The Columbian / Associated Press

Cannabis Cowboys rides onto local pot scene

Joel Atwood, the general manager of Cananbis Cowboys, showcases one of the growing rooms at his new Tier 2 marijuana growing facility in Vancouver. The business opened this summer and it's close to beginning to sell flower and pre-rolled joints on store shelves. (Natalie Behring/The Columbian)

Just as Portland’s medical dispensaries gear up to begin selling recreational marijuana in October, a new grower has taken root right here in Vancouver.

Cannanbis Cowboys, a Tier 2 recreational marijuana producer, is likely just weeks or even days away from selling its first batch of pre-rolled joints and cannabis flower in stores. Five strains are awaiting results from state testing labs before hitting the shelves, said Joel Atwood, general manager.

“Hopefully, with a little bit of luck, we’ll have some product out next week,” Atwood said late last week.

The Liquor and Cannabis Board granted Cannabis Cowboys its license in mid-June. For those keeping count, that makes Cannabis Cowboys the fifth recreational marijuana producer up and running in Clark County.

This month, the growing operation was in full swing in a 4,000-square-foot building in central Vancouver. Inside, Cannabis Cowboys has some 550 plants from 16 different strains of marijuana.

“We’re a little cramped for room,” Atwood said, standing in front of a clothesline of marijuana plants hanging out to dry.

Eventually, concentrates could be in the cards, too, but only if Atwood can manage to make more room for the machinery he would need. He can expand up to 7,000 square feet with a Tier 2 license, the second largest available under state law.

Atwood, a longtime residential real estate broker, first thought about getting into the industry several years ago. His experience began with growing medical marijuana.

“When the market turned down here years ago, I just started doing it,” he said, referring to growing marijuana. “And I liked it so much, I thought maybe I’ll just go this way.”

Plans have been in the works for at least two years, but it took some time to find a space big enough to house the business, Atwood said. And the timing may seem unfortunate, considering that medical dispensaries in Oregon will be allowed to begin temporarily selling recreational marijuana on Oct. 1, but Atwood isn’t too worried.

Unlike many other growers, Cannabis Cowboys isn’t buried in debt right from the start.

“We didn’t borrow $6 million to get started,” Atwood said. “I mean, we don’t have any debt at all. We put together the money out of pocket to do this.”

Atwood also doesn’t want Cannabis Cowboys to become a huge business. That means working with a small staff of six people and taking precautions to cut costs, including reclaiming rainwater in outdoor reservoirs to use on the plants.

So far, Atwood’s reached out to several local store owners about selling Cannabis Cowboys products. Eventually, he’ll look to sell his marijuana outside Clark County, as well.

And as for the origin of the business’ name? Well, it’s simple, Atwood explained: “Going into this industry, we’re kind of being cowboys.”