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INDEPENDENCE, MO (KCTV) — On Wednesday, Illicit Gardens celebrated the first legal harvest in the metro.
They are housed in a nondescript building in an industrial area of Independence. The harvest of more than 100 pounds of what they call “top shelf” cannabis flower will yield half a million dollars wholesale, according to Adam Diltz, the chief operations officer of OXG, LLC. That’s the corporate name for the products they’ll be branding as Illicit.
Diltz said the name isn’t meant to be edgy in a funny way but rather a way of taking back a term for something that’s now legal in Missouri for medical use.
“We are trying to turn a negative into a positive,” Diltz said. “We are doing something that thousands and thousands of people are currently serving jail time for.”
KCTV5 got an exclusive look at the process, first suiting up with a hairnet, boot covers, and a jacket fresh from the company’s laundry to avoid any cross-contamination. Our crew was even warned not to garden 24 hours before the visit.
The plants start off as cuttings, not from seed but from clones. That means one plant can replicate itself over and over.
“You’ll take one of these lower branches down here,” Diltz demonstrated. “You’ll clip it at the base and dip it into a rooting hormone.”
They spend 10-13 days in domes, sort of like mini-greenhouses. Then they get transplanted into 4″ rockwool cubes. They are then transplanted once more, to a full-sized pot where they get trimmed regularly to keep them short and squat. That happens in “the veg room,” short for vegetation.
“We have about a 50-day total veg cycle from clone until it goes into flower,” Diltz explained.
Then it’s on to the flower room. The flower is the part with the THC. The process begins when they change the light cycle.
“That flips a hormone in the plant to begin the flowering process,” Diltz said.
It then takes 65 additional days to get to the mature stage they harvested Wednesday.
Workers take each plant down the aisle to a hanging scale to weigh it and tag it. A staffer stands watch plugging the tag number and weight into a database for the state.
Then it’s out to the floor to pick off all the leaves.
“What you don’t want is, you don’t want the leaves wrapping around the buds and causing a microclimate that can form mold,” Diltz explained.
Speaking of climate, that’s a piece that makes the operation so costly. They must keep temperature, humidity, and light exposure precise. The same goes for irrigation, which uses reverse osmosis water.
“This facility was millions of dollars to build out,” said Diltz.
They have a total of 40 strains they’re working on. The difference is not just the cannabinoids but also something called terpenes. Different strains work better for different things, like inflammation versus insomnia.
“And not one strain does the same thing for everyone,” Diltz explained. “It’s almost like your genetic makeup reacts to the genetic makeup of these plants.”
Their cycled setup means they’ll be harvesting every 13 days, an expected 300 pounds or $1.2 million wholesale product each month.
There are a group of investors in OXG, LLC, but to be a COO in the cannabis industry is a pretty cool homecoming for Diltz, who grew up in Overland Park and spent 10 years honing his craft in Las Vegas.
“My wife’s from here and she was always like, ‘I want to go back to the Midwest,’” Diltz recounted. “And I was like, ‘We’ll go back when marijuana gets to the Midwest,’ and I thought that would never happen. Fast forward a couple of years later and here we are.”
The flower is not ready to go to dispensaries yet. Next it needs to dry and cure, a process that takes 2-3 weeks. After that, a technician with an independent testing company licensed by the state will visit to take random samples to test for purity. After that, they begin packaging. They estimate their product will make it onto shelves in January.
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