Matt Maletis’s family runs one of Portland’s biggest beer distributors, stocking our grocery shelves and bar taps with craft brews and Bud. Now, he hopes to leap to the forefront of a newer industry of good feelings: the emerging high-quality cannabis business. Even as a dank cloud of uncertainty hangs over the federal approach to state-by-state legalization, Maletis and his partners plan a research, development, and production campus on 200 sprawling Clackamas acres, near I-5 and the Aurora airport, and smack-dab in the middle of a rich agricultural area.
“What we have,” the 37-year-old says, “is the basis for something that could only happen here in Oregon.” He notes that the cannabis business now parallels signature Northwest craft niches in beer and wine. “Combining experience from those businesses will work to normalize and show the positive effects this industry can have as it matures and develops.”
The proposed project, called Oregon Hub (OHUB), involves some of Portland’s top legal-weed players: Mowgli Holmes of Phylos Bioscience; Mark Seid of the dispensary Oregon’s Finest; and Jeremy Plumb, owner of Farma dispensary and Newcleus Farms. The OHUB campus opened in late January, with plans to commence studying and breeding new strains of cannabis—and, by extension, developing new products for a booming market—by year’s end. For instance, OHUB hopes its research will lead to strains that are pest, drought, and flood resistant, as well as find ways to control potency, fiber strength for hemp, and even growth speed.
“We want to understand how the plant’s genes control its traits, how its chemical makeup is structured, and how these things can be improved upon to help people in consistent ways,” says Holmes.
If legal recreational weed is here to stay, it’s not hard to imagine what Holmes calls “an Anheuser-Busch-style industry that cranks out mass-produced products.” The OHUBbers hope to incubate an alternative: a scientifically ambitious but craft-informed business, just as vigorous (in its mellow way) as the small-batch beer revolution before it.
“Either way, it’s going to be a big industry,” Holmes says. “We want it to be a good one.”