EVART, Mich. (WXYZ) — Adult-use marijuana has become a big business in the State of Michigan. And December proved to be a record month — with sales topping $135 million.
We have an exclusive look inside Lume cannabis, the fast-growing company that is the largest single-state operator in the country.
On a snowy December day, we made the trip to the small town of Evart, in central Michigan, to visit the cultivation center for Lume cannabis.
The company’s rapid growth is demonstrated through its expansion in this industrial park. A state-of-the-art facility now connects to Lume’s original building – increasing the grow operation to 250,000 square feet.
“All the employees here get medical-grade scrubs,” said Kevin Kuethe.
Kevin Kuethe is Lume’s Chief Cultivation Officer and our guide through the facility.
Strict safety measures are in place for all employees and visitors.
An air shower is mandatory before entering the grow hallways to remove any potentially harmful particles from clothing. Hairnets and face masks are also required in the grow hallways.
“We want everyone to go through that same protocol of cleanliness really to protect the bio-security to increase our chances of having more passed tests and a higher quality product,” Kuethe.
As we quickly discovered, the science of growing and cultivating cannabis is incredibly involved and strictly controlled. Plant growth here starts hydroponically. As plants grow, they move from room to room.
“All of these rooms down our corridor are flower rooms, so as the plant moves sequentially through its life, it will change the photoperiod, as it gets older,” Kuethe.
Initially, that means the LED lights in these rooms are on for 18 hours and off for six as the plants begin to grow.
“Constant vegetative growth in here. And all of these mother plants came from our tissue culture stock,” said Kuethe.
Cloning and planting is next. That takes about five weeks – then the plants go into what is called flower — with a 9-week cycle of growth.
“This is a big room,” said LewAllen.
“It’s a big room, they’re all the same size, over a thousand plants in here,” said Kuethe.
Kuethe tells me they harvest approximately 2000 plants every week.
“With 20 grow rooms, and what your harvest here, on these cycles, what you presently have, is still not enough for demand?” asked LewAllen.
“Not even close,” said Kuethe.
That’s why a third expansion of this facility is already in the works. Kuethe also has plans to increase Lume’s outdoor grow farm in 2022.
The product demand is fueled by the company’s extensive retail operation. 30 stores – across the state are open for business now – with more to come.
“Lume’s goal is to be at 100 retail stores by the end of 2024, right, and to be able to have our own support and infrastructure to cultivate flower ourselves to feed all those stores is a tall task,” said Kuethe.
At the end of flower cycle, plants are cut and hung to dry, for 7 to 10 days. Buds are then cut from the stalks and they cure in in barrels before being trimmed – tested by the state for quality – and packaged and shipped for the retail market.
The private investors behind Lume have already put $70 million into this facility. More millions are being spent to build out the retail side of the operation.
This newly legalized and regulated industry is generating significant tax revenue for the state – and in the case of Lume – also bringing jobs to small-town Evart.
“We’re close to 400 employees just here at our indoor facility and we’re looking at adding another 150 or so,” said Kuethe. “So it’s a big increase for a town with a population well under 2,000 people, it’s a significant piece.”
Legalized marijuana is also generating a huge windfall for the state. For 2021 — the state collected nearly a quarter-billion dollars in tax revenue from marijuana sales.
More than half of that total is then split up between local governments, schools, and roads.