PORTLAND, Oregon (KOIN) A local cannabis grower works to innovate the industry – both technical and equity – in Portland and beyond.
Jesce Horton is the CEO of cannabis company LOWD and uses his technical background to help innovate the process.
This includes creating a unique ergonomic trim room and using water and energy efficiently.
The term “loud” in cannabis culture refers to high quality weed. Like something noisy, cannabis of this type can be perceived from afar, only by its smell and not by sound waves. That’s certainly the case with LOWD, whose pine weed was practically blowing through the walls outside their northeast Portland facility when KOIN 6 News stopped by Wednesday for a tour.
In addition to growing weed, Horton is a co-founder of a nonprofit that helps people of color thrive in the industry.
Cannabis plants bathe under yellow lights in the LOWD flower room in northeast Portland. June 16, 2021 (KOIN).
The NuLeaf Project works to provide grants and interest-free to interest-free loans and technical assistance to entrepreneurs and workers in the cannabis industry in communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.
“When I got into the industry and saw the opportunity presented to me, I thought I had to do some things. It was so easy to do good in the industry, right, there are so many good things to do that I wouldn’t have to go and put all this effort into doing a lot of good, ”said Horton.
NuLeaf Project, also founded with his wife Jeanett Ward Horton, works with the City of Portland and leverages local cannabis tax revenues and private donors. Portland was the first community in the US to invest its tax revenue from the legalized cannabis industry in the communities hardest hit by cannabis crime, although Horton said governments in other parts of the country that have legalized cannabis industries are starting to assert oneself.
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To date, the program has provided 30 economic justice grants and loans totaling $ 500,000 through the program, according to NuLeaf’s website. Portland fellows included the African-American owned and operated Green Box, the first cannabis delivery company licensed in Oregon; Green Hop, a northeast Portland retailer that gives back through an education program for young African Americans; Natural Wonders, a southeast Portland company that is Oregon’s first and only cannabis pharmacy owned by locals and others.
NuLeaf recently expanded its economic justice work to other communities in Colorado and Texas with similar programs.
“We just donated $ 200,000 through a partnership with Ben’s Best, Ben Cohen’s new cannabis brand, Ben of Ben and Jerry’s in Colorado, where he will give 100% of his company’s profits to corporations, black and brown companies, and the Last Prisoner Project “Said Horton.
A photo of a converted horse stable in Corbett, Oregon that served as the company’s first indoor grow center hangs on the wall of the headquarters of cannabis company LOWD in northeast Portland. June 16, 2021 (KOIN).
Regarding LOWD’s origins, Horton has had a winding road in the industry after originally working in engineering.
LOWD was only launched under this brand name last summer after moving to a facility in northeast Portland in 2018. However, the company itself has been around for about eight years. Horton said he switched to the cannabis industry after working as a sales engineer specializing in the sale of robotics and automation at Germany-based industrial company Siemens.
“When I was in Munich, I probably spent most of the time in Amsterdam. And that’s when I really … first realized my disdain for the everyday corporate type because I was at such a high corporate level but really hated it. But I enjoyed being able to live with cannabis in this freedom, ”said Horton.
His job at Siemens then moved from Germany to Portland. From there he bought his first clone from a local pharmacy.
“I got my first clone, put it in my back yard, and I never looked back. I went to the basement in my back yard, from my basement to my garage. My whole house was pretty much like a greenhouse. And then I just moved out and just kept going. “
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Black Cherry Cheesecake was the first variety Horton bred from his cellar.
He then moved the company to Corbett, Oregon. He spent time and effort converting a horse stable into an indoor growing facility and had a few greenhouses on 40 acres of land. The industry was transitioning from purely medical to broader legalization at the time, Horton said.
What he didn’t know at the time was that the building was in a Columbia River Gorge Commission National Scenic Area, even though it was in Multnomah County. They told him that because of the zoning conflict, he was unable to conduct medicinal or recreational cultivation activities on the site.
A close up of LOWD’s Kushed Cake variety. June 2020 (courtesy of LOWD).
“We were actually on April 20th. Kicked out in 2017, believe it or not. We had no location. We pretty much lost everything. But we still had our genetics, ”said Horton. “We were lucky enough to find this plant, we brought all of our plants here.”
It’s been a tough six months finding work, paying rent and bills, much less looking for a new facility after the Corbett facility closed. Horton had to scrape together all the resources he personally had, as well as friends and family, to raise enough capital to start the business again.
“We were lucky at the end of 2017, moved in 2018 and spent a few years building the facility from scratch. Start with four lights, eight lights, and 16 lights and go into some kind of bootstrapping, ”Horton said.
Fast forward to today and Horton’s commitment has paid off. For example, his Platinum Garlic Cookie variety was the top-selling flower in the state of Oregon from February to May this year, he said.
The focus on cultivating quality strains brought Horton early success after winning first place in the Best Hybrid Flower Medical category in the 2016 Dope Cup Oregon competition. The winning variety was Fire OG by Saints Cannabis, which was the name of Horton’s company.
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Horton’s engineering skills also play a role in the operation of the facility to innovate and maximize the efficiency of the process. For example, the company created an ergonomically designed trim room to maximize worker comfort and productivity, which Horton believes is a world first.
Additionally, the entire 8,000-square-foot facility is focused on reducing energy consumption, Horton said. For example, most dehumidifiers and air conditioners in the facility are directed to a location where the condensed water can then be cleaned and reused to hydrate the plants. According to Horton, 50% of the facility’s total water consumption now comes from the air, using the condensate reuse method.
Jesce Horton, CEO of cannabis company LOWD, guides us through his healing room, where cannabis is matured in jars on wine rack-style shelves. June 16, 2021 (KOIN).
He also replaced the metal channels in the flower room with fabric channels. With airflow holes evenly distributed in the fabric hose, which circulate the air better than conventional channels and thus prevent hotspots. You usually see large numbers of electric fans in flower rooms re-distributing the air to normalize the temperature in the room, Horton said, but not on LOWD.
The fabric ducts also have the advantage that they can be removed between growing cycles and cleaned in a washing machine, which prevents unwanted air from building up on the plants.
Horton is also the co-founder of a national nonprofit focused on equity in the cannabis space, the Minority Cannabis Business Association. Although he and his wife, Jeanett, have since stepped down from the helm of MCBA, he said the organization is still growing with the help of some prominent names in the industry.
Now, with the NuLeaf Project, the couple continues their mission to serve a higher purpose with their work in the cannabis field and directly address the disproportionate effects of the war on drugs on communities of color.
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“Ever since I got into the industry, I’ve wanted to make more sense of what I was doing. And because my father spent some time in jail for cannabis, I was arrested a couple of times and had to deal with really difficult effects. ”
The flower room in the LOWD facility contains tissue ducts to improve airflow and temperature control. June 16, 2021 (KOIN).
NuLeaf’s equity work doesn’t stop at the Portland city boundaries, either. They were an organization that was part of a large working group of more than 80 others involved in drafting a statewide bill related to cannabis capital, HB 3112. The bill would have an Equity Investment and Accountability Board and an Equity Investment and Accountability Office within the governor’s office, responsible for the equality of the cannabis industry across the state. Horton was discouraged to hear that the bill appeared to have lost momentum towards the end of the legislature, with his last recorded activity being a referral to the House Ways and Means Committee in late May.
The name LOWD is a play on words, Horton said. It is both a reference to the slang term for quality weed called “loud”, but it is also an acronym for “Love Our Weed Daily” or “Love Oregon Weed Daily”.
Ultimately, Horton said that he believes his company’s legacy is based not just on the quality of the product, but on the people in the cannabis industry having each other’s backs.
“We have great strains and we are great and we have great marketing. But our success, I really believe, and everyone here believes it’s up to us to be a beacon of true cannabis culture from a diverse perspective and to represent the Pacific Northwest and cannabis culture to the fullest. ”