Jesce Horton founded LOWD, a craft cannabis company located in Portland, Oregon, in 2015. Immersed in Oregon cannabis causes and beyond, Horton was appointed by Oregon Governor Kate Brown to the Task Force for Cannabis Environmental Best Practices in 2016 and sits on the Board of Directors for both the Oregon Cannabis Business Association and the Oregon Cannabis Association.
With his wife, Jeannette Ward Horton—also an established industry leader in the space—they founded NuProject, a nonprofit seeded in-part by the City of Portland since 2019. The organization provides grants, loans, educational resources, job matching assistance and entrepreneurial services to cannabis business owners and start-ups.
Nationally, Horton co-founded the Minority Cannabis Business Association, founded and is an advisory board member for Marijuana Business Daily and is involved with, and past board member of, the Resource Innovation Institute—a national leader in establishing and educating on standards of farming practices.
An advisory board member of Ben’s Best, a venture by Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company, its focus is on funding Black-owned cannabis companies, supporting the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition and the Last Prisoner Project.
He’s also on a number of federal, state and local cannabis regulatory advisory committees, helping to design and strengthen cannabis markets in both Oregon and California and then some.
Horton’s resume may read as though he was born into the cannabis industry, but his journey to his place in the space, and to the Pacific Northwest from his birthplace of Charlottesville, Virginia, really did begin before he was born, when his father was arrested for carrying less than an ounce of weed.
Less than an Ounce, One Seed and Persecution
Horton knows first-hand how the failed War on Drugs can negatively affect just one small family for years, as his father was arrested for cannabis before he was born, with a lifetime of struggle to follow.
The charge should have been simple possession for carrying less than an ounce, but the bags were individually wrapped, sending him to prison for the maximum five-year sentence for distribution, serving four years for good behavior.
“After I was born the charges followed us, and my family would have to move wherever he could find work,” he shared. “As I grew older, the family did everything they could to keep me away from cannabis. It wasn’t that they were against it; it’s just that they didn’t want me being arrested.”
His family’s good intentions were all for naught, as he was indeed arrested a number of times. Mostly for misdemeanors—all surrounding cannabis.
“Once, I was stopped coming home from a party, and they patted me down and found one seed in my pocket,” he shared. “I spent that night and others in jail, but never went to prison.”
It’s no secret that white neighborhoods do as many drugs as neighborhoods with people of color. It’s also no secret that minority neighborhoods are policed more often and heavier than lighter hoods. This fact, this imbalance of justice, leaves a mark—with or without prison time.
“Just having a record means opportunities lost, depression, anxiety and a lack of belief—feeling like your life is ruined because of this plant,” he added. “It’s never made any sense.”
Engineering a One-Room Grow
Moving from state to state for his father’s work eventually led the family to Florida, where Horton majored in Industrial Engineering with a minor in Mathematics and Physics. He graduated from Florida State University in 2007 and was hired by German engineering company, Siemens, one of the largest engineering firms in the world.
“I started out in Atlanta with Siemens; then they sent me to Baltimore, then Houston,” he said. “I spent about a year and a half in Munich, Germany, when they transferred me back to the states and Portland, Oregon in 2011.”
Still working for Siemens, Horton set up a one-room grow op in the basement of his home, growing medicinal cannabis under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP), helping a Fraternity brother and his wife.
“He had chronic pain in his knees, but his wife had breast cancer,” he said. “I worked with their caregiver to provide plant material, and the caregiver would make cannabis oil capsules and suppositories for them.”
The Art of Urban Craft Cultivation
From his greater good basement grow, to overseeing 24,000 square feet of indoor, and 12,000 square feet of greenhouse space today, Horton has come full-circle in the burgeoning essential industry too big to fail.
Notable is its win for Best Medical Hybrid at the 2016 Dope Industry Awards, with its 503 Wifi, bred from Wifi OG (White Fire OG) using cultivars, Fire Og and The White.
Quoting its website, “LOWD exists effortlessly at the intersection of urban culture and epic nature unique to the City of Portland.”
The brand’s SLAG jars, or “Smoke like a Grower,” jars, hold “intentionally selected buds” stick-trimmed right into the ultra-violet resistant glass jars, resulting in a slow cure—making the end-partaker the first one to touch the flower.
It’s attention to detail like this that makes a craft cannabis farmer stand out. But, what does this mean at the distribution site? How does one differentiate between slow cured craft flower and large-scale production bud—and should there be a pricing difference?
This conundrum is not lost on Horton, who laments the literal abandonment of legacy farmers—and the outright alienation of the industry’s pioneers.
“Legacy farmers in particular have found coming into compliance daunting, to say the least,” he said. “But, craft farming is the future of the high-end cannabis market. I really believe that portion of the market will increase in size and pricing will rise up accordingly. That’s my hope, anyway.”
Regarding the ongoing debate on whether high THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) cultivars are more in demand than a fuller profile via flavorful terpenes, Horton is forever hopeful.
“High THC isn’t a straight line to better cannabis,” he concluded. “People aren’t as discerning right now—they aren’t knowledgeable, but the more information we get out there about genetics, methodologies, the lack of pesticides and just growing healthy, flavorful plants, I feel more will gravitate to the craft cannabis market.”