By Garrett Rudolph
In the cannabis industry, business owners grow accustomed to obstacles, delays and miles of red tape. But it’s often the unforeseen difficulties of running a business that cause the most problems.
After months of construction and an extensive search for the genetics that would populate the company’s first crop, Colorado Leaf was finally up and running.
But the momentum wouldn’t last long.
Shortly after turning 400 mother plants into 2,000 clones, owner Keith Sprau and his brother, Brett, walked into the Pueblo-based greenhouse one afternoon to find every plant in the entire facility dead.
“We came in and there was nutrients all over the floor,” Keith said. The entire greenhouse “stunk of organic nutrients.”
Right after the dead plants were discovered, the Spraus say they watched the previous day’s security footage from inside the greenhouse. They say they called the state Marijuana Enforcement Division and local law enforcement immediately.
“We put everything that was recorded from our cameras on flash drives,” Keith said. The evidence was passed along to the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, he said.
The Spraus say head grower Victor Moran no longer works for the company.
Keith filed a complaint with the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, but a spokeswoman with the department said information about the case was not available because it is an ongoing investigation.
Under Colorado law, the clones were not technically deemed plants, because they didn’t have developed roots, meaning the value of damage was considerably lower than if they had been older.
The one positive that came from an otherwise miserable situation was the outpouring of help Colorado Leaf received from the cannabis community.
“When people found out what happened, we got a lot of support from pretty much everyone who was local,” Keith said.
One local retail shop, Strawberry Fields, provided 400 clones to help get the Colorado Leaf team back in business, Keith said.
“You live, you learn, you move on,” he added. “Brett and I are growing 400 plants right now by ourselves. They’re keeping us crazy busy.”
Colorado Leaf expected to receive another 650 plants shortly after speaking with Marijuana Venture. The Spraus have also begun interviews seeking a new head grower. They say their confidence has been shaken by two previous hires that haven’t worked out.
“Trust is the hardest thing right now,” Brett said.
The company is planning to hire two or three more people in the near future.
“It’s comforting that it’s just Brett and I, because I trust him 100% … but 20,000 square feet is too much for two people,” Keith said.
The company was actually lucky the plants died when they did. The damage would have been more significant if more time and money had been invested.
“It’s a matter of six weeks of running cost down the drain, rather than three months of running costs,” Brett said.
While the death of 2,000 clones has been the most dramatic setback Colorado Leaf has had since breaking ground on May 26, 2015, the property has been under nearly non-stop construction for months.
The build-out, thankfully, is nearly complete, Keith said.
“It’s starting to look like a farm again,” he said. “The property is almost completely cleaned off. It’s going to be exciting when you don’t hear any noise or trucks during the day any more, and we don’t have to let anybody in or out.”
Contractors at a marijuana production facility must be escorted around the premises by employees, per MED rules, so with just the two brothers handling the entire operation, it’s tough to get tasks done in the midst of construction.