In some ways, Blue Roots Cannabis acts like a small-scale grower but in a big space.
The Airway Heights-based producer known for high-quality flower, extracts, and tasty edibles has never been interested in filling cavernous rooms with giant plants, a common high-yield business model in this competitive industry.
“We prefer several small rooms with small batches of plants,” said Jerome Conlon, a new member of the Blue Roots team who focuses on branding for the Tier 3 indoor grower. “This provides us with better control, and the ability to sequester easily if we ever need to.”
Conlon said thinking smaller, almost like a craft producer, also has allowed the company to experiment with different boutique strains to find what will best appeal to customers.
“We’ll gladly sacrifice weight/quantity for a great terpene and cannabinoid profile,” he said. (These refer to the naturally-occurring compounds in cannabis that contribute to each strain’s unique aroma, flavor and effects. Terpenes are found in all plants, from flowers to bananas to oranges.)
That drive to find the best quality and flavor also pays off in the kitchen, where Chef Stephanie Lamb is always experimenting with new ways to infuse cannabis into food products. Her results can be enjoyed by fans of fine food, as well as people who may not want to or can’t smoke cannabis due to health conditions.
The Blue Roots kitchen produces six types of Cake Bites, small-sized infused sweet treats that deliver a quality taste with a nice cannabis kick. It also creates five flavors of tinctures, where you put a couple of liquid drops on your tongue to get quick effects.
This summer, Blue Roots released Cannachips, which are available in four flavors: Bar-B Que, Sour Cream & Onion, Nacho Cheese and Ranch flavors. Each serving delivers 10 mg of THC, and they’re designed to be a snack rather than a full meal.
Lamb said the chips can be fun alternatives to all the chocolates and other sugary edibles out there.
“I’m not a huge sweet food person myself, and other people have also told me they wouldn’t mind something more savory on the market,” she said.
All the edibles are assembled by hand, which is part of the Blue Roots philosophy of using as little automation as possible. This approach allows the staff to focus on quality and consistency, from hand-rolling pre-roll joints to filling each candy mold one at a time.
“This way there’s eyes on everything we do,” Conlon said. “Each plant is inspected daily, and we even hand-water. This is important since some of these plants can change their sex overnight.”
Blue Roots opened its doors in 2014. Co-owner Eben von Ranson designed the two-story building that includes multi-spectrum light fixtures, which simulate different types of sunlight throughout the day and different times of the year. This produces more consistent, healthy plants with a higher percentage of THC, the molecular compound in cannabis that provides the mental and physical “high.”
“We strive to create conditions that rival nature’s best days,” he said.
He and the staff always look for exceptional strains, especially something that produces a nice body high.
“We try to stay away from the strains that everyone is using around here,” von Ranson said.
One of the constants, however, is its signature strain Supermax OG.
“This is a very potent indica strain, maybe 22-29 percent THC,” he said. “It helps slow down the rat wheel.”
Besides flower and edible products, Blue Roots creates concentrates like shatter and two types of distillate cartridges using its own cannabis-derived native terpenes or natural terpenes extracted from fruit.
Blue Roots products are available in 70 stores statewide, and the staff continues to build relationships with customers and retailers.
She enjoys experimenting with different scents and tastes so people can better enjoy their edible experience. She’s tried mint, citrus, chocolate, and even the four tangy flavors found in the new Cannachips.
“The R&D part is my favorite,” said Lamb. “I may try things one way and then have an ‘ah ha!’ moment and figure out how to do it better.”
Getting the proper amount of THC and CBD is also a challenge – you want people to enjoy what they’re eating but not become too couch-locked to appreciate the more intricate flavor combinations.
Lamb encourages the State of Washington to improve regulations around edibles. Since edibles only represent about 10 percent of industry sales, more emphasis is placed on plant/growing rules.
She would like to see edible processors be able to create larger servings and higher THC or CBD items.
Longtime users with higher tolerances or medical patients may need higher amounts of cannabis, and shouldn’t have to regularly purchase and eat several small portions in one setting to find relief.
“When I started, 10 mg worked fine for me,” she said. “But some people really need a lot more to start feeling the effects.”
Another limitation is that all edible products intended for retail stores must be shelf-stable, since they potentially could sit in a shop’s backroom or shelves for weeks, which rules out anything perishable.
“I’d love to offer infused ice cream someday,” Lamb said.
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