ILWACO — It was once an abandoned lot that featured two broken down buildings that reeked of urine. Today there’s two newly refurbished buildings and an entirely different aroma wafting from the quiet corner lot on the outskirts of Ilwaco.
“I call this one new shoes,” said co-owner Gary Green, 33, as he gently grazed his finger across a bud of marijuana and brought it up to his nose. It was one of dozens of strains — and new exotic smells — emanating from the quiet corner lot at 2546 Highway 101 in Ilwaco, home to a small tier 1 marijuana grow facility and processor Vancouver Weed Company since June 2015. The business is co-owned by Green and his uncle, Reese Carpenter. Together Green and three employees grow pounds of organic marijuana on a shoestring budget.
Life changes course
Green, 33, was driving home from California 12 years ago when his life changed in an instant. He suffered his first seizure. Life then “kind of went down hill from there for a period,” he said. The frequency of the seizures increased and Green was forced to stop driving. Age 21, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. The symptoms were serious, but the side effects from medications were sometimes worse.
“We tried a lot of medications, and many of them had side effects that were worse than the help,” he said. Green ultimately discovered relief in marijuana.
“Marijuana reduced my seizures,” he said.
“I was having them multiple times a week. It was getting to the point where it was inferring with my life during an important phase. With the (opiod) epidemic going around, I was never a fan of them. It just didn’t work out and I slowly began to use marijuana and extracts. It reduced how regularly I was having seizures and that’s a big benefit. I don’t like waking up in the hospital,” Green said. “It was a benefit to me medically, and slowly it became more than that.” The new course ultimately opened new doors.
“We turned the opportunity into a career,” Green said.
“It’s like the new gold rush.”
Vancouver to Ilwaco
The grow facility was originally planned to be based in Vancouver, but zoning issues caused them to search for more space to put their roots elsewhere. They considered a site in Battle Ground before becoming aware of an available lot on the outskirts of Ilwaco, but they still needed local approval, which they were relieved to find.
“The county was nice and willing to work with us,” Green said. He saw polishing up the corner lot as a first step in returning it to prominence.
“Everybody drives by it,” he said. In June, they marked two years since securing the space that now features two refurbished building with shiny roofs, a clear upgrade from the crumbling structures that stood before. Years of water leaks and subsequent rot had taken their toll on the existing structures which had to gutted and rebuilt.
Green and Carpenter invested heavily in the property to bring it up to code.
They installed concrete floors, new drywall and a drop ceiling and separated the building into smaller rooms for different stages of growth and processing.
“We had to do a lot of rehab. This corner was very depressed,” Green said. “There were just three, broke-down, beat-up buildings. It’s been a transition. We took it from a shell and turned it into a grow facility.”
The location was ideal, but finding a suitable water source took time.
“We had trouble getting water here originally,” Green said. “I had the water tested when we first came in here and it failed because of E. coli and salmonella bacteria.”
They tried to drill a well to fine a clean source.
“We went down 800 feet and didn’t hit any water. Zero,” Green said. “The county was kind enough to give us a permit to have a rain catchment system. Now everything is watered with rainwater.”
The roof serves as the catch for which then runs into a 6,000 gallon tank behind the main building. The water is goes through a seven-stage filtration system before being used on the plants. In spite of drier weather during June and July, Green isn’t concerned about running out of rainwater any time soon.
“We’ve never had an issue of not having enough water,” he said.
Four farmers on a shoestring budget
Very little goes to waste at the grow facility, where pounds of marijuana fed my rainwater are grown under LED lights.
“I had $30,000 and put everything I had into it,” Green said.
“Most of the people we’re competing against have spent millions of dollars.” Wary of using products that can influence the taste of the product, the only pesticides Green uses are mint and rosemary. “We do all the growing, harvesting, drying, packaging, processing ourselves — all of the byproduct is turned into extracts.”
The group includes Gary Green, Stephen Daniel, Bobby Crislip. They use a “sea of green” method where approximately 50 plants are harvested weekly.
“I’m a farmer, same as guy that grows cranberries or lavender,” Crislip said.
Marijuana sales strong
Currently there are 18 producer/processors and three retail marijuana stores cumulatively in the county. In June, producer/processor sales totaled $1,556,414, generating $112,250 in excise taxes. Vancouver Weed Company had their best month of the year in June. The Ilwaco-based tier 1 totaled $28,463 in sales.
In June, consumers purchased $415,628 worth of marijuana from three licensed stores in Pacific County. Freedom Market totaled had the most sales in June totaling $141,238 followed by Growers Outlet, in Raymond, and Mr. Doobees, in Seaview, who each sold $81,848 and $80,292 respectively.