Turnagain Herb Co. Goes Forward
By Marc Donadieu
Glacier City Gazette
Turnagain Herb Company (THC) received four licenses by the Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office during an early April meeting in Nome.
Three licenses are for the Anchorage facility: cultivation, manufacturing and retail. The remaining license is for the not yet built Girdwood retail shop on Crow Creek Road, which should open in early fall.
The still under renovation Anchorage facility in Midtown is the former armory for Alaska Department of Public Safety. THC will finish its Anchorage facility, then start on the Girdwood one.
It has taken THC 2½ years to get to where it is today after a new Alaska industry was created with the legalization of cannabis. The lengthy process conjured range of feelings. At the Anchorage facility, the Gazette met with THC President Seth Molen, THC Vice President Greg Hugunin and THC Edible Chef Darby Andrews to learn about the experience and what to expect in the near future as the business develops.
“It’s exciting and exhausting,” Molen said. “It’s brought us places, introduced us to people. The good, the bad and the ugly. The people we want to maintain relationships with and those we couldn’t distance ourselves fast enough from. It has been a due diligence period. We’ve gone all over to many different markets meeting with industry professionals, people from all facets of the industry: growers, marketers, cultivators, retail sales, owners, chefs, attorneys, testing facilities.”
While Molen was confident with his team’s knowledge of statutes and ordinances, the market and the product, state approval is required and not guaranteed. The state is adapting to regulating the new industry, which has slowed the process down.
“It has been a lot of hard work with no goal in sight because of the time you have to waste with the application processes,” Hugunin said. “It’s a long time. Because this is such a big facility, it’s a hard remodel getting it up to date. It’s an old building. It’s almost ready.”
Molen expects to begin sales of edibles in May, pending final inspection before cooking can begin. The edibles will initially be sold business to business as the Anchorage retail facility is not built yet. Molen expects to start cultivation by early summer, leading to sales of smokables and topicals.
THC will use their research and knowledge from consulting industry professionals to develop the business. They realize what knowledge they need, bringing in key people for advice, such as a master grower lined up and ready to go.
Hugunin explained how THC’s business model to control the product starts with the building’s interior design and homemade soil.
“It’s going to be our life blood,” Hugunin said. “We want to control our product from the very beginning. That way we can ensure it’s quality. Building this place first would guarantee that. The dirt is one of those things. We can have a profile for each strain. Our stuff will be consistent. It’s living soil, so there are no pesticides or fertilizer. It’s as organic as you can get without being able to call it organic.”
THC will get strains from all over the world from places like Israel and Amsterdam and from local ones used by their grower.
“We’ll have key strains,” Hugunin said, “maybe eight, and experiment with maybe 10 others to see which one yields better, which one tastes better, which is more appealing to the public or for CBDs.”
Cannibidiol (CBD) is a cannabis compound said to have medical effects without being psychoactive. In THC’s commercial kitchen run by Andrews, he will be extracting oil, THC and CBD from cannabis for a range of products like edibles, topicals and smokables.
Andrews will use a CO2 extraction machine that uses no power. Pressurized CO2 is passed over an amount of cannabis flower to separate raw oil, which has THC and CBD. The system has a recycling system that captures most of the CO2. A second extraction does not yield as much as the first. What plant matter remains can be used as mulch for the homemade soil.
Born in Alaska, Andrews joined the army after high school and eventually ended up in the first Iraq war. Moving to Girdwood after getting out of the army, he switched from drinking to self-medicating with cannabis.
“All of the medications the VA try to give you for various problems created more problems and side-effects,” Andrews said.
Trained under an Apache medicine man as a medicine helper, Andrews learned how to craft cannabis to help people with a variety of ailments. He spent years experimenting and refining. With legalization, he found the right people to work with his knowledge and experience
“It’s exciting and quite a bit intimidating,” Andrews said. “I’m a little nervous. I can see it. It can be done.”
THC will manufacture the edible Giggle Burst first to sell business to business initially. Andrews has not seen anything like his creation in legal cannabis markets. He believes Giggle Burst is a unique product with a great name. The next edible to roll out will be Aww Snap, a ginger snap.
“I made a lot for cancer patients or people who deal with nausea a lot,” Andrews said, “going through chemo where it’s hard to keep something down. The ginger is good for nausea. The cannabis gets your appetite back.”
Andrews enjoys the idea of his edible creations helping people in assorted ways.
“I like turning people on to edibles, that first time experience with people where it really helps them. For a lot of people, it’s not a recreational thing for them. It takes them to a place where they can relax a little bit.”
THC will have five entries in Cannabis Classic Alaska this May: three flower strains and two edibles (Giggle Burst, Aww Snap). Edibles are not a blind test and get judged on quality, consistency, potency and flavor during a bake off.
The flower is peer judged, double blind, with products tested and given profiles before being given to judges. Flower is judged on aroma, flavor, quality, bud density, appearance and type of strain such as sativa.
When asked about future plans for expanding the edibles line, Andrews was knowingly vague but excited.
“I’m going to keep those under wraps,” Andrews said. “I’ve got some ideas that are definitely next. I’ve got a handful of them that I really want to get on the market that are different from anything that’s out there right now. I haven’t seen anything like it.”