The marijuana business has been in a constant state of evolution, and the changes have accelerated greatly over the past few years—even in the past several months. New players and new innovations are all over, but those with a deeper background in the industry often come out ahead.
Such is Redwood, a Las Vegas cultivator that’s best known as the Nevada grower and purveyor of Willie’s Reserve, the Willie Nelson–endorsed brand of marijuana, whose facility combines new technology and old wisdom. It’s run by the kind of guys whose relationship to cannabis goes back to the first joint they smoked or the first seed they put in a Dixie cup, rather than a venture capitalist meeting.
In a nondescript building south of Las Vegas, Redwood lead cultivator Jon Annalora strolls down a white hallway and gestures to a computer panel next to a grow-room door. He explains that it shows “what lights are on, the A.C. unit—what temperature its set for and what it’s averaging, the current humidity level, CO2,” he says, adding, “You can hook it up to your phone, you could play music for the plants.”
Inside the room, hundreds of plants spread their leaves below grow lights, a faint breeze and buzz in the air. A quintet of pipes run across the wall. “This is how we feed our plants,” says Michael Tsairis , director of operations. “It looks pretty complicated, but it’s not.” The pipes lead back to another room, where tanks hold thousands of gallons of water, nutrients and everything a plant needs to grow big, strong and dank as hell.
“We want to keep it fresh,” says Redwood CEO and President Paul Schloss, noting that it’s a mixture of luck and science. Out of a dozen attempts, “three might make it. Maybe less.” He continues, “We’ll flower them out and see the characteristics. … Then there are potency tests, see what the yield is.” Strains are developed not just for the Redwood house brand but for the Willie’s Reserve line as well.
“We have that trust with them. It’s not so much by the strain name—they’re also in Washington State and Colorado, so their Dosi-Do might be different than our Dosi-Do, their Blue Dream might be different than mine. Especially since we’re not allowed to cross state lines,” he points out. Redwood launched Willie’s Reserve with a now-legendary party Downtown, during which Nelson himself appeared and passed joints to the crowd. Redwood also occasionally hosts dinners for local growers, budtenders, producers, investors, press and other participants in the cannabis industry—a way to maintain a sense of community even as the business expands.
Down another hallway, through another pair of double doors, harvested cannabis is being processed. In one gray-painted room, stalks of fresh marijuana dry on white wire hangers in neat rows. Tsairis points out that the drying process can take from one to three weeks, but it’s “on the longer end. Certain strains have certain bud structures; the Cookies, they dry a lot quicker than the Lemon OG, even though they’re a lot larger, they hold a lot more moisture.”
In another area, a group of workers in coveralls furiously strips leaf from stem, scissors flying, hip-hop playing in the background. Eventually, the prepared weed will be packaged into eighths of Redwood Afghani Bullrider, two-packs of Willie’s Reserve prerolls (Herijuana or SFV) or other products. And, like so many other cannabusiness facilities, there’s a chunk of semideveloped space, ready for the next stage.
Schloss point out that Redwood has been talking to other cannabis icons such as Cheech Marin, Master P and Dizzy Wright about branding their own bud. “One year from now, it’ll be a whole different landscape,” he says. And he doesn’t just mean more strains and more square footage.