Basement to Business: How a Marijuana Breeder Navigates LegalizationPosted by On

As we approach our favorite unofficial holiday on April 20, it’s nearly impossible to know the immediate future of Colorado’s cannabis industry, with numerous regulatory and societal changes (and un-changes) surrounding the plant less than a month into the pandemic. But weeds are tough plants — and essential ones, too, according to the State of Colorado. To get more perspective, we caught up with a half-dozen cannabis trailblazers and OGs, all of whom were here before retail was legalized and the money quickly followed. Some have adapted to the evolving culture, others have refused to compromise, but all play a role in how we view the plant now — and how 4/20s of the future might look. Here’s the fifth in our “Rolling With the Punches” series.

Legal cannabis requires lawyers, business owners and politicians to all get behind it, but weed would remain just that — a weed — if it weren’t for the breeders and growers who are constantly pushing the plant forward. Those purple, frosty nugs didn’t always look like that, nor did they always smell like grape soda. Someone worked really hard to foster those qualities. Until about a decade ago, most of this work was done in basements. Today it’s big business.

Scott Reach is a rare example of an experienced cannabis breeder who has successfully moved his business from the basement to the legal market. His Rare Dankness line of seeds continually creates popular and award-winning strains for stores and home growers — but Reach’s passion didn’t stop at Ghost Train Haze. The former cancer patient’s dispensary, House of Dankness, has become a local favorite for flower on the cutting edge, thanks to an old-school approach infused with a gardener’s passion.

Westword: Looking back on it, how many underground growers were able to crack the legal market? How many were taken advantage of or screwed over in the early days?

Scott Reach: Man, hardly any of us stuck around. Maybe one in ten, but that’s a big maybe. Everyone has a dream. And to be able to open up a store and a grow — and not make a million dollars, but just to be able to run your own store and grow, and do something you’re passionate about — that’s the biggest piece of the dream everybody has. But what a lot of people don’t understand is that not every grower should be a businessman, and not every businessman should be a grower. We’ve seen so many guys with money try to come in, and I honestly blame them for all the hurdles we have now.

There’s been a lot of carpetbagging, and growers are traditionally a trustworthy group. So you have these ridiculously high real estate prices in the early days, and growers make a deal but get behind on the rent, or they didn’t produce a certain amount of weight, and next thing they know, someone else owns their grow. I’ve seen that happen across the country, where good growers are losing their dream gardens. There’s also a certain amount of getting beat down that some people can’t take. Some people are too…

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