It’s no secret there is big money to be made from the burgeoning green rush, with millions, if not billions, just waiting to be plucked from the lush buds of growing cannabis plants throughout the country.
One such Southern California grower recently raised $6.5 million from investors eager to get into the game. It is reportedly the largest seed round on record for a local marijuana grower.
Canndescent, a self-described “cultivator of premium cannabis flower,” plans to turn that hefty chunk of change into a warehouse-sized grow operation in Desert Hot Springs, which voted in 2014 to allow conditional-use permits for cultivation centers. The Santa Barbara–based company will be the city’s first commercial business to take advantage of the ordinance. Canndescent plans to open a series of facilities in the desert over the next two years. The first one will hold a ribbon cutting later in September.
“We have phenomenal product,” says Canndescent CEO Adrian Sedlin. “We’ve been able to assemble the right people around the table and now it’s ‘run like hell toward the future’ time.”
To hear Sedlin tell it, his team has built “state-of-the-art production facilities” the likes of which California’s dusty desert has never seen. Canndescent has already spent close to $250 per square foot on an existing building. The entire operation spans 9,600 square feet and contains more than 6 miles of wires, 300 lights and six flower rooms. Growers plan to harvest crops every 10 days. In other words, Canndescent means business. And so do its investors. In fact, raising money for the facility took less than a year, Sedlin says. He declined to name any investors aside from Texas-based Lee McPherson and Adam Cohen, CEO of MJardin, who are mentioned in the company’s press release, but did indicate that most come from fairly mainstream disciplines. They include doctors, real estate developers and dot-comers eager for a taste of the green rush.
“Cannabis is coming out of the closet, but it still has quite a long way to go before becoming fully socially acceptable to the broad public,” he says. “I’ll know I’ve done my job when most parties I go to have cannabis cheese boards next to their open bar.”
Sedlin and his brother-in-law are the masterminds behind the soon-to-be-large operation. The latter has been growing weed since the 1990s and New York–born Sedlin has an MBA from Harvard. Combined, the two entrepreneurs hope to dive into the high-end cannabis market by offering strains oozing with impressive THC levels — up to 33 percent in some strains, according to the company’s website. Instead of inundating medical marijuana patients with heady names, Canndescent has a different approach to dubbing its various products. Its strains are labeled according to mood and desired effect: calm, create, connect, charge and cruise. They say each strain offers a different kind of experience, conducive to everything from bedtime prep to hiking to getting in the mental zone to assemble Ikea furniture.
“What Canndescent is trying to do is make cannabis far more accessible to the general public, from a thought and understanding standpoint where it’s not just a subculture thing but where they can actually understand the product benefits,” Sedlin says.
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In other words, Canndescent is going for the Apple approach, he says. The company is offering premium products to the mass public in a digestible way. Part of that strategy is bringing together a team of growers who reportedly have more than 75 years of combined cultivation experience. They are responsible for some of the most popular strains found in local dispensaries — Cookie Monster, Hogs Breath and Sugar Cookies, to name a few.
“These are guys who basically built this industry, pioneers who took arrows a long time ago,” Sedlin says. “Their expertise is not just about knowing the plant. You have to be able to understand the technology and the needs of the plant down to the square inch.”
Sedlin founded Canndescent after attending various trade shows and talking to industry insiders. During these scouting expeditions, he got the impression that the blossoming industry lacked serious business acumen even as markets are rapidly expanding along with legislation. Despite his lack of cannabis industry experience, Sedlin set out to create something akin to a lifestyle brand. Canndescent is billed as luxury without the pretense, high quality without the complex science.
“People should know what they’re putting into their bodies,” Sedlin says, adding that there is a “certain sparkle” to each strain.