An entrepreneur has set his sights on building an indoor marijuana growing facility in Central Oregon, despite a drop in wholesale recreational prices.

Using a former paving company warehouse on SE Fifth Street in Bend, Scott Curtis has applied for permission with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to build an indoor marijuana growing facility called Elevation 9 Farms LLC. In Oregon, wholesale recreational marijuana prices have declined from just under $4 a gram to $2 a gram, comparing this January to last, according to the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis report released in February.

Knowing there is a market saturation, Curtis said his plan is to start small and work toward 10,000 plants. He hopes to build connections with dispensaries between Bend, Portland, Medford and Eugene.

“It’s all about the marketing,” said Curtis, 31. “There is a glut on the outdoor growers market, and there even is a lot of indoor. Many growers know how to grow, but don’t know how to market their product. We want to create one of the best products on the market to differentiate ourselves through marketing and to tell our story.”

It’s the kind of challenge that Curtis said he has experience with as someone who has launched other businesses. With the lion’s share of retail shops east of the Cascades, based on a review of data provided by Oregon Liquor Control Commission, Bend makes sense for this latest venture, he said.

“I chose the name Elevation 9 because the summit of Mount Bachelor is at 9,000 feet,” Curtis said. “I love the idea of being elevated on life, not just being high on marijuana. It just feels right to be here.”

Deschutes and Jefferson counties have 26 active licensed growers, said Mark Pettinger, spokesman for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission marijuana program. Some of those growers have outdoor farms; others grow indoors. The number of indoor growers wasn’t available before The Bulletin’s deadline.

It costs more to grow cannabis indoors because of added costs of lighting and climate control, but it can produce higher levels of THC, which is the psychoactive component of cannabis, said Adam Smith, executive director of the Craft Cannabis Alliance, a cannabis trade association.

“We’re saturated with producers, and some are even going out of business,” Smith said. “There’s an overproduction issue. People are still going to succeed in this industry, but it all comes down to smart business practices.”

The way new cannabis growers can stake their claim is by letting consumers know that the grower cares about sustainability, about its employees and about social justice, Smith said.

“New growers are coming into a market that cares about these things,” Smith said. “New companies can produce world-class products, but the products need to be done right, done by people who care about people, the place and the planet.”

The Bend location is perfect for an indoor growing facility, Curtis said. There won’t be any signs indicating what is going on inside, and no excessive lights or noise. “Our goal is for no one to know that we’re there,” he said. “There’s so much more to this than people smoking pot. There’s a spiritual, medical and relaxation side.”

Curtis has experience with cannabis. He previously grew medical marijuana on a small scale in Central Oregon. His other businesses were a commercial fertilizer company and an aviation parts broker, he said.

Elevation 9’s proposed facility will cost up to $200,000 for interior building renovations, Curtis said. He’s leasing the building with the option to buy if he receives a state license. He hopes to have the operation ready to start in May.

At first he plans to start with three employees and utilize contract licensed marijuana workers to handle peak times like trimming and harvesting and packaging. He plans to split his time between Bend and Boise, Idaho.

“We don’t want to jeopardize who we are just to make a buck,” Curtis said.

— Reporter; 541-63-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com

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