‘Unprecedented’: The biggest Calif. pot farm keeps getting bigger

April 30, 2023 · SF Gate

Glass House Brands, a Long Beach company widely considered to run the largest cannabis farm in California, is growing pot inside 2 million square feet of Southern California greenhouses. At any given time, the company has 750,000 pot plants in the ground and has the capability to grow more than 300,000 pounds of pot a year.

It expects to add another 1 million square feet this year, and it plans on growing more than 5 million square feet of cannabis by 2025. That’s larger than all licensed farms in Mendocino County combined, according to SFGATE analysis.

This massive growth makes Glass House one of the few winners in California’s $5.3 billion cannabis market. The tumultuous market has put thousands of small farms out of business, and the economic pain is hitting everyone from third-generation family pot farms to billion-dollar companies. Despite these headwinds, Glass House keeps growing.

Not everyone is happy about Glass House’s success. Its massive scale has allowed it to sell cheaper cannabis and has earned the company nicknames like the “Walmart of weed.” Social media is filled with angry cannabis industry members claiming its “corporate greed” is what’s wrong with California’s industry.

The huge farm is also built on what some critics call a “broken promise.” California had originally planned on delaying farm licenses until 2023 to give small farms a head start, but a last-minute change in 2017 allowed farms to grow infinitely larger. Glass House is one of the many companies that have taken advantage of these rules.

As small farms struggle to survive, critics point to Glass House as evidence that the state created an industry that favors big players over historic small farms. The anger only intensifies because Glass House’s CEO, Kyle Kazan, is a former police officer who admits to having arrested people for pot possession decades ago.

Despite the criticism, Glass House co-founder Graham Farrar isn’t about to apologize for his business.

“I’m trying to make the most-consumed cannabis brands on the planet. I think weed makes the world a better place, and so I want to bring as much weed to as many people as possible,” Farrar said. “There’s no shame in that to me.”

‘An unprecedented level of production’

Farrar launched Glass House in 2015 with the help of Kazan, an LA cop-turned-businessman. Together, they bought a 150,000-square-foot greenhouse in Santa Barbara and started growing cannabis in California’s medical market. 

The team eventually expanded to a 350,000-square-foot facility and then, in 2020, put itself in the international spotlight by doing two things: First, it listed its company on a Canadian stock market and raised $140 million in investment capital, according to Farrar. Second, it took that infusion of cash and bought one of the largest greenhouse facilities in America: Ventura County’s 125-acre Houweling greenhouse, built to grow tomatoes and other vegetables. The state-of-the-art facility spans 5.5 million square feet, or the size of nearly 100 side-by-side football fields, and includes roof-washing robots, positive-pressure greenhouses and automated plant handling.

Glass House is in the process of converting the facility into one for pot farming — it’s using 1.5 million square feet for pot production and the remaining 4 million square feet for growing tomatoes and cucumbers. It expects to expand cannabis production to an additional 1 million square feet of the facility by the end of the year.  (Full Story)

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