LAS VEGAS (FOX5) — Cannabis wasn’t always part of Salpy Boyajian’s life.
“I grew up with being ‘quote-unquote’ scared of cannabis,” she said. Now, it’s her livelihood. “Cannabis has really changed my life.”
She broke into Nevada’s industry in 2014, when only medicinal marijuana was legalized, then eventually started her own brand, NLVO. Now, eight years later, Boyajian and her business partner, Kellen O’Keefe, own Flower One.
In a 455,000-square-foot facility in North Las Vegas, they’re now the largest growers, cultivators and manufacturers of cannabis in the entire state.
In a building that’s more than half the size of an Amazon warehouse, how do they keep quality and efficiency at the core of the hundreds of products they grow and package for a dozen top-name brands?
It’s a tedious four-month process that combines the use of manual labor and automation. In the first two weeks of a marijuana plant’s life, O’Keefe says lighting is of the essence.
“In the cutting cells, it’s very important that the plants get very consistent light,” he said.
After two weeks, the plants are put on pallets and whisked through a conveyor belt for the wetting phase. Over the course of eight hours, they’re pumped with water and nutrients needed for survival. The strongest marijuana plants make it to round three, the four-week veg stage, where the plants start to gain some height.
The most important part of the veg stage is the ebb and flood floors used to equally water each marijuana plant.
Manually, workers have to keep a close eye on every plant’s height. The state requires that each plant must be dressed with blue metric tags before they hit eight inches.
“That sticks with the plant all the way from when it’s originally tagged, all the way through to finished product, so all consumers have the ability to track and trace,” O’Keefe said.
After four weeks of daily flooding, it’s time for the flowering stage, where a very specific lighting process starts to trigger the growth of the buds that weed is known for.
“This is where the plants come to finish their growth cycle, it’s typically an eight or a nine week cycle,” O’Keefe said. “As the plant comes in from the veg stage, where it receives light 24-hours a day, it then goes into a 12-hour on-and-off cycle, that’s why you see that we also have complete and total black out curtains that allow us to completely control the light.”
Just like with everything else in the four-month cultivation and production process, manual labor is necessary to keep quality at the center of this mass facility. Workers zip through rows and rows of cannabis on trolleys, pruning the bottom of each and every plant, ensuring that all of the roots’ energy is going towards the top, where the flower tends to grow best.
After the veg stage, marijuana plants are then transferred to drying and curing, where they hang upside down in darkness for weeks. Although lighting isn’t important in this drying phase, temperature is. Plants must hang in 60 degree temperatures with 60% humidity.
After three weeks of drying, the plants are brought to the trimming and manicure room, where employees will spend hours separating the leaves and the stems from the buds, to get this as the final product.
“You’re actually taking the time to pay attention to carefully working with the flower and bud, that’s the key. You don’t want to go fast, you don’t want to destroy it. You want to take good care of it,” Boyajian said.
Left over leaves and stems are put on state watch.
“Per our regulations, we have to basically weigh it, track it and then it gets disposed of,” she said.
The good stuff makes it to the next steps of testing and packaging. Anything suitable for store shelves is checked out by third-party testing labs, who come to Flower One, making sure each batch of flower is safe for consumption.
“That’s where you have the THCs, the terpenes, making sure it passes microbials, heavy metals,” Boyajian said. “It’s a whole slew of things we’re required to do here in Nevada. Once you receive those test results here, that lot of flowers is ready to be packaged up into different formats you see on this floor.”
From pre-rolls and vapes to eighths and oils, Flower One cultivates products in all formats on a hybrid model.
“I don’t want to lose sight of the quality piece of it, that’s one of the reasons why we have a hands-on approach, as well as the equipment approach. There’s a second level of putting one more eyes on the product before it goes into the final package that’s ultimately going into the customers hands,” Boyajian said.