By Gregory Daurer | Aug 24, 2020
Grants Pass, Oregon
Cannabis flower and oil; THC-infused tinctures and softgels; and CBD products
At his farm in Williams, Oregon, Grey cultivates cannabis and hemp outdoors -- without using greenhouses. In summer 2020, around 5,000 plants are maturing, spread out over two acres, on two licensed OLCC plots. Ask Grey why he chooses to grow under sunlight -- directly in soil -- and he responds, "For almost three decades now, I've been dedicated to an organic lifestyle."
It's his hypothesis that plants grown outdoors within soil will ultimately be shown to be healthier for people. Also, Grey points out the heavy carbon footprint associated with indoor growing.
But there's an additional reason for Grey's choice: an ideal growing climate. Grey says, "Southern Oregon and Northern California, in particular, are some of the world's best cannabis cultivation regions." The same geographical terrain that's great for grapes -- boasting a Mediterranean-like climate -- also benefits cannabis. And among cannabis enthusiasts, rural Josephine County in Oregon (which includes part of the Siskiyou Mountains) is highly regarded just like Humboldt County in California.
Last year, Grey grew a USDA-certified hemp crop -- enough plant material to probably last through 2021. So this season, he has about a dozen cannabis varieties growing across the land: some contain high-THC, some high-CBD, and some closer to a 1:1 ratio of the two cannabinoids. Part of the harvest will be sold as flower to dispensaries; Grey is especially fond of the indica-dominant strain, Platinum Yeti. But, mostly, cannabis oil will be extracted from the crop, using organic cane alcohol.
Some of that oil will be placed directly within syringe-like applicators and marketed as Full Extract Cannabis Oil (a type of product some people call RSO); Grey says the potent extract is often used by people who require heavier doses of cannabis medication, since it can be easily added to food, skin creams, even suppositories. The same oil will also go into an MCT-based carrier medium, forming a tincture; "Research has shown that ingesting cannabis oil with other fats, like MCT oil, actually aids in absorption," says Grey. There are soft gels available, too. Similarly, CBD oil extracted from hemp will be added to tinctures (one for people, another for pets), capsules, and a skin balm in the Siskiyou Sungrown CBD line.
Grey explains why he's chosen organic cane alcohol, instead of carbon dioxide or hydrocarbons, for his company's extractions: "Alcohol goes a step further and also extracts the water-soluble components of the plants, some of which are extremely valuable -- in particular, the flavonoids and the polyphenols." He adds, "Flavonoids: a lot of people are familiar with them, because they're what make blueberries and green tea and chocolate and red wine healthy. And cannabis has at least two dozen flavonoids, including some which have never been discovered in any other plant."
Grey founded Siskiyou Sungrown in 2014 with his wife Madrone. For the first two years, they grew the plants, extracted the oil, made the products, and supplied medical dispensaries, themselves. Grey says his engineering degree, with its emphasis on math and science, has aided the endeavor: "At its roots, engineering is about problem-solving and about design."
When their business switched to servicing the recreational market in 2016, the Greys hired seasoned cannabis professional Michael Johnson as COO. Today, the company counts 20 employees and now works with a third-party extractor and product manufacturer on both the cannabis and hemp side; the hemp-product manufacturer is GMP- and organic-certified.
The Siskiyou Sungrown brand can be found in 300 cannabis dispensaries in Oregon. And its hemp CBD products are carried by 200 retailers across the nation, including GNC. The company also sells hemp products directly from its headquarters, located in Grants Pass.
On the farm, the team mixes its own powdered nutrients, which are administered to the plants via a drip watering system, as well as directly to the soil. They also encourage the proliferation of beneficial insects to control pests.
The farm has hosted an informational visit by Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer. And Grey serves on Governor Kate Brown's Oregon Cannabis Commission. "I have a strong rebellious and idealistic sense," says Grey, who first cultivated cannabis back in the '80s, and uses it medicinally for PTSD. "I have a strong desire to see changes in the world. The only way I can be happy is to act on those desires and work for positive change."
Grey calls cannabis an "amazing [medicinal] plant -- one that we're going to be learning about for decades and centuries to come." And he counts his lucky stars -- including our planet's own life-giving sun -- for his career: "To have this opportunity to be involved as a pioneer, from the beginning of the legal [cannabis] industry, it's really a dream come true."
Challenges: Grey says it's federal prohibition: "Oregon is a producer state. We've got world-class growing conditions -- and a lot of great growers here -- but we have a very finite market. The population of Oregon is under 4 million. That's a real distortion of the free market -- in a free market system, without federal prohibition, Oregon would be a worldwide exporter."
Opportunities: The end of federal prohibition will be a "game changer," allowing Oregon to share its "expertise and high-quality products with the entire nation."
Needs: "Our biggest need is capital for growth," Grey. "We've got all the pieces in place, we've got a great growth plan." He adds, "We're waiting to meet the right investor, or investor group, in order to make the growth plan a reality."