By Gregory Daurer | Jul 25, 2019
The Malones took a roundabout route into the cannabis industry. "My husband and I were product managers in other industries," says Alana, the company's CEO. "We were also growing [cannabis plants] as caregivers, at home, for patients that would choose us as their caregivers. And we just weren't seeing any quality products available on the legal, business side of the cannabis industry. . . . In the legal stores we were visiting, there was so much missing from a product quality and education perspective. So we knew that we needed to be cultivating cannabis for a legal cannabis industry."
Immediately, they sought to distinguish themselves in the field of hydrocarbon extraction. "We really pushed the envelope from the very beginning," says Alana. "Back in 2012, there wasn't any framework on how to design a facility to basically use hydrocarbons to extract cannabis. So we had to work with engineers, industrial hygienists, the Planning and Development [Services] department of the City of Boulder, and the State of Colorado to basically figure out how to safely extract cannabis using hydrocarbon gases, and in compliance with International Fire Code. And that just hadn't been done before."Alana says the state was "so pleased" with the engineering and planning work that it "adopted that standard as the framework for current legislation and regulation."
After those safety parameters were codified, Green Dot Labs began commercially making extracts in 2014. At their 3,000-square-foot Boulder facility, they take THC-rich cannabis plants cultivated at their medical and recreational grows, flash freeze them, and then create their "Full Spectrum Extract" from the plants using closed loop, stainless steel, hydrocarbon extraction machines. (For those who prefer them, they also make solventless extracts.)
Although not mandated for recreational cannabis businesses yet, Alana says Green Dot Labs is well aware of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards, and has been instituting practices to meet that level of safety, should it eventually be required either by the state or federally. "Every facility that we're designing is in line with that level of standards," she says. Raw cannabis is also tested for purity before it enters the extraction facility, and then the resulting extracts are tested for residual solvents, pesticides, and to establish potency.
In addition to concentrates like "live rosin" and "live badder," the company's vape cartridges, filled with Green Dot Labs' extracts, can be found at dispensaries throughout the state. The cartridges don't contain any additional additives -- whether cutting agents (like propylene glycol or medium-chain triglycerides) or supplemental terpenes -- like many other brands on the market incorporate in some fashion. Alana says, "We waited a long time before we were able to perfect the technique, and find the right hardware that would allow us to put our raw, essential oil in a cartridge."
On the Green Dot Labs website, the Malones call their concentrates "the purest expression of cannabis, a true reflection of the plant's vivid flavor profiles and incredible wellness benefits." Over the course of more than a year that they've been manufacturing their vape cartridges, they haven't seen anyone else filling vape cartridges with an additive-free, fragrant, and potent oil quite like theirs. "It's incredibly unique," says Alana. "It is still the only one of its kind."
Speaking to its trailblazing nature, Green Dot was a finalist at the 2019 Colorado Manufacturing Awards, co-sponsored by CompanyWeek, in the event's very first cannabis category.
The business is growing to meet a burgeoning marketplace. "We are generally growing 100 percent year over year -- and that's been consistent since our founding since 2014," says Alana. In 2017, products from Green Dot Labs were in around 100 stores; they're now in 300.
The Malones are also pioneers in terms of cannabis breeding, with Dave at the helm of that aspect of the operation. Alana says Green Dot Labs has bred "hundreds" of "unique proprietary strains" throughout the years, and the company's website currently showcases over 130 within its Exclusive Genetic Library. "We have more variety available from our own in-house gardens than you would find from any brand, anywhere," says Alana.
What's Alana's favorite extract, presently? It's from a strain called Sex on the Beach, described thusly on Green Dot's website: "Its aphrodisiac effects and flavor profile with vivid notes of strawberry, candied pineapple, and coconut bring to mind a Piña Colada sipped on a beachside getaway with someone special." Alana says, "It is unbelievably delicious and unique. It's wild!" Two other recently released, branded varietals have tie-ins with the musical acts the Disco Biscuits and Sound Tribe Sector 9 -- a way of marketing to a "common consumer base," says Alana.
Before turning them into potent extracts, Green Dot starts off with potent flowers. Alana compares Green Dot's cannabis plants to triathletes -- successful as a result of a combination of genetics and training. She says, "We're bringing in elite genetics, intentionally created, and then cultivating them in a pristine environment that challenges them and triggers them into tip-top shape for resin production and general health and vitality."
Challenges: "Banking and taxes," says Alana. "There's really no shortage of challenges, but those two seem to cause a lot of the other challenges, as well; challenges that small and growing companies face without A, access to great banking services, and B, with extraordinary tax rates."
Opportunities: Expanding within Colorado. Says Alana: "I think there's an opportunity to continue to educate consumers about premium cannabis products and the virtues the virtues of cannabis extracts, now available through dabbing and vaporizers."
Needs: Being able to directly interface with potential customers in an appropriate venue. "I think the biggest need for a lot of businesses long-term is the options for social consumption, so that we can engage with our consumer market," explains Alana.