Saints Cannabis CEO Jesce Horton on Navigating Industry Challenges in Oregon

Departments - Where Are They Now?

In this interview, Horton shares his thoughts on the push for racial equity in the cannabis industry and offers tips on surviving market gluts as a craft grower.

March 27, 2019

Photo courtesy of Jesce Horton

Brian MacIver: How has Panacea Valley Gardens changed from its beginnings as a 4,000-square-foot horse barn retrofit and 8,000 square feet of hoophouse space?

Jesce Horton: Unfortunately, during the regulatory changes in Oregon, Panacea Valley Gardens had to close at the end of 2017. Our property was at the edge of what is considered National Scenic Land, which was too close a designation to Federal Land for the state to allow us to continue operation.

BM: What is the status of Saints Cloud, your Portland cannabis culture hub project?

JH: The closing of Panacea Valley Gardens was a major blow financially, and we had to suddenly shift gears from the multi-million-dollar development property, Saints Cloud, to opening a smaller cultivation facility first. “Lil Saints” as we call it, an 8,000-square-foot Tier I facility, has just entered full-scale production, and we are now back to development of the Cloud. We plan to open the first phase of Saints Cloud in the summer of this year.

Lil Saints is actually just 2.5 miles down the road from Saints Cloud, in Northeast Portland, Ore. The official name of the business is “Saints’ Cannabis.”

BM: Resource efficiency is one of your core values. What new methods and/or technologies have you developed or discovered in the past two years that helped you be more efficient?

Cover photo by Jake Gravbrot

JH: We are always increasing levels of monitoring and reporting in cultivation environments and implementing a Variable Refrigerant Flow system in appropriate applications. Variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems vary the flow of refrigerant to indoor units based on demand. This ability to control the amount of refrigerant that is provided to fan coil units located throughout a building makes the VRF technology ideal for applications with varying loads or where zoning is required. In addition to providing superior comfort, VRF systems offer design flexibility, energy savings/energy incentives and cost-effective installation. Additionally, we are working with leading organizations like the Resource Innovation Institute on efficiency tools like their newly released PowerScore.

BM: Over the past two years, many states have offered opportunities for minorities to join the cannabis industry through criminal record expungements, reduced application fees and other programs. What do you think of those efforts, and what remains to be done to keep advancing racial equity in the cannabis industry?

JH: I commend the efforts being made across the country and the industry leaders who are driving the progress. As the industry evolves, it is exceedingly important to ensure these minority-owned businesses can scale by making capital available through programs like NuLeaf Project, a historic industry grant program in Portland, Ore., directed by my wife, Jeannette Ward Horton.

BM: You describe yourself as a craft cannabis grower. What tips can you offer other small-scale and craft growers to survive in a market glut like the current one in Oregon?

JH: Focus on being the best cultivator possible and on bringing something unique to the market. Sell on value, not on price, and there will always be a place for you in the market.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for style, length and clarity.