Anyone can throw a seed in the ground. Any decent grower can keep a plant healthy and rake in a harvest. But even with clones from the same mother plant, the end product can vary widely in effect. Most growers control for the major variables in cultivation, like strain, light and nutrients. That isn’t enough for Northern Emeralds CEO and Founder Cody Stross. Operating only on sophisticated hydro table systems, his team takes their passion for perfection to calculated obsession. The results, starting with their flagship strain Titan OG, have rocked the preconceptions of quality in the Bay Area and the world.
“We worked hard on our first strain,” Stross said. “When it was time to find a buyer, we walked through the Bay Area from one dispensary to the next, hoping to get to that elusive back room. It was hot, stressful, and uncomfortable. But after months of rejection, a clerk at the Green Door gave us a shot. We went in the back, and after seeing and testing our strain, they wanted it.”
The sale broke the preset price range of the downtown San Francisco Financial District dispensary, but they accepted it.
“We held out for hours because we knew they would buy it for what we were asking,” Stross said. “In the end, they admitted we had something special.”
Now, Northern Emeralds’ strains are on the shelves of over 90 of California’s finest dispensaries.
The Intent of the Seed
With the impending boom of legal recreational cannabis, many see mass production as a way to supply the market with a cheap supply of cannabis. Stross, who is also chairman of the Humboldt County Growers Alliance, thinks that consumers deserve better.
“The goal isn’t growing just anything, it’s to bring forth the best possible expression of the plants’ genetics – what we refer to as the intent of the seed,” he said.
Cannabis has always been a part of Stross’ life. When he was 5 years old his father slid a refrigerator away from a false wall revealing a dark room, in the middle of which were piles of plastic bags filled with harvested cannabis. Within that dark room in a remote cabin in the woods his father swore him to secrecy, even from his mother.
“It was the stuff you would see back in the day,” Stross said. “What we would now call cheap dirt weed: smelly, and lots of it.”
Stross recalls his early years as the son of an international smuggler. “I grew up in interesting circumstances,” Stross said. “Because my parents had been pursued by the FBI, I spent years living in fear, each time I crossed the border or went to school, trying to remember what name to say: who I was pretending to be that day. Sometimes I would forget. I was a kid.”
After tragedy struck the family, Stross was legally emancipated at 13 and he moved to Austin, Texas. He began his own home construction and renovation company and built a new life, one that was respectable, hard-working and legal. Cannabis was in his past – until he received a life-changing phone call.
“It was late when I got a call from some long-lost friends, who once rented a room to me as a teenager, and we ended up talking for a while,” Stross said. “They said they were doing something amazing in Humboldt and offered to buy me a plane ticket to come see them. After the call ended, I didn’t expect anything. But, a few days later, there was a plane ticket in my mailbox. So I went.”
The cannabis he was re-introduced to was completely different from the plant of his childhood.
“The smell was pure and clean,” he said. “It was in an indoor grow, in a garage with the beautiful humming white noise of air circulating fans that immediately made me feel like I was… home. I didn’t realize until then how much I had missed my father, my way of life, my heritage, I felt connected to him for the first time in nearly 15 years since his death, 20 years back to that moment of us alone in the woods, in some cabin, sharing a secret not even my mother knew. I missed him so much and this moment with the plants brought me back to myself and him. I wasn’t anxious. I was really calm, even at peace. It was legal in California now.”
He then decided to make cannabis a part of his life again, but on his own terms.
“Legitimacy was important to me,” he said. “I never want to live in fear again.”
Northern Emeralds: The Path to Success
Stross then began searching for the perfect partners and found them in Alex Knappitsch and Tyler Simmons. Knappitsch is an intuitive grower, with two green thumbs and an innate kinship with the plants. With over a decade of cannabis experience, he brought the inception of Northern Emerald’s signature strain, Titan OG, to fruition.
Simmons, by contrast, had the analytical acumen to control every facet of the grow. His dedication to environmental excellence ensures Northern Emeralds uses renewable energy, resources and recaptures upwards of 90–95 percent of all water irrigated and its systems produce safe, reliable cannabis. With Stross bringing a fresh set of eyes and ideas to the way they produced their product, the trio evolved and developed a path to success and became a permitted medical cultivator in a few short years.
“We account for everything, every possible variable,” said Stross. “Once we had a few batches that were throwing off our metrics, just slightly off. We double checked everything and finally found that the commercial soil we were using had varied nutrient and trace element ratios. Nothing anyone else would even notice, but we found it and changed it. For a consistent product, every condition has to be identical. From genetics to watering to harvest and curing and storage temperature.”
Now, Northern Emeralds not only grows their own cannabis but serves as cannabis performance analysts for aspiring growers and distributors across California. Their industry-leading quantitative 12-point grading system makes cannabis grading not only reliable, but repeatable.
“We can have the same product in different rooms, graded by different personnel, and deliver grading that is over 96 percent identical,” Stross said. “We have perfected a unique proprietary method that will change the way the world looks at cannabis.”
They secured the first recreational permit in Arcata in January 2018 and also possess licenses for the county and state, as well as a state-issued distribution license.
The elevated cannoisseur status of their quality control means only the best buds reach their discerning clientele. Of almost 10,000 batches appraised (so far), only 400 earned distribution through Northern Emeralds. Of those outstanding few, only five have earned a tier-ranking of Private Reserve, including Titan OG – capturing a bulk rate of over $3,600. Their latest, Sapphire Kush, owes its creation to Simmons, the second master grower in the trio. The purple, green, and red hairs explode out of an energetic daytime strain that relieves pain without lethargy.
Stross and his team at Northern Emeralds invite connoisseurs who desire the highest quality of cannabis to find them and their products at the nearest dispensary.
TELL US, have you sampled cannabis from Humboldt County?