Legal Outlaws

By embracing both indoor and outdoor production techniques, Scott Edson gains a unique perspective on their pros and cons

Scott and Naomi Edson pose for a photo in Outlaw Cannabis’s indoor grow facility, located in the tiny town or Monitor, Washington. Photo by Gary Delp.

Scott Edson likes the outlaw image and he’s unafraid to state the obvious;

“In a way, we’re all outlaws in the marijuana business,” he says with a wry smile.

Edson learned his skills in the medical marijuana industry, having grown cannabis since the mid-1990s. His early forays into marijuana cultivation taught him that a successful business is based on a number of factors, including tight control over quality, good employees and a loyal reseller base.

To Edson, taking that same focus to the legal, recreational business was a no-brainer and when the opportunity came to expand from the quasi-legal medical market to the state-licensed recreational market, he went all-in and founded Outlaw Cannabis Company.

Location

The first order of business for most marijuana cultivators is securing a good location. For Edson, it was no different. After nosing around central Washington, he found an old fruit warehouse in the sleepy town of Monitor.

Located just off Highway 97 and next to the Wenatchee River, Monitor can be described as a “blink town.” – if you blink as you drive by – you’re bound to miss it. With a population barely over 300, Edson liked the laid-back style of the local residents and their open attitude toward new businesses. Its location next to the highway was another big plus, making it a relatively short drive to the larger markets in Seattle, Wenatchee and Yakima.

Once his location was secured, Edson negotiated the often arduous licensing process.

“Yes, it was a hassle,” the entrepreneur says. “But in the end, and with the assistance of an attorney, the system worked and we managed to get through it relatively unscathed.”

The Outlaw Cannabis growing team of Bob Dixon, Paul Bibbee and Scott Edson have discovered that their outdoor plants typically have higher THC levels than their indoor plants. Photo by Gary Delp.

Indoor/Outdoor

Outlaw Cannabis Company operates differently than most commercial marijuana companies in that the business is equally divided between indoor and outdoor cannabis production.

Unlike most growers who stake their claim with one style, Edson is convinced that doing both has big advantages.

“We can have the best of both worlds doing indoor and outdoor,” he says. “We’re producing for two different markets and at two different price points. Our indoor production is created as a top-shelf product, and our outdoor is marketed at a lower price point and targeted toward the budget-conscious consumer.”

As any farmer knows, weather can wreak havoc on the best-laid plans and cannabis is not immune to Mother Nature.

In Edson’s words, the price of marijuana is controlled by two things, weather and the police; “Without the police as a factor, weather becomes a big concern,” he says.

Washington’s fall weather in 2016 was far cooler and cloudier than the previous two years, driving down the state’s total production of outdoor cannabis.

Naomi Edson trims an Outlaw-grown flower. Photo by Gary Delp.

But for Outlaw Cannabis, with its 50/50 mix of indoor and outdoor, the bad weather barely impacted its yield. Edson sold both his indoor and early-flowering outdoor crop for strong prices.

In Edson’s opinion, even with higher production costs, flower produced indoors results in a higher return on investment than sun-grown cannabis.

“It might cost more to produce, but there is a consistency and predictability to indoor that you can take to the bank,” Edson says.

Anyone who has toured modern grow facilities knows that one thing they all have in common is that they have very little in common. Outlaw Cannabis Company, as an outlier with both indoor and outdoor crops, is also a great study in cultivation styles.

The indoor facility has plants arranged in neat rows that appear as solid hedges. Rather than spacing a smaller number of large plants, the grow technique focuses on creating the maximum yield from each square foot. The result is a lot of small- to medium-sized plants packed closely together that effectively grow into one solid wall of bud. It’s a very impressive sight, and at first glance, resembles a well-manicured laurel hedge that might be found in the back garden of an expensive suburban home. With a mass of healthy colas exploding from the top of the hedge, the technique likely achieves the goal of maximum production per square foot, something Edson has spent many years perfecting.

Scott Edson displays some of the company’s top-shelf flower. Photo by Gary Delp.

 

Potency

Running a facility that produces both indoor and outdoor cannabis has enabled Edson to make observations that might otherwise be hard for a traditional, one-style grower. For example, according to Edson, outdoor bud produced under natural sunlight will usually produce flower with higher THC levels than indoor.

“We grew Snow Dizzle outdoors under natural sunlight and indoor under HPS this past year, and the outdoor had 25% THC on average, while the indoor was usually around 20%,” Edson says. “Furthermore, our sun-grown Black Jack tested at 35%, which turned out to be our highest strength flower this year.”

To Edson, most of the wholesale/retail pricing difference between indoor and outdoor flower comes down to appearance.

“Obviously indoor has a more uniform look and is grown in a manner that tends to produce predictable results,” he says. “Outdoor is less easy to control and subject to events like bad weather. However, based on our results, I’d have to say that on average, if you have two of the same strain, and grow one under artificial light and the other under the sun, the one grown under natural sunlight will end up with higher THC levels.”

An aerial photo of the Outlaw Cannabis farm outlines the company property and reveals its rooftop grow.

Retail sales

For the time being, Outlaw Cannabis Company plans to stick with a highly focused sales strategy that centers on doing more business with fewer retail partners.

“We’d rather do a lot of business with a few good select partners than try to spread out all over and dilute our product line,” Edson says.

In 2016, Outlaw Cannabis grew many tried-and-proven strains, including Orange Kush, Blue Dream, Dutch Treat, Banana Kush, Tangerine, Girl Scout Cookies, Sour Diesel, Blood Diamond, Black Jack, Juicy Fruit and dozens of others.

With about a dozen loyal retailers, Outlaw Cannabis Company has managed to create a model that works for both sides of the retail equation; Edson has a reliable and manageable number of retail partners who get a predictable supplier who values their business and performs accordingly.

Future plans

For now, Outlaw Cannabis Company has a business model that is working well. Keeping the operation manageable and focusing on producing both indoor and outdoor flower in one central location has been a formula for success.

With a small and dedicated staff, reliable retail partners and cultivation methods that emphasize productivity and economy, Scott Edson has managed to create and expand a profitable business. His future plans call for more of the same, and while he anticipates growth, it will only occur when the time is right and at his pace.

“Growth without a good plan can be a fatal mistake,” Edson says, “and we’re not about to screw up this well-oiled machine.”

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