Pictured above: Jesce Horton. Photo credit: Cendinoteme.
There are around 40 million cannabis consumers in the U.S. Yet, in regions like New York, people of color make up about 94% of cannabis arrests, according to NORML. The future of cannabis is slowly transforming from a negative connotation into an urban craft with social equity, thanks to entrepreneurs and advocates like Jesce Horton.
Horton, co-founder of the Portland-based cannabis production company, LOWD, is passionate about cannabis cultivation, and mixing his craft with nature.
Horton was first introduced to cannabis through friends around age 15. He continued to consume through high school. His father, who was sentenced to seven years in prison for cannabis as an adolescent, did everything he could to keep his son from weed.
But after graduation, Horton, then 18 years old, was driving to his first semester in college at FSU when he was pulled over and arrested for cannabis possession himself. This began his run-ins with law enforcement for simple possession. Four arrests later, Horton found himself in depression due to the negative implications of cannabis charges.
Now, Horton has grown his cannabis company — LOWD — from an idea in his basement into an award-winning cannabis production company.
LOWD, which stands for “love our weed daily,” aims to impress even the most discerning of consumers. While the company’s goal is to perfect the cultivation process, Horton was also inspired to launch LOWD after his two elderly friends who suffered from insomnia, pain and cancer found relief from his medical cannabis.
Consequently, Horton realized that helping those in need is what gave him the motivation to become an entrepreneur. As part of this mission, he also launched the Nu-Leaf Project and co-founded the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) — both non-profit organizations that support Black and Brown entrepreneurs and employees.
“More Than Just a Plant”
Horton believes there are other alternatives that cannabis can do in our communities.
“Cannabis is more than a plant,” Horton emphasizes. While one can use it as a medicine, cannabis itself can also be helpful within our own communities.
“I think cannabis could help in our workplace and in our individual relationships in so many different ways,” he tells Emerald. Understanding why cannabis can be beneficial is important for numerous reasons.
“Cannabis brings people together,” he adds. “Because cannabis doesn’t have this horrible effect on your body, […] in so many ways cannabis can help you and be a tool in your toolbelt to become a better person.”
Horton expresses his passion by co-founding the Minority Cannabis Association (MCBA) and is the co-founder with his wife, Jeanette, of the Nu-Leaf Project.
The MCBA is the first organization focused on social equity, or creating equal access, and economic empowerment for cannabis businesses, patients and communities most affected by the War on Drugs — specifically Black and Brown communities.
Because the War on Drugs affected him, Horton took the opportunity to co-found the Nu-Leaf Project. Th project also focuses on supporting people of color in the legal cannabis industry. Specifically, the project provides financial assistance like grants and loans, and educational, job matching, and entrepreneurial services to career hopefuls.
Horton has partnered the Nu-Leaf Project with Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for the new venture Ben’s Best. Ben’s Best aims its funding to Black and Brown-owned cannabis companies in an effort to build inter-generational wealth for communities who have been affected by past unfair laws and practices.
LOWD’s Cultivation Process
Growing cannabis is a process that takes time to perfect. There is the need for tools such as electrical, dehumidification, plumbing and much more.
LOWD’s primary focus is reducing those variables at each phase. They do this by first paying attention to each strain’s specific genetic makeup. Each plant is different genetically and physically. That means that each plant needs something different in order to reach its full potential. This can result in the plant needing more or less of a certain amount of humidity, light levels even different nutrient levels.
LOWD takes these different genetics and reduces down the variables in order to get each strain to its peak performance. Understanding these factors demonstrates the quality and precision that LOWD goes through to be able to present to consumers. Which is why they have come up with smoke like a grower (SLAG).
“I think there are very good guidelines, but simplifying [the process] ultimately [gives] a plant what it needs without increasing the cost, without increasing the risk and the ability to screw up,” says Horton, an engineer turned horticulturist.
Aside from the cultivation process, there is the methodology that LOWD uses in order to conserve, reduce and recycle, while ensuring the quality of their cannabis is superior.
In order for cannabis to be at its highest quality, LOWD uses a process called CANNefficency. This process focuses on creating a more efficient cultivation and harvesting process. It also assists in energy conservation, water efficiency and product waste reduction.
For example, to reduce water usage, LOWD collects and reuses water condensation by putting it back into their system. They also reduce water waste by only giving them the exact amount that they need.
They also work with the Energy Trust of Oregon Inc. who essentially designs their equipment, including lighting, and implements some of the most energy efficient equipment on the market for growers.
Post from @thelowd on Instagram.
Waste reduction has a lot to do with recycling glass and limiting the amount of plastic that is used. LOWD is implementing many programs in hopes to announce later this year how they plan to further reduce waste.
“What makes us different is definitely our process,” says Horton. This not only applies to their plants, but their employee base too. “For example, I think we have the world’s first ergonomic-designed trim room. It’s really focused strongly on engineering […] to help make the operator more comfortable; therefore the quality is better [because we are] reducing the amount of time [and] all these different things is where ergonomics really comes into play,” Horton explains.
Future Facility in Portland
Horton is currently working on a facility in Portland, Oregon. The team is retrofitting what used to be an auto wrecking facility and turning it into an integrated cannabis facility.
Post from @thelowd on Instagram.
In this new facility they will have retail, production and processing along with on sight consumption on the property. Horton plans to have the retail and production operational by 2022.
As for the rest of the campus model, LOWD hopes to unveil it in 2030. Horton’s future projects give him hope as he said, “it’s my dream project.”