Hopper Stories: Ocean Grown Extracts
August 29, 2020
The very busy Casey Dalton (Co-Owner at Ocean Grown Extracts (OGE) and our flower sourcing partner for Hopper Reserve) shares behind-the-scenes insights on producing Hopper Reserve’s first line of pre-rolls, the advantages of science in their process, and why OGE is committed to de-stigmatizing cannabis use for everyone.
Hopper Reserve: Hi Casey, thanks for chatting. For starters, what does the legacy of Dennis Hopper mean to OGE?
Casey: The fact that he’s still viewed as an icon and a legend speaks a lot to what he did while he was here. It feels like what was relevant then is even more relevant now. He almost has a better microphone today and an opportunity to speak to those that didn’t know him at the time. I feel like he’s more understood now than he was then!
HR: What are your thoughts about the connection between creativity and cannabis?
Casey: I think the experience is different and very individualized to each person. That could be a soccer mom who takes a few puffs to decompress. By quieting what’s weighing on her, she opens up a creative space that was there the whole time. If it’s an artist who uses cannabis to expand and think on a different level, their experience could be totally different. Similar to the cannabinoids that exist within the cannabis plant, where each person has a different reaction, whether they are smoking it, whether they are drinking it, whether they are eating it, it’s an individualized effect and impact on their body. I think it’s very similar to how that relates to a creative space within your own mind.
HR: Can you talk about the cannabis we’re using for Hopper Reserve pre-rolls? How it’s grown and what people should know about the process?
Casey: Of course! The cannabis flower in Hopper Reserve pre-rolls is grown in Yolo county (northwest of Sacramento) in a small town called Linda at a family owned farm. They have a huge property – around 20-40 acres in the rolling foothills. It’s really beautiful terrain and they have a few acres of canopy. The farm is doing all whole season flower: outdoor, pesticide-free, no greenhouses or anything: just sun grown plants. They grow phenomenal looking and smelling flower with high potency, so we’re really happy with the results.
This particular farm is one of the first licensed farms in Yolo county, which was the first country to allow for cannabis licensing in the state. They may be one of the first farms in the state if not the first!
HR: In your opinion, how is cannabis today different from cannabis in the 60’s and 70’s?
Casey: In talking with my late father (who used cannabis daily), it was something you used to laugh and be creative. It was something you shared with your friends. My dad’s world was the music business – writing songs and producing music. Cannabis was a natural part of his creative lifestyle. I think given that era in the 60’s and 70’s, and the lack of research that was done with cannabis at that point, people were smoking a joint to feel better. But they didn’t know why they were feeling better.
HR: And now science leads the conversation around cannabis and active wellness.
Casey: Right. Science helps us to understand that CBN can be helpful for sleep, CBD can help with inflammation, and that THC combined with CBD can help activate the CBD to be more effective. There’s much more research now, which ties back to how different cannabinoids can help people. All of this runs parallel to documented history from indiginous cultures who have successfully used the cannabis plant for hundreds of years.
HR: How are OGE’s products different from others on the market?
Casey: We wanted to make the best tasting vegan products available on the market with the highest quality starting material. We really put our energy into research and development to ensure that we made a consistent product that was not only a dose of cannabis, but a dose of delicious.
We also have the advantage of science on our side. Our facility is equipped with our own testing lab. As we develop our products, we have the ability to test all the way through. We have our own R&D department where we can make many different products into different forms. We brought in an incredible consultant with experience in making gummies, to the infusion of cannabis itself with natural terpenes, or even making CBN in house.
Because we have access to the highest quality materials, brilliant scientists and chemists, and a facility that allows us to basically make or do anything we want, it has allowed us to spend a lot of time really being thoughtful of the R&D process.
HR: How does OGE address the de-stigmatization of cannabis in your production process? Is it something you’re conscious of?
Casey: Absolutely, we think about it for every single product we produce. I feel a responsibility to make cannabis comfortable, normal, and accepted. We start with packaging that’s playful, luxurious, or invokes a feeling. For instance – if you’re targeting seniors who can’t sleep, you want to ensure that product is microdosed. Be sure the child-proof packaging isn’t inaccessible for someone who has arthritis and needs to open a jar for a topical. You want the lettering on that jar to be large enough so it’s something they recognize, even if they don’t have their glasses on. We try to solve those pain points through our development and production process, which in turn creates a normalized consumer experience.
HR: What’s your primary goal when it comes to your products, and how do regulation requirements factor in?
The goal with all of our products has been to use the highest quality ingredients, the best starting material, and science to create products that are standardized and consistent, day in and day out. Regardless of which sample you try, it is always going to be the same effect, the same THC level, the same process that’s used: so that the end user can always depend on that product.
Casey: That was missing in the industry early on, due to lack of regulation. Manufacturers didn’t have the ability to test their products throughout the process – and of course that’s changed today. So, one of the biggest complaints with edibles, for instance, is that each package would have a different effect even if it was the same brand producing it. Regulation has brought in the safety aspect of required testing and the standardization of dosing, which I think is incredibly important.
HR: What quality controls are used by OGE when it comes to growing and sourcing flower?
Casey: The founder of Ocean Grown Extracts, my brother Kelly Dalton, was a long time grower himself. He always paid close attention to anything that would affect the plant: humidity in the room, nutrients the plant received, the amount of light that the plant had. It’s not lost on us that many people use cannabis to manage some form of ailment, and may also have a compromised immune system. We want to ensure that whatever we put in anyone’s hands, we hold the responsibility for that being the cleanest product available without any pesticides, mildew, or any heavy metals. These are also the things we look for when sourcing flower. We work with small farmers who really care about their plants, and have a strict adherence to testing and growing methods.
As far as our growing efforts, we’re implementing a new organic-type certification that was developed by the Bureau of Cannabis Control called OCAL. OCAL is their own form of regulating organic practices. “Certified Organic” is a federal certification, so no cannabis can be labeled as such (yet). OGE is following state guidelines that will be released, and the actual regulations come into play on January 1st, 2021.
We are starting our grow from ground that was formerly farm land. We’re following certifications, recommendations, and organic practices to make sure our sun-grown cannabis is as close to organic as possible, and certified by the state as such. We’ll use that same plant material to make all of the products in our manufactory. I believe we will have the ability to make everything within the building, with the starting material grown in the cleanest, most responsible, environmentally friendly fashion available.
HR: Can you talk about OGE’s sustainability efforts in relation to product production?
Casey: Sustainability is key. Whenever you can repurpose something, you’re removing key environmental impacts. At the facility level, we are so grateful to repurpose a former private prison in Coalinga, CA that already had all necessary elements in place – land, security and cinder block walls to protect our products. If we built a new building from scratch, it would have taken years and many resources that absolutely would have had an environmental impact. To be able to repurpose a 77,000 square foot building on 23 acres and utilize that to manufacture cannabis has been a blessing.
There are also environmental thoughts, sustainability plans and actions that we take on a daily basis. It’s something we consider when looking at energy use, water use, our waste and how we compost and dispose of that, our packaging, and our vegan gummies. For instance, even though the packaging is much more expensive than a bag, we use a child resistant tin that can be reused for many different things. With all of this, we make choices daily that will impact the sustainability of the company and also the sustainability of the industry. We want to be a model for other businesses.
HR: How does OGE’s contribute to the communities where your facilities are located?
Casey: The community itself, the community in Coalinga, is our partner every step of the way. As far as their efforts and giveback, we are alongside them on every opportunity that they give us. The city manager of Coalinga is very generous with her time and her efforts in assisting the underprivileged. Her approach to operating the city is very similar to a non-profit where she feels a sense of responsibility, and has enrolled many other companies (like our own) to help that mission.
Our brand Evidence (a half ounce bag) gives a dollar a bag back to Last Prisoner Project, addressing the past and continuing harms caused by the war on cannabis through clemency and reentry programs.
HR: Could you share the story behind purchasing the private prison in Coalinga?
Casey: My brother Kelly (founder of Ocean Grown Extracts) started the brand in the Prop 215 era. He was in search of a license, and at the time there were only two or three committees open to any kind of cannabis cultivation. So, we went on a hunt for a city that would be open to partner with us.
We heard that the city of Coalinga had several counsel members who voted in favor of allowing cultivation. We reached out to a family friend who had a relationship with the city, and secured meetings with the Mayor, the City Manager, and the Chief of Police to discuss what we could offer as a partner to the city of Coalinga.
When we asked the City Manager if she had any city owned property that was for sale, she said “I have a place with great security.” We pulled up to the prison and it was overwhelming, a huge 77,000 square foot prison on 23 acres…we walked through the doors and it was as though it was still operational: furniture still intact, pictures on the walls, metal detectors through the front door. It was eerie and yet exciting to imagine how this building could be repurposed and used to right the wrongs. We moved in about 30 days later.
HR: What’s your vision for cannabis decriminalization in five years and what role do you see OGE playing in that vision?
Casey: I hope it’s sooner than five years from now. We are working every day to ensure that the timeline is as short as humanly possible. Connecting those with judgement about decriminalization with those sitting behind bars, and understanding that we are all one is so critical.
I’ve gotten to know some of those people sitting in jail through my experiences with Last Prisoner Project. Relating to them on so many levels before cannabis: as a parent, as a spouse, as a child, as a sister – and realizing it could be my family member behind bars. My brother operated in the 215 era. It was a roll of the dice – a gray area.
I think many people assume that on the surface, cannabis is legal now. The media shows pictures of people walking in and out of dispensaries with beautifully packaged products. They don’t realize the road all these companies are walking down was laid one brick at a time by activists. One brick at time by those who served time in jail and those still in jail. Those who did whatever it took to get us to this point. The most disturbing part is that people are sitting in jail now for minimal amounts of cannabis – today those amounts can be legally transported all over the state x100 without issue.
It’s almost as though it was a timing problem. That’s really how I see it. If you take the acts of most of these people – non-violent cannabis offenders – sitting behind bars right now, and you give them a license in 2020, they would be coming home to their families for dinner tonight. They didn’t have the opportunity. There wasn’t a license to obtain.
I feel strongly that the world is moving in the right direction. Ocean Grown Extracts is proud to be a leader in the cannabis space, working with Last Prisoner Project. Utilizing all the voices, knowledge, awareness and platforms to speak the truth and ask we all be compassionate and realize that times have changed and it’s time to let them out.