ME: Wellness Connection Shows Off Its Medical Marijuana Operations

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The process of growing marijuana goes through about a five-month cycle at the Wellness Connection complex in Auburn, Maine.

The first step is cloning. The tip of a mature plant, called a “mother plant,” is cut off from a branch.

The clones, which are basically seedlings, are moved to a separate room. They’ll spend about 15 days in a warmer, more humid climate of this room aid in their growth. Once they mature a bit, they are potted and moved to the “veg” stage for two weeks.

Plants start out as vegetative growth, promoting the production of leaves and stems. An 18-hour photo period replicates the longer summer days with bright white light for about two weeks. The plants are then potted in shredded coconut shells. The operation does not use soil, because the potential for root rot and other traditional diseases.

As they grow bigger, plants are placed in one of the four flower rooms where the light schedule reduces to 12 hours on, 12 hours off. The lighting spectrum changes to an orange hue, which replicate the sun during the fall, which makes the plant start forming buds for blossoming.

Plants stay in the flower room for about eight weeks, where they are harvested, cloned and pruned on alternating two-week cycles. They are then stacked into a “dry room.”

Harvested buds are dried and then packaged for the dispensaries.

Growers in Auburn cultivate an extra five plants or so to make up for a few that will not grow as well. And some of the extras become mother plants.

Old mother plants are cut down, bagged, soaked in soap – which renders the product unusable – and thrown in the dumpster.

Employees at the cultivation facility are proactive in filling dispensary needs. They work with dispensaries to come up with inventory forecasts for what members will need in the coming five to six months. They must grown a number of plants per strain to fill the need. They offer between 30 and 40 strains at any given time.

A board of Ph.Ds advises the company on various aspects of the cultivation process.

The plants are watered using an automated system, which brings treated water from tanks in the basement. Fans – loud ones – and humidifiers keep the room perfect for growth.

Individual plants are tracked with a tag that is attached during the process, each with a unique barcode that has the harvest number, plant identification number and strain identification.