Northern Emeralds and the Next Era
Several decades ago, Hunter S. Thompson penned the phrase, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” as a highlight of what the uncertain and perilous times ahead would demand of its citizens.
Several weeks ago I scheduled an interview with one of the heads of Northern Emeralds, Cody Stross, to discuss the company’s process in cannabis cultivation via Skype. It was illuminating and refreshing to hear about a business that reflected such a such professionalism with an emphasis on quality and control of the product at large. At Northern Emeralds, I learned, not only is every strain lab tested for consistency and reliability with all ratios of the strain, but, in the event that a distributor is unhappy with their product, they even offer refunds. It’s a measure of accountability that I had yet to hear from any company that’s looking to expand its foothold in California. However, due to a less than desirable internet connection, we were forced to cut our interview short and postpone our next conversation for several weeks.
In those weeks that followed, several rather unbelievable things occurred in our nation and in our state: Donald Trump became our president elect, and Proposition 64 passed in California.
The going got weirder.
The landscape of the United States had an ominous cloud of unknowing cast over its future while state level progress (or regress depending on your position) was reformed and enacted in California and several states across the nation. It was after all of this news had settled on our collective consciousness that I met back up with Stross for a second interview.
I became interested in learning about how, in light of such a dizzying array of recent events, Northern Emeralds’ business model could help pave the way for others to follow. In my time reporting, I have yet to come across a more well oiled machine than Northern Emeralds: the insights they could provide would not just be fascinating, but a helpful standard bearer and atlas stone for the economy of Northern California and its future foothold in the years ahead. Here is what Stross had to say:
Emerald: With the passage of Proposition 64, how do you intend to handle the transition with regards to your preexisting standards?
Cody Stross: We have always wanted to do distribution and cultivation, so Prop 64 opens the door for us to pursue that. When we started this business, exploration was needed from the grower, the dispensary, and the consumer dynamic — we realized that consistency, professionalism, and real honesty and transparency with our quality was something that nobody was getting. The basis for us to create a niche was to [distribute] and have that one-on-one relationship. Essentially, I designed this business to forge those direct lines of communication between the distributor and their clients. We didn’t invent anything as far as the business model is concerned, but we just followed all of the signs that the future was pointing us towards.
Emerald: Which then, naturally, leads back to…
CS: Prop 64, of course. We had to do all of our stuff indoor, because that’s the only way that we could keep our product consistent: any change in the environment will radically change the terpene profile and the ratios between THC’s and CBD’s.
Emerald: Can you provide an example?
CS: The only actual proof that a strain boasts what it claims to is a lab test. You can do some genetic tracing but nothing too thorough. When you get down to it, if you treat one strain a certain way it’s going to come out completely differently while it’s growing. It can have different effects on the patient, and may differ from the requests of the clients and customers. So, with a focus on consistency, which is something, ultimately, Prop 64 will require, we focused only on doing something indoor, which put us in a good place to distribute. Long story short, Prop 64 works out well for us, because we were looking to foster a new sense of reliability and consistency in products for some time before this bill came into play.
Emerald: How do you feel about the initiative?
CS: It’s both a good and a bad thing. It’s great that there’s something in place…
Emerald: What are some of the facets of the bill that you don’t care for?
CS: Many of my friends who are doing outdoor may find themselves… well…
CS: In some ways, yeah. Outdoor is more environmentally friendly, but not with relation to the bill, and I don’t like how that affects our community. With respect for the overall industry, I think it’ll be fine, but the grey area is disappearing, and the grey area has provided our community with a tremendous boon over the years. It’s going to force a lot of people who can’t make it in the legal industry to go black market, which is an unfair pigeon hole to put some people in. I’m afraid for some of the legal tenants and how much power the state wields over the crops.
Emerald: The bill states that, for the next five years, no grower is allowed any larger than an acre of land to grow on. This is done with the intention to allow local farmers to get a foothold in their community, do you feel that this will allow Humboldt to keep its autonomy from big business?
CS: I thought that was generous. Truly. You have to look at it for what it is. If you’re not willing to engage with your environment and the evolving landscape, you’re going to get left behind. Laziness in all things is ultimately the enemy of any prosperous business. The legal mindset is happening, and in our minds it’s an extremely lengthy time for any business to get their act together. We want to be just as much a part of our community’s roots as we are for its future, and we want to work with anybody in our community to help make us stronger. We are now having to enter a time where standards are required. We want us all to succeed, not just our business.
The theme that I noticed throughout this interview, and the focus that I wished to impart unto you, our readers, is quality control. This next era of our lives will require a diligence of both spirit and practice. A diligence of work ethic and the details therein, and a resolve to seek the best versions of ourselves as both a community and a burgeoning super economy for the rest of the nation.
It’s getting weirder out here. It’s up to us all to turn pro.
Written by Sam Greenspan