Marijuana trimming isn't just an illegal trade anymore
When you first walk in to Megatron, the nickname for Pink House's grow facility, the beautiful scent of sativas and indicas can be a bit overwhelming. There are hundreds of small plants perched beneath flourescent lights throughout the hallways and thousands of plants spread out between four different rooms. Every day, the grow house goes through the same repetitive schedule: shuffle hundreds of plants from vegetative rooms to flowering rooms, water and fertilize plants, prune and check flowering rooms, harvest what is ready and send things to the trimmers.
The latter is a job so big that it takes a staff of fourteen full-timers to keep up with. They come in each morning, change into their work clothes (trimming is a smelly job), grab a paper bag full of long-stemmed, leafy cannabis flowers and start trimming -- up to 84 full plants each week.
Sometimes they get a break to help harvest or breakdown of equipment, but they spend the majority of their 40-hour weeks preening the unwanted leaves from nuggets of cannabis.
If you have never trimmed before, you may not know how monotonous and tedious the job is. It's the one part of the process that growers traditionally have great disdain for mostly because it involves staring at small pieces of green with great attention to detail for hours on end. However, for this crew and many others around the state it is just another job - and one they don't mind doing.
Most of the trimming staff works together in this one room.
When asked if they liked their job, most responded with something along the lines of "we're crazy" with a crooked smile on their face and without looking up from the task quite literally at hand.
"To be able to work with this plant and still make a living is incredible," says Shawna Weiman, "Trim Leader" for Pink House. "This is a good way to be passionate about it and do it right."
The job -- like nearly all in the medical marijuana industry -- is not legal under federal law. But it is completely legal at the state level and backed by state regulations. Each employee must have a state-issued badge to work at any MMJ facility.
As tight as those regulations have to be, the ones the trimmers follow while trimming are even more demanding. The trimmer must snip off each of the undesirable fan leaves and then precisely manicure the THC-coated sugar leaves off of the bud, leaving behind a bud that is both appealing on the shelf and enjoyable to smoke.
After trimming the nugs are brought into the scale room to be weighed and samples are taken for testing.
"It's not just about aesthetics it's about trimming each bud to cater to its characteristics," trim leader Shawna Weiman says. "It is a lot different trimming an OG than it is trimming something like a Golden Goat."
OG buds are tighter and more compact and middle-shaped, which make them easier to trim than a haze, since hazes are not as dense and have many more fan leaves that need to be removed, Weiman says. Overall Pink House has more than 100 strains that they grow, which the trimmer must know how to prepare in their own way to ensure maximum quality.
"Trimming is an essential part of the curing process," says Weiman. "Many people just treat it as something that happens after the fact like it doesn't matter that much, but it is really an understated and incredible part of the process."
Most of the trimmers remove buds from several stems at a time, then manicuring the entire pile and start again.
All of the herb from their farms is hand-trimmed rather than done by machines. While machines are quicker and less man-hour intensive, hand trimming allows an additional level of quality control since every bud is being individually inspected before it hits the shelf.
Outside of the quasi-legal realm of medical marijuana and aside from home growers trimming their own harvest, trimming is seen as a part-time and seasonal job with workers flocking to Northern California and the Pacific Northwest for the fall harvest. Transient neo hippies move from grow to grow, sleeping in tents or their cars while trimming buds for hourly wages plus all the herb then can smoke.
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The Pink House crew -- and other legal trim shops around Colorado -- definitely have a better work environment for trimming than trimmers have traditionally received. They have a year-round work environment that does not resemble the barns and basement trimming operations that have operated below radar across the country for decades.
"It is still a job, but it is completely far removed from what it once was," Weiman says. "I have guys that go to California for a season, and then come back here and are thankful for the environment they have."
The crew has windows and comfortable office chairs to sit in and a peace of mind knowing they are making a legal living and the cops (hopefully) shouldn't be busting in. Better, they get a steady paycheck and health insurance.
While the stigma holds true that most trimmers are men, it is not true that they all are red-card holders or even daily smokers. Several of them do not smoke much at all. But for those that do Weiman encourages them to toke up. For many jobs this could hinder performance, but since trimming can be a very zen-like profession catching a quick bake before starting work can improve performance in some workers.
Trimming often comes with a very relaxed environment.
Of the 14 crew members, Weiman says most have been there for several months, but a few are going on years one and two with the company. While the retention rate of this newly legal industry isn't extremely high, she says there is not really ever an issue of finding people to work. With the passing of Amendment 64, it is arguable that this job will become more in demand as production increases to meet the increase in consumers for the shops that make the transition.
Read more from our Marijuana archive: "Retail marijuana emergency rules: William Breathes's first take."
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