Beekeeper’s Biz Gets a Buzz from Pot

Photo by A.J. Herrington

As the legal cannabis industry continues to expand, its impact on local businesses and the economy in general can’t be denied.

One trend that continues is the formation of companies that service the marijuana industry, without actually having any contact with cannabis products or the plant itself. Many of these ancillary businesses, as they are known, are created specifically to serve the marijuana industry. Other times, existing companies are sought out by cannabis firms eager to fill a need.

One new supplier to the cannabis industry is beekeeper Edwin Nutting.

Edwin Nutting (Photo by A.J. Herrington)

Edwin, who is also an illustrator and air-brush artist, cares for a hive of about 60,000 honeybees at his home in Santee, California, a suburb of San Diego. Nestled up against a brush-covered hillside, the site provides easy access to native forage such as buckwheat and wildflowers. Non-native species, such as mustard and avocado, are also visited by the bees in their search for nectar and pollen, which can cover a four-mile radius from the hive.

(Photo Courtesy of Edwin Nutting)

Edwin, who has been keeping bees for about 20 years, is also a medical marijuana patient. When Outliers Collective, a licensed dispensary, opened near his home three years ago, he was happy to have a nearby source for convenient access to his medicine. Friendly and outgoing by nature, Edwin soon became well-known to the staff at Outliers.

When the dispensary’s parent company, OutCo Labs, decided to develop a THC-infused honey tincture, communications director Vee Falces knew right where to go. She approached Edwin about supplying the honey, and a new business relationship was born.

I was invited to visit Edwin at honey harvest time and got to see his operation firsthand, beekeeper’s suit and all! He showed me the hive up close, as well as the frames from which he had just collected the honeycomb.

(Photo by A.J. Herrington)

Edwin explained that next, he and his business partner Ashley W. would use a hot knife to cut the caps off the combs. The honeycomb would then be spun in a centrifugal extractor to collect the honey. Once the honey sat for a few days to allow any beeswax and other impurities to float to the top, it would be ready for infusion.

A week later, we reconvened, this time at OutCo Labs, for the infusion process. Dr. Markus Roggen, the vice president for extraction, explained that cannabis oil from their CO₂ extractor had been made water-soluble using a proprietary process. Carefully weighing this emulsion and the honey Edwin had delivered that morning, OutCo production manager Taylor Trah mixed them together to achieve the desired 20 mg THC per teaspoon.

Taylor Trah (Photo by A.J. Herrington)

Once the honey tincture is bottled and offered in the dispensary, OutCo will gauge its acceptance by patients. If all goes well, the plan is to purchase all the honey Edwin can deliver. OutCo VP Roggen explained that they were willing to pay a premium for Edwin’s pure honey, produced just minutes away from the dispensary.

Markus Roggen (Photo by A.J. Herrington)

“We locally grow our cannabis, so we also want local honey,” he said.

Edwin takes great pride in the honey produced by “my girls,” as he affectionately refers to his colony of bees. He’s even more proud now that he knows it will be used therapeutically by fellow MMJ patients.

(Photo by A.J. Herrington)

“This is the best way I’ve ever seen my honey used,” he declared.

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