Justin "Juddy" Rosellison
Jean Luc Cornet
YEARS IN REGION
We grow using 100% LED lighting. Air conditioning load is directly related to the heating load which is created by lighting. Therefore, by using LEDs, we reduce wattage and heat load, which in turn reduces the air conditioning. We built insulated rooms inside an insulated building which helps prevent large swings in the controlled room environments.
Editor’s Note: Companies are scored on energy within their own categories (indoor vs. indoor, etc.), using whole systems analytics scoring methodology, including kWh/gram metric.
It’s important to us that things are fair. Everyone starts at $10 an hour for “real” jobs and $120 per pound for trimming. Once people have shown us that they are committed, we move them to $12 an hour as quickly as possible. We also have in our mission, that it’s the goal to have everyone to $15 an hour by the end of their first year. Unfortunately, as a new business in a new market, that’s not as easy as we had hoped. But it’s still our goal.
We also want to make sure no one starves. So if finances aren’t working out for people, we ask them what their nut is and we figure out how to make it work for them. We’re a team, and our philosophy is that we’re all going to have to suffer a little in the beginning (no one is getting rich here), but when things turn, we will all be able to benefit. It’s a win-win. And I know the employees feel that.
As for healthcare, we would love to, but it’s just not in the budget right now. It’s also an issue because you can’t write it off because of IRC 280e. However, as we become profitable, we will figure out a way to make it work. More than health care, I want to have 401K programs so we are all protected with regards to our health and future stability.
No funds for paid parental leave, however, I’ll get off on a tangent for a few minutes, one of my biggest issues is that we can’t bring our kids to work. Our best trimmer is a woman (which Trim Moms have been around for decades) and she’s pregnant. How easy would it be for her to bring her baby to work for the first year? All they do is eat, sleep and go to the bathroom for the first several months, so she could easily trim and be a mom. Furthermore, as they get more rowdy, trimming is paid by the pound, so if she has to tend to her child, it doesn’t affect our company’s bottom line. She would be able to work as much as she needs to AND be with her baby. But alas, I don’t think this is an issue we’re going to win on any time soon.
Nope, can’t afford sick pay (the owners haven't taken a paycheck since November 2015). However, we work with our employees. One of our packagers has a son who gets out of school at 3 and she wants to be there for him. So we have adjusted her schedule to accommodate her family’s needs. We do this with all of our employees.
The last thing I’d say is, we are working with a highly valuable substance with crazy rules. Employees have always been, in any business, the number one concern when it comes to theft. How do you prevent theft? You make sure the employees feel like they owe you something, not they you owe them something. Since we can’t give them cannabis (growers are only allotted 2 grams per strain per month for Quality Control), we have to find other ways to make sure they know that they are valued. Working around peoples’ schedules, treating them like names instead of numbers, has produced the best results for us at Trail Blazin’.
We are a pretty small team here at Trail Blazin’; (less than 20 employees, which includes trimmers) and yet we’ve managed to employ several different races and members of the LGBTQ community. For an operation of our size, our diversity is exemplary. We also laugh. A lot. People are so serious these days, laughing and taking things lightly is imperative. Finally, the operating managers are a husband/wife team. If their relationship isn’t solid, then the company suffers. That ability to not get too stressed out, to laugh, to not take things too seriously, starts at management level and filters down.
• Coming from a pretty controversial industry, we have some HUGE hurdles to overcome from a public perception perspective. When we joined the Chamber of Commerce in 2014 many of the participants wouldn’t even look us in the eye for the first 9 months of attending Chamber events. The business community, which is often represented by the Chamber, holds some huge weight in public perception and local government. We need them on our side if we are going to “normalize” the industry. That happens when the community knows who cannabis business owners are. The last time the Bellingham Herald posted a story about medical being shut down, I had three chamber members contact me and ask how much of it was accurate. That’s EXACTLY what we want. We want people who are neutral or on the fence to be asking us for information, rather than listening to what the media says or the NOPING NIMBYs. We’re also an Ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce and on the Government Affairs Committee for the Chamber, which meets every quarter. They have a representative from state government there every time which is the fast track to getting things changed at a state and federal level. Last time it was staff from Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene. These officials need to see us, and we want personal relationships with them and their staff. They need to know who we are if we want to change laws. Sure, working with the LCB is important, but the LCB isn’t elected by their constituents. We need to change the laws in order for the LCB to really do what we need them to do.
• As the first cannabis business to get building permits in Bellingham, we had some huge hurdles to overcome. The entire city council is on our speed dial, we have always asked permission rather than forgiveness with regards to permitting and fire regulations. We set up meetings between cannabis business owners and the Whatcom County Sherriff and Bellingham Chief of Police so that we could meet face to face and start dispelling issues right away. We’ve had the police out to our facility to help us make sure we’re a hard target (a free service they offer for all businesses, but seemed really relevant to our industry).
• We normally don’t do tours, since we are a pesticide free facility and the risk is too great, but we regularly invite representatives, senators, local government, utility company higher management to view our facility. If cannabis isn’t on your radar, you have NO IDEA what to expect. We regularly take people from anti or neutral with those tours because now they have a point of reference.
• So, overall, our relationship with the local community is excellent, but it has taken years of being proactive to make that the case.
• Trail Blazin’ was the lead that put together the last Leadership Summit for the Cannabis Alliance. We invited 18 WA Cannabis associations, and 14 of them joined us for a very structured summit. The point was to find a few things that we all agree on. From there, we have created clear messaging around those issues. In the end, we had a letter stating clear messaging around 4 issues that 12 WA cannabis associations agree upon. They may not be priorities for each association, but we all agree that these issues need to be addressed.
• Please see our site for an extensive overview of our work: http://www.trailblazin.net/community-accolades- and-current-events.html
• Ambassador to the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce. “A strong Chamber means a stronger business community, planned economic growth, and a sustained quality of life.” The Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry has been serving its members and the local business community since 1911 as the voice of business in Bellingham and Whatcom County. The Chamber is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit that promotes a strong local economy; provides programs and events for its members; facilitates factually based dialog between business, the government and the community; and represents business interests with government and the community. The Chamber is involved in many issues that affect your business in Bellingham/Whatcom County.
• Washington Cannabis Commission Formation Project. A group of cannabis representatives dedicated to forming a Washington Agricultural Cannabis Commission to help legitimize and stabilize the industry. This creation requires the cooperation of the cannabis community, the Washington Department of Agriculture, the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board, the Department of Health and the Governor’s Office. A commission will address many of the unique issues affecting Washington’s cannabis industry.
• Board Member for The Cannabis Alliance. THE CANNABIS ALLIANCE is a non-profit, membership-based association of individuals, businesses, government officials, and non-profit organizations dedicated to the advancement of a sustainable, vital and ethical cannabis industry. Our purpose is to:
o Advocate: to improve the legal and regulatory environment of the cannabis industry;
o Educate: To provide a knowledge base to our communities, policy makers, and industry professionals;
o Engage: Actively engage in building a unified industry by promoting safe and ethical corporate citizenship;
o Promote: To advance the institution and infrastructure for a sustainable and vital cannabis industry.
• Board Member for the Cannabis Farmers Council. The Cannabis Farmers Council advocates for the state licensed cannabis farmer by:
o Voicing our position to regulatory agencies
o Educating others about our vocation
o Representing our right to farm
o Obtaining rights equivalent to other types of farming
• Founding and Current Board Member of Washington Federation of Marijuana Businesses (WAFMB). WAFMB is a data driven, diversity minded 501(c) 6. All of their statements come from data and metrics gathered using online, industry distributed surveys. This empirical data is presented to government officials and politicians, along with monetary contributions, to accurately represent the temperature and needs of the regulated cannabis community.
• Founder and Facilitator of the 502Cannabis Google Group. The first thing we did was start the 502Cannabis Google Group whose mission is to create an opportunity for 502 applicants, licensees and supporting persons to meet each other, support each other, vocalize their issues and concerns, and brainstorm solutions in a positive environment. In the beginning, there was no way for cannabis business owners to navigate the rules and everyone was fighting with no organization. Our position is to keep the conversations moving in a positive direction (no trolling) and help keep the members informed of cannabis policy. This grassroots forum boasts over 1300 members with more every day. It is widely recognized as the best place to gather information with regards to the Washington cannabis industry. It has been an outstanding tool when no other options were available to help cannabis businesses, and their supporting businesses, move forward with their dreams.
• Founder and Facilitator of the 91Cannabis Google Group. This group mimics the 502Cannabis Google Group, but for Oregon, with the same stated goal and intention to help Oregon learn from Washington’s mistakes.
We’re as hippy as they come. :) We have to have some waste because the rules state you have to mix plant matter with 50% non-plant matter before throwing it into the trash. So, we definitely have some waste. That and the way items come packaged to us. Drives me nuts. Grrrr.... However, we deliver all of our products in paper bags and cardboard boxes, which we have returned to us from the retailer so that we can reuse them again. We do our best, but it really takes concerted effort from both the farmer and the retailer to make an effort to reuse packaging items.
a. On an individual level, it’s much more difficult. If you use compostable plastic for your products, the quality retention/ shelf life isn’t as good so that’s not an option. If you use glass, it’s difficult when you’re trying to make 1/2/3.5 gram packaging because there is a TON of information to get on this teeny tiny package.
b. Our dube tubes were recyclable until the latest order, when our supplier stopped making the ones we were using and we were forced to go somewhere else. We were in a rush, and we forgot to ask if the new supplier was recyclable. Opps. But now, we’ll never forget again, and we are actively looking for a new supplier with recyclable dube tubes.
c. Our flower is in mylar bags (gag me with a stick!) for 1, 2 and 3.5grams and then glass jars for 7-28g. However, when management shifted, we already had 80,000 mylar bags and we refused to throw them into a landfill, so we’re committed to using what we have. Meanwhile, we are actively researching new packaging right now. Questions that are asked and play into account of what we will purchase are:
i. Are they made with recycled material?
ii. Are they recyclable?
iii. Are they printed they printed in the US?
iv. Are they manufactured in the US?
We do everything we can to use every part of the plant so that there isn’t waste: the flower, the sugar leaf, the fan leaves, the stems. We start with our premium product and work our way down the line to make sure we utilize as much of the plant as possible. The only real plant waste we have are the stocks and root balls, which we haven’t figured out how to have a composting area in our industrial area yet.
The only other thing that we would love to see is a place to put our moms when they get old. It is painful to have to throw a mother plant into a wood chipper after she has produced thousands of healthy babies and done her job. I wish we could have a little field for the old moms so that they could live out their days under the sun. :)
There is no paper recycling in the area we’re in, so we bring all our business paper home and recycle it from there. We also keep a bin of “once paper” if people are printing anything that isn’t leaving the facility, they can reuse that paper. We also keep as much digitally as possible to reduce on paper usage.
Finally, I think who you hire has a lot to do with overall environmental performance. And how management sets an example. We have sorted through the garbage before and pulled out every little piece of paper or cardboard. Management did it a few times, and then asked others to do the same so that no one has to do it. Just recycle everything people!
We reduce the use of water in our operations by using 100% LEDs; the rooms don’t get as warm, and thus the plants don’t perspire as much and therefor require less water. Less water means less nutrients, creating a reduction in all resources. We hand water everything so that the plants get exactly what they need, and not any more. We also use a water stick (I’m sure there is a better term for it) to assess how much water they need. Regarding water waste, our water is organic based and flows into the city water plant.
This issue is close to my heart. There isn’t a clear answer yet, but I hope that. The Cannabis Alliance will be part of the process to get people out of jail for cannabis. I also think that our hiring practices play a part in this.
At Trail Blazin’ Productions we use beneficial insects to mitigate pests all the time. The best defense is a good offense! Our point by point offensive plan, below:
• CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN! After we harvest, everything in the grow room is taken apart and cleaned: the fans, the walls, the door knobs, etc. If you don’t want to get pests, it’s imperative that you start out with a sterile environment. This is no gardeners favorite job, albeit it’s the most important one. Clean. Clean. Clean.
• REQUIRED UNIFORMS Yes, we know it can negatively affect your employees “personal style” but scrubs, hairnets and work shoes are necessary to keep pests out of grow rooms. We require showers every morning for our growers which, as an added bonus, also makes them smell better. Shoes must be sprayable so that they can be cleaned and soaked overnight, every night.
• ROUTINES Start in the nursery or mom room, and then hit the other rooms one at a time and always in the same order. NEVER go back into the nursery or mom room after you’ve left and been in another flower room. This is going to take a little pre-thought and planning, but following this kind of routine will avoid cross contamination and a long way in keeping your plants clean.
• NOTHING IN, NOTHING OUT I know this is a tough one for a lot of people, but we at Trail Blazin’ have purposefully never brought anyone else’s product into our establishment. It’s not that we won’t ever, but until there is adequate testing (which seems to be happening as I type) how can we really know if the products we're bringing into our facility are contaminated? I can tell you from our pre-502 days, every plant we ever brought in, no matter how much the person swore it was clean, was contaminated. Every. Single. Time.
• NECESSARY PERSONNEL ONLY! We don’t allow unnecessary personnel into our grow rooms. If we HAVE to let someone in, we always schedule the appointment for first thing in the morning and make sure that they haven’t been to any other grows, hiking or gardening prior to the tour. They are issued scrubs, their shoes are bootied and they are only allowed in the necessary room. From personal experience, I’ve worked at Trail Blazin’ Productions almost every day for the last year, and I can’t tell you the last time I saw a live plant. It’s not my department, and thus I have no reason to be in the part of the building.
• RESEARCH OTHER OPTIONS There are tons of other options besides chemical pesticides. Google it. There are beneficial insects that want to eat every single one of your spider mites. There are companion plants, where the pests will go to the other plant instead of yours. There are alternative options, you just need to do a little research.
HEALTH & SAFETY
Our cultivation methods are the highest in the industry with respect to human health, as well as for the planet, to see more, see CULTIVATION INPUTS.
If we were to designate our product “medical” it would increase the cost of our product 25-45% to the patient. We don’t believe in gauging patients, especially for the EXACT same product we’re already producing. So, what we at Trail Blazin’; have done is that we test all of our pesticide test (which weren’t required but we did them anyway), terpene profiles (also not required, but we do them anyway) and potency analysis on our website here: http://www.trailblazin.net/our-products.html We hope that this transparency helps customers recognize that we are who we say we are, and helps the patients access good medicine without adversely affecting their pocketbooks.
TBP are in fact super-hero-esque industry trailblazers in ethics, sustainability and for industry accountability. Their sustainability and ethics are longstanding and top notch, and their steadfast and widespread advocacy is dizzying. They are wonderful folks who are making huge differences behind the scenes. If you enjoy legal cannabis, send TBP a thank you note, they work around the clock for the whole industry. Standing Ovation, TBP!