Way, way back, when the GT blog was still a twinkle in this lunatic's independently-roving eyeballs, the head grower, Joey Lewis, and compliance officer, Mike, for DC medical marijuana cultivators Alternative Solutions enthusiastically agreed to sit down with me for an interview.
For as much flack as I've given the medical marijuana community here in the District, all of which has been deserved, at least in my own opinion, and I'm the one writing (ha!), let's clear one thing up- everybody, and I do mean, everybody, including Metropolitan Wellness Center, has been super-duper-nice to me. They don't all want to work with me (ha!) but that's their prerogative, of course. In fact, some folks that met me earlier might think the good Gentleman downright duplicitous! To that, I have a response.
Events transpired that made it clear to me that, unchallenged, we would not get to the prices and quality that make medical marijuana much more accepted out West than it is here, the mad capital of Power. A Scourge was required. So I rolled up my sleeves, unsheathed my adamantium claws, and became the Gentleman the city needs, the one I need, not the one anyone wants. Or likes. Ha!
Wow, so thank you guys for sitting down with me! First off, can I have some free weed?
Oh. Ok. Well, how about money for advertising?
M: We'll think about it.
Jenga! Alright, can I come and check out the facility?
M: There are rules and regulations, blah blah blah.
Fine, then. Let's do this interview thing. Rank the following cities for quality of weed: Denver, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles.
J: Well, there's good weed everywhere, but if I had to- LA, Seattle, Portland, Denver.
Cool. Yeah, the consensus is always Cali. So where are you from?
J: Vegas. I worked with the medical program there, which was very laid back. The dispensaries would get their product delivered to the back door, sorta thing. One day, out of the blue, this amazing opportunity for me to grow for Alternative Solutions in DC came up and I had to take it.
No doubt. You guys really saved the day when your first crop of Pineapple Skunk came out. But I've seen a new strain out from you called Midnight Skunk. What's the deal with that?
J: Midnight Skunk is just a particular phenotype of Pineapple Skunk we liked. I'm a pheno-hunter.
M: You know what a phenotype is?
M: So, when you grow from seed for a project like this, what you do is grow a lot of plants of whatever specific genetics-
J: Quality genetics are key.
M: Right, so you grow a bunch of the same seeds, then find the best one. That'll be your mother, and you clone from that, instead of growing from seed each time, so the final product is consistent. We grow the best and dispose of the rest.
How do you determine which is the best?
J: You're looking at a number of factors. Plant health, overall yield, speedy growth, nug size, it's nutrient uptake. And THC content, of course.
M: We test for cannabinoids with a thin-layer chromatograph. Do you know what that is?
I understood thin, layer, and graph.
M: Sigh. Basically, we spray each phenotype with a dye separately. Different colors appear that signify the presence of cannabinoids, of which THC is the most prominent. Test plates. Micro Liters. Stencil. (I don't really remember how these words are connected, but they appeared in my notes).
J: And then it's based on sales. If the patients like it, like our Goji OG, we grow more. We actually solicited the opinions of patients by offering Midnight Skunk for a huge discount on 4/20 this year, and what we heard back was really positive. So now we're growing both.
I definitely notice the difference between the two- Midnight is much lighter its mental effects, more focused. Pineapple is heavier, euphoric, and tastes like a summer day, yacht-side. I like both.
J: That's awesome, thanks.
What about CBD? I haven't seen any high-CBD strains from you guys yet, do you have any in the plans?
J: Yes, we do (Royal Medic is out now, folks).
THC 16.0% CBD 15.7%
What about edibles? Any plans to get a DoH-approved kitchen so you can make edible cannabis medicine for patients?
M: It's daunting, but we're definitely looking into it.
I've had your Purple Trainwreck and, though it's billed as a sativa, it puts me right to sleep. What's the deal with that?
J: Everyone reacts to the terpenes in their own way, based on a number of factors, your individual neurotransmitters, and so on. Cannabis is a remarkably unique plant and I'm excited to see what future clinical trials will find.
Agreed! So you guys are allowed to grow 1,000 cannabis plants at your facility. How much attention does any individual plant get on any given day?
J: Roughly, I'd say ten minutes with each.
What's the rarest strain you've ever grown?
J: Rarest? Umm, I guess Durban Poison is kind of rare. It's a pure land-race sativa from Africa. But it grew really weird, more bush than tree, and I didn't keep that pheno.
I've heard that the head grower is the guy who gets called at 4am when the sprinklers won't turn off, sorta deal. Any horror stories to share?
J: No, not really. I mean, one time I feel asleep with the reverse osmosis on my private grow, and it filled and flooded a 50 gallon reservoir. When I woke up there was two feet of water all over the floor and a maintenance guy banging on my door (laughs). I was running around with towels like crazy. Told him the washing machine did it.
Hahaha, awesome. What do you see for the future of the cannabis industry, specifically in DC?
M: It's definitely a bright future on the horizon. I'd say we'll have it taxed and regulated for recreational sales in 12 months, give or take. It'll bring in a lot of money for the city, which can go to public education and other programs where it's desperately needed. The people of DC want legal marijuana, that's what they voted for. Not the "gray market," Dealer Protection Act we have now. Congress screwed things up for DC, but we'll get it right sooner than later.
Thus concludes the initial interview, but I did specifically ask them for comment based on Takoma Wellness' recent comments that they were charging a whopping $4500/lb for their product! Here's their official answer to that from Matt:
AS: We are doing what we can to improve quality, variety, and affordability every day. As far as pricing goes, I'm sure you have figured out from your pricing index that our average pricing is well below that quoted.
Ha, quoting my own price index at me. Very clever of you, sir, and true.
AS: We provide a variety of strains & products at a range of different price points to attend to the needs of as many of DC's patients as possible. That is why dispensaries are able to offer different Alternative Solutions' strains each month at reduced prices.
Indeed, I've noted these discounted Alternative Solutions' strains previously. Right now, it's Cheese and Medijuana at my dispensary, Herbal Alternatives.
AS: We will continue to be creative in variety and range of products (as you know everything takes time in DC!) and pricing that suits the needs of all patients in the program. We look forward to your reviews of the new strains and welcome your input to make the program better!
That's crazy. Nobody wants my input. I had to build GentlemanToker.com to get loud enough that people would listen! But I believe you want input from less rabid weirdos.
In fact, they did! They gave me some of the new bud rosin to try, and you can read that review here.
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