Special to the Sun
Thursday, July 14, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Kevin Biernacki of The Grove dispensary has been a marijuana grower for nearly two decades.
The 48-year-old Clark High graduate learned the tricks of the trade while living in Humboldt County, Calif., a place where he said a third of the area’s working adults are involved in the industry.
Now, Biernacki oversees what he labels as one of the most sophisticated legal grow houses in Southern Nevada.
He says The Grove houses more than 4,000 marijuana plants, nearly 500 color-coordinated LED lights, 9,000 gallons of water purifying and storage tanks, a self-watering system that produces no water waste, a lab for extracting cannabis oil from the plant and another lab for rolling and baking edibles from scratch. Biernacki claims The Grove’s all white, squeaky clean grow house is “the only one of its kind in the world.”
The Grove produces marijuana for medical use; on Nov. 8, Nevadans will vote on whether all people, not just medical card holders, ages 21 and older can legally purchase up to 1 ounce of pot from state-licensed dispensaries.
He sat down with the Sun to discuss the future of the marijuana industry in Las Vegas. Here are some highlights:
What sparked your interest in marijuana?
It was there pretty much from the time I moved to Humboldt County. I think the stats are that 1 in 3 working adults there grow professionally. That’s the industry. Once the logging industry left Humboldt County, the cannabis industry kind of took over.
For the last 30 years, about 80 percent of the cannabis that was sold on the black market in the United States came from Humboldt County. They even called Highway 80, which goes from Humboldt County across the country, the marijuana corridor.
Where does your passion for marijuana come from?
I’ve seen its effects in helping cancer patients. My brother-in-law is going through cancer, and the only thing that really helped him get over it was taking cannabis. In his case, it was to the point where he was using it medicinally, to the point where doctors said “we don’t really know what’s going on here, but all of your tumors are gone.” It completely stumped them, and they’re continuing him on that path. The passion is being on the cutting edge of helping people who have a critical disease. You’re not really going to save everybody, but being able to have the research and knowledge, being on the cutting edge of the industry, it’s exciting and rewarding. More research is being done on the plant itself. The feds have finally acknowledged it has a place in medicine, and it has cured countless cancer patients.
What would you say to people who villainize marijuana and say people just want to use it to get high?
Addiction is addiction, if people have an addictive personality, they’re going to get addicted to things. So whether you’re going to get addicted to alcohol or pot, most drugs, even alcohol, have a withdrawal period. Even caffeine. If you drink a lot of caffeine, you get headaches from it. As you take in more, your body says “I need, I need, I need.” Cannabis doesn’t have that. The whole concept that cannabis is a gateway drug came in the 1960s, out of commercials that basically said “you’re going to go crazy and end up in a mental institution.” They were trying to eliminate people from smoking. And it has kind of come out of nowhere. There’s no facts, no generated research. The majority of the research that has been done has shown that cannabis is not addictive at all. I know lots of people that just smoke and do just fine.
Are you in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana use and possession in Nevada?
I am; my feeling is that if you’re 18 years or 21 years old, you can go die for your country. You can do pretty much everything you want to do. To make a plant that grows naturally in water illegal, it would be like eliminating any other plant. It doesn’t make any sense. Like if they made eating pine nuts illegal, for example. I’m a grown man, I’m fighting for my country. Why can’t I eat pine nuts? You’re eliminating a plant that grows naturally. In historical terms, they’ve found satchels of cannabis plants rolled up in prehistoric people. So it has been used for thousands of years. It has been recorded in history. I think it’s absolutely absurd to just tell people that they can’t use it. It doesn’t make any sense. People can drink alcohol, which is way worse for you than cannabis. Some people are very violent when drunk, they lose all sense of self. With cannabis, you just want to sit and order pizza, nobody wants to beat anybody up.
Are there certain strands better for treating certain conditions?
One of things we’ve found is for seizures, cannabis with high cannabidiol (referred to as CBDs) is best. So if you’re looking for high CBDs, there are some that are called 101 CBDs with 12 percent THC. What you’re really looking for is that high CBD strand. Contrary to popular belief, a lot of people thought CBD were cancer-curing agents. Turns out it’s higher THC with a small balance of CBDs that is more effective for cancer. Because THC is acting as a carrier for the CBDs to get into the cells. But that’s why we need to make it legal, so we can continue research. Even right now, you’re not allowed to research it. The FDA will not allow you to research it, because it’s a classified as a Schedule 1 Drug. You can research cocaine all day long because it’s not a Schedule 1 drug.
What’s your hope for that?
Well, it will be changed for sure, the question is what it will be changed to. If they were just to declassify it, that’d be ideal. Because then marijuana just becomes a natural product just like alcohol. But if they simply just take it from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 2, it allows the pharmacies to sell products and get their hands into it. I’m not 100 percent sure if that’s the best route for us, because then big pharma comes in and takes control. They could want better flavors, better high and now all of a sudden you have a product was all natural, and it becomes altered or artificial. When pharmaceutical companies get involved it becomes difficult.
Do you use marijuana?
I don’t smoke during the day, I only smoke at night to help shut everything down. People toss and turn in bed all night, I just use medical marijuana.
How can marijuana proponents make a difference?
Get out and vote, make it go recreational. That’s what we want to see. Because if it goes rec, then anybody can smoke it if they want. You don’t have to have a patient card. If not, you’re going to get it from your neighbor, who’s growing it in his backyard. So why not just make it go recreational? Get out and vote.