OKANOGAN A North-Central Washington company plans to start growing recreational marijuana in its indoor Wenatchee facility tomorrow and anticipates receiving a license soon for its outdoor operation in Omak.
But by the time Monkey Grass Farms puts the finishing touches on the Omak facility, 14 Monkey Grass Road Suite A, it will be too late to start growing this season. Marijuana will start being produced there next spring, co-owner and Omak facility manager Lynette Key said.
“We’ve had a lot of questions about what’s going on up here,” Key said. “Initially we wanted to do it up here in Okanogan County, and then when they (the state Liquor Control Board) cut the licenses, we knew it would be restricted.
“We decided to start with the indoor because we knew it would be a perpetual crop,” she said. “As soon as we get that up and running, we’ll continue down the road here, get the surveillance system up and running.”
Monkey Grass Farms is the first company in North-Central Washington to receive producer and processor business licenses from the state. In the first year, the company projects it will pay the state $1.3 million in sales tax revenues, Key said.
Key is one of the company’s five owners. The others are Eric and Mary Cooper, Katie Cooper and Joni Elder, she said.
“I moved here from Utah specifically to do this two years ago,” Key said. “Eric Cooper has been in the medical marijuana business in Wenatchee for 10 years. I was just kind of a little grower for him, and we teamed up.”
Key said she’s a good friend of the Omak landowner, Richard “Bud” Vest, who “made us such a great deal and let us come out here.”
“Without him, we wouldn’t have come this far, this fast,” she said. “He’s been super supportive of our venture and is giving us great leeway.”
“I guess I’m the guinea pig. I’m willing to help anybody,” Vest said. The 88-year-old has lived in Omak since 1932.
“I’ve never used it; it will not be in my house,” he said of the marijuana. “But if I’ve got a chance to lease a little land …”
A longtime member of the Shriners, Vest said he plans to use the money he makes from the lease to help build a new restroom in the Spokane Shriners temple.
When Key proposed the idea of a marijuana-producing business on his property, Vest said they went together to speak with his attorney and the
Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office to start ironing out the details. Law enforcement visited the site as well, he said.
The three-acre parcel already has an 8-foot-tall wooden fence surrounding it, and the land has been graded and water lines have been installed, Key said. A 30-by-40-foot shop sits on the northeast corner of the fence, which is visible from U.S. Highway 97 north of town.
Much of the crop will be covered by greenhouses and hoop houses, Key said. An estimated 3,000 plants may fit inside the area, depending on their size.
In the future, another three acres adjacent to the parcel will be fenced in and readied for marijuana production.
“As soon as we have the license, we’ll get it up to speed as fast as we can,” she said. “Next year, everything grown here in Omak will be sent to Wenatchee to be processed.”
Harvest season for an outdoor crop will last from springtime until October.
Vest’s property falls outside of Omak city limits, which relieves Monkey Grass Farms of a potential local battle to get all the necessary paperwork for its facility. The city has maintained it will not issue licenses to businesses with operations that are illegal under local, state or federal laws.
Marijuana growing and use is legal in Washington, with certain restrictions, but remains illegal under federal law.
“We wish Omak would reconsider their position because we feel like this is a good revenue (source),” Key said.
The Wenatchee facility is located in the former Budweiser plant, 3710 Highway 97A. With a Tier 3 restricted producer license, Monkey Grass Farms will be able to grow recreational marijuana in a 21,000-square-foot canopy.
Processing will be done on-site, Key said.
The producer license is noted as “restricted,” because the state revised its guidelines to lower Tier 3 producing areas temporarily from 30,000 square feet to 21,000.
“We’re going to produce as much as we can in that 21,000 given space,” Key said, noting that the pending license application for the Omak facility is for Tier 3 as well.
“We initially planned on building all of Monkey Grass in Omak, and it just got bigger and bigger as we got started,” she said. That prompted the company to start looking into other producer-friendly locations.
About 2,500 plants will be moved into the Wenatchee facility to start. From there, it takes about 90 days to cultivate the plants before they’ll be ready for processing.
There are no plans just yet to hire employees, Key said.
“For now, the owners, we’re just doing it ourselves until we get it up and running,” she said.
As of Tuesday, 12 companies had been granted producer licenses in the Spokane area and on the west side of the Cascade Mountains. Ten companies – the majority of which received the producer licenses – also received processor licenses.
No licenses have been given to retailer applicants yet. A lottery will take place in Okanogan, Douglas and Ferry counties next week, and in other counties around the state, to determine which qualified applicants will receive retail licenses to fill the limited quotas.
In all three counties, the number of applicants exceeds the number of available licenses.
Okanogan County has been allocated five retail licenses, one of which must be located within the city of Omak; Douglas County is allocated three licenses, one of which must be located in East Wenatchee; and one license is up for grabs in Ferry County.