By Steve Guntli
When Barry Stieb was a student at Blaine High School in the late ’90s, he couldn’t have guessed that he’d one day make his living growing marijuana.
“I never thought this would happen,” he said. “When I was in high school, I was always writing papers about the benefits of legalizing marijuana and medical marijuana, but I didn’t think it would actually happen for another 50 or 60 years.”
Stieb is now one of the owners of NW Cannabis Nursery, a tier-2 grower/processor business located in Everson. The small company, which opened in August 2014, has products in 17 stores throughout Washington. Stieb is hoping to forge a partnership with Blaine’s recently opened retailer, Evergreen Cannabis.
“I would love to get our stuff up there,” Stieb said. “It’s my hometown; I love it.”
Stieb, his two partners and their one full-time employee cultivate and process everything grown in their 6,000-square-foot operation. Stieb expects NW Cannabis to produce between 200 and 400 pounds per year.
The company’s signature product is Rocketman, a marijuana/hash hybrid commonly known as a “superjoint.” NW Cannabis was the first company in the state to sell superjoints, and have helped shape the policy regulating them. The response from smokers has been positive: the cannabis magazine Northwest Leaf rated Rocketman 18 out of 20 leafs. But Stieb warns it’s not for casual users.
“It’s definitely potent,” Stieb said. “I know a lot of seasoned smokers who can’t finish one in one sitting.”
Stieb believes branding will set NW Cannabis apart from the competition.
“We’re not selling joints, we’re selling ‘Black-Eyed Suzies,’” he said. “We’re not selling superjoints, we’re selling ‘Rocketman.’ Not very many growers are branding like we are, and I think that’s going to set us apart in the long run. People don’t have much experience with selling this kind of product. Think of it this way: at the end of Prohibition, people weren’t just selling ‘beer’ in a plain white can.”
“A lot of the neighbors didn’t want us here,” he said. “We had to jump through a lot of hoops to convince people that we’re not a bunch of crazy drug dealers.”
At a public forum last summer, some people expressed concerns about the smell. Others were worried gun violence would break out at the farm, Stieb said.
“There’s still a lot of reefer madness going on,” he said. “There’s still a concern, but I think it’s getting better.”
Aside from recreational weed, NW Cannabis is planning to enter the cannabidiol (CBD) market. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, which means it won’t get users high like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Researchers have had positive results using CBD as a treatment for social anxiety, cancer and head injuries, according to a 2013 study from the University of Kentucky.
“There are a lot of really exciting things happening with marijuana right now,” Stieb said. “We’re just so thrilled to be right here on the front lines.”