Coyote met Toad eight years ago in Liarsville. Four years of letter writing evolved into four years of dating, which turned a loving friendship into a budding romance. Today the couple is as strong as ever: still in love, still in Liarsville and still budding – marijuana that is.
Steven “Coop” Briody (Coyote) and Tiffany Metz (Toad), are the first in Skagway to apply for a limited marijuana cultivation facility license for their business Coyote and Toad’s Garden, a title developed from childhood nicknames. On their one-acre plot of land, they hope to sustainably grow marijuana and possibly sell it to distributors throughout the state. But the process hasn’t been easy, and the two have learned to take the challenges as they come, day by day.
For the young entrepreneurs, the difficulties lie in the unknown. Questions directed to the state often go unanswered or are directed to the Marijuana Control Board code, which is often vague in itself. It’s a learning curve for both business owners and government alike. Struggling through the process requires patience and a strong passion.
“I’ve always been passionate about plants and the earth,” Metz said. “There’s a truth behind all of it that we just don’t even understand.”
A cultivator is God in the eyes of a marijuana plant. It takes carefully set temperatures, humidity gauges and prime environments to get it just right.
First, mother plants must be grown. Growers determine their favored strain, strong, healthy and full of high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) content. From the mother bush, clones are produced.
Marijuana is a photo period plant. Its reproductive cycle is triggered by a change in light. After completing the vegetative state, growers cut the light in half and throw the plant into a flowering stage. It is then harvested, cured and hung upside down to dry, allowing the THC and CBD oil to drain into the buds, creating a stronger product.
But the mothers never reach the latter stages. Instead, they remain in the vegetative state, waiting to produce more clones that will feature the exact same DNA as their mother. Keep mama happy, and you keep the entire harvest happy.
With a limited cultivation license, Coyote and Toad is limited to a 500-square-foot facility. Briody and Metz have their mothers in a wooden shed, with temperatures set between 70 and 75 degrees. Stepping into the veg shed is like stepping onto a warm, scented beach. Stickier still is the flowering and drying room, which for Coyote and Toad, is a converted shipping container.
Humidity is monitored, lights are timed and wind is created with fans. It’s a full time job, requiring hours of love and dedication. And the state wants to know about all of it.
“Every little detail that goes into it, they want to know exactly what that is,” Briody said.
And it’s a lot of details. Cultivators are required to have alarm systems on doors and windows and camera systems with locked-up hard drives. They must report their growing medium and types of fertilizer used. Each plant will be given a tracking number and entered into a state database.
Briody and Metz just recently turned in their application and $2,000 license fee and will now wait and see what happens. The soonest Briody can see their product reaching the market is September. But “what ifs” still loom ahead.
“Those what ifs are hard to think about. I’m thinking about LEDs or high pressure sodium lights right now,” he said.
Shipping lights to Skagway is a roadblock in itself.
“We can’t just go into some shop and get everything we need,” Metz said. “And shipping lights … you run the risk of it arriving damaged.”
The largest unknown is the availability of a testing facility. As of Wednesday, only three testing licenses have been applied for: two in Anchorage and one in Palmer. While more could pop up, how the product will be tested remains one of many grey areas.
Skagway is unique in its location. Marijuana can’t be transported on the ferry, in the air or through the border, making distribution and testing difficult.
Briody spoke of a possible solution between the state and local authorities, where the marijuana could be securely stored and transported directly to the testing facility. For now, it’s all speculation, and the future is unknown. But it’s not stopping the couple from pushing forward.
“We’re just hoping that that works out by the time we get there,” he said.
For Briody and Metz, it’s about more than just the weed. They want to create a self-sustained way of life, and they are already on their way.
Their one-acre piece of land is home to four ducks, an aquaponics garden that uses fish to naturally fertilize plants, a small orchard, raspberries and a psychedelic yurt, all with a riverside view. Should their license be approved, they hope to use funds generated by the marijuana cultivation to build a house.
“Our vision is for this land. It’s more than just growing pot,” Briody said. “We’ve had that before we even had the idea to apply for the license.”
But it’s also about growth. Briody is strongly against prohibition and said it feels good to be part of a movement that is stepping away from that.
“I feel proud to be in this state which has the most liberal laws on cannabis now out of the other states that have legalized it,” he said. “There’s so much more science that needs to be done. But everything that’s come out of it has been so positive. It’s just a blessing to be making that happen.”
Though Skagway’s location makes certain aspects more challenging, Briody said it opens up the opportunity for a brand new industry to a lot of people. The community could potentially create a self-sufficient industry and become a network that stays solely in Skagway.
“If we can keep it all Skagway, and Haines can keep it all Haines… each one of these communities can have their own industry.”
Despite the unknowns and the past and future obstacles, both Briody and Metz have enjoyed the process and their influence in the plant’s life cycle.
“Since we started growing, that whole process of observing that life cycle … it’s a special thing” Briody said. “They say that marijuana is not addictive but growing it is.”