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Cultivation Tour: Grow West

“As Cannabis enthusiasts, we are always looking to up our tech and advance the craft we pursue."

Photos by Nicholas Farrell

For the Impact Issue, we want to give our readers an inside view of Grow West Cannabis Company’s facility in Cumberland and discuss the impact it has on this small industrial town. Coming from Baltimore to Cumberland is a long but scenic drive I always love to make. Rolling hill after rolling hill covered in freshly blooming trees and flowers make for some eye candy that we don’t get quite as much of in Baltimore. At the time of the tour, they had around 20 strains in rotation including Mad Tiger, Goat Piss, Frosted Oranges (making a comeback after three years), Shrieker, Pie Crust, Moonshine Haze, Mile High Volcano, Durban Cindy 99, Cherry Chocolate Widow, Sweet Cinnamon Octane, Appalachian Haze, Electric Berry Bliss, Afterglow Octane, Cloudberry OG, 3D, Member Berry, Afterburner, Lilac Diesel, Cough OG and Nurse Jackie. If that insanely extensive list of strains doesn’t get you excited to smoke some flower, the methods they are using to grow them certainly will.

One thing Grow West is doing uniquely is their meristem tissue culture lab. Now I understand most of you are thinking, “Meri what?” By definition, this process is isolating, sterilizing and placing tissue culture on media to be grown into a full plant. Why would you want to do that with Cannabis? The goal of this process is to clean the genetics of viruses and diseases and essentially reset the genetic age of plants. As an organism ages, it’s more likely to acquire things along the way, including viruses and diseases. This process seeks to reverse those effects and bring healthy plants without disease into the mix.

Lab Director Tessa Ceppaluni attended Frostburg State University where she earned her degree in ethnobotany, which she describes as “humans working with plants,” along with a bachelor’s in psychology. Tessa brings her smiling face and expertise into the lab to create clean Cannabis for the people of Maryland. 

Another unique aspect of this grow facility is the series of 20 storage container-style rooms, each containing 70 plants and covering about 300 square feet of canopy space. The goal is to maintain a more controlled environment and eliminate microclimates. They have observed higher terpene retention in these rooms, which became extremely apparent as I was slapped in the face with a whiff of terps each time a door opened. Interestingly, some of the same strains grow in a larger setting versus these smaller rooms. As Cannabis enthusiasts, we are always looking to up our tech and advance the craft we pursue, and these rooms are a prime example of that passion driving us further in the right direction.

Grow West’s facility employs close to 200 people from Cumberland and its surrounding areas, providing a more enjoyable and better-paying job than many other options in the area. 

“We are somewhat unique in the Cannabis industry in that we actually built a true company,” said Co-owner and Director of Cultivation Andrew Valois. “We aren’t here to inflate the value in an attempt to sell it to someone else as quickly as possible. The company started with the idea of making a sustainable place for people to come and have careers. We started with a handful of employees in 2018 and we have almost 190 employees now. They are paid well, we give benefits, we contribute to their 401k, and it’s more than just a job. We want people to come here and be able to build a career. Along with that, having a facility like this is very expensive to operate, and a lot of money goes back into the community. Whether it’s our employees supporting local businesses and restaurants for their lunch or we are hiring one of the many local contractors as we so often do.”

Before Grow West joined the Cumberland community, the town faced a hollowed-out job market along with the impacts of opioids entering the area and wreaking havoc. The sense of community is returning, and you can tell Andrew feels like it has been a part of that progress. They take pride in the responsibility of the people who work there and the community they are a part of. Grow West leads with an initiative of support by donating time and money to local charity campaigns, like organizing food drives with the Western Maryland Food Bank during the pandemic and donating to schools to fund supplies and clothing for children with CASA of Allegany County. They also gave employees bonuses to ensure they could buy food for their families during that time. Valois and his team are extremely proud of what they have done and grateful for the opportunity to shed a positive light on companies doing something good in the Cannabis industry. Hopefully, this article inspires the rest of us in the Cannabis industry to do some good and make an impact. Thank you to Grow West for its continued dedication to its employees, patients and AU customers they serve. 

growwestmd.com | @growwestmaryland

About Wyatt Early

Wyatt is a Maryland native, stoner by nature, obsessor of hash rosin. After getting his start in the printing industry with a family company, he took on the role as state director for Maryland Leaf, and frequently contributes to the magazine with photos and articles.

This article was originally published in the June 2024 issue of Maryland Leaf.

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