’t seem to be as popular in the rec market. In the end, we’re here to serve the retailer and consumer, and produce what the market demands.”
CannaSol is bucking the industry trend of cutting prices, and has found a nice niche as a producer of top-shelf sun-grown cannabis. So far it’s working, and Jeremy thinks there will always be room for a premium product at the upper end of the price spectrum.
“We’re not the most expensive brand out there, and we’re certainly not the cheapest either,” he said. “I’d guess we’re in the top 20% cost-wise, and that’s a good place to be in my opinion.”
When asked about his plans for the future, Jeremy thought for a few moments.
“We’re in a great place now, and have all the business we can handle,” he said. “However, anyone who’s been involved in this amazing new industry knows it’s unpredictable, and that things can change rapidly. One thing I’m sure about is that regardless of how the legal cannabis industry shakes out, CannaSol is going to be at the forefront of the industry, and I’m always going to fight for my company and the right to create great sun-grown marijuana.”