Owners Say Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Business Always Under Watchful Eyes

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The owners of Strawberry Fields disagree with anyone who says the heavily-regulated marijuana industry plays a part in the black market for pot.

In the words of co-owner Richard Kwesell, “There is zero ability for someone to act nefarious” in their stores or in their grow houses.

Running a business reliant on products that are illegal under federal law requires rigid accountability on all fronts, he said, particularly in Colorado.

The entire business is tracked, down to the weight of a single bud.

During a recent visit to Strawberry Fields’ 30,000-square-foot grow space in Colorado Springs, which supplies only the company’s medical marijuana store on West Colorado Avenue, the meticulous process was on display.

Nickey Munro carefully weighed the supply of “The Flav” cured marijuana buds into 1-pound allotments for transport, the greatest amount permitted. As she emptied the marijuana into a container, she watched the last bud tip the scale to just over 1 pound.

It was just one bud. Couldn’t she leave it?

“Nope. This little guy will get his own bag with his own tag,” she said, removing a small flower head.

The bud was weighed separately, bagged, marked with a tracking tag and placed in a container sealed with zip ties. When it reached the medical marijuana shop, it – and everything else in the shipment – would be weighed again to ensure everything that left the grow house arrived at the store.

All aspects of the process, from grow house to store, are done under a camera’s eye and use a tracking system so state officials can monitor the industry and ensure business is compliant with the number of registered patients.

“Everything gets recorded multiple times,” said Ashley Dickson, one of the facility’s managers.

Each plant is followed through its life cycle, said brothers and Cheyenne Mountain High School graduates Richard and Michael Kwesell.

When a potted plant reaches 8 inches in height – viable growth – it’s given a radio frequency identity tag that stays with it throughout its life.

Plants that die are logged as well.

Drivers who transport marijuana also are tracked by the state. There is a record of the driver, vehicle used, route taken, and when a driver leaves the grow house and arrives at the store. Upon arrival at the shop, all product is weighed and scanned into the store’s inventory, so “it’s impossible to cheat the system” or have it filtered to the black market, Michael Kwesell said.

“Everything is tracked, from seed to sale, very closely,” Richard Kwesell said.

When the Kwesell brothers started the business in 2009, they were inexperienced. They began with six plants in a closet, they said.

They had friends who used the drug to relieve ailments and increasingly believed “whole-heartedly in all the benefits that medical marijuana has to offer” their website says.

Building their business under such scrutiny and with so many regulations and restrictions has been difficult, they said.

Like the law enforcement agencies that recently wrote the state Legislature asking for a reprieve from new marijuana regulations, the Kwesell brothers have been sprinting to keep up with the near constant changes.

Beyond federal and state laws, there are city zoning restrictions, ordinances and moratoriums, and fire codes. And they must comply with all of them, even when they conflict.

“We’ve been part of flying the plane as it got built,” Richard Kwesell said.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Owners Say Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Business Always Under Watchful Eyes Of State
Author: Kaitlin Durbin
Contact: (719) 632-5511
Photo Credit: Christian Murdock
Website: The Gazette