With 16 years under his belt as a cannabis grower, Jamie Syken has had a closeup look at the evolution of the cannabis industry.
He moved to Oregon 17 years ago from Memphis, Tennessee, and four years ago he established Dirty Arm Farm in Ashland.
Since then, Syken has been on the cutting-edge of the industry. He was recognized with Dope Magazine’s People’s Choice Dope Cup award for Live Resin in 2015.
“I’m just doing what I like and what I thought was enjoyable,” says the entrepreneur. “I’ve smoked flower for 28 years, but I realized I want to feel cannabis in different ways now.”
Syken prefers dabs, cannabis oil, which provide an intensified effect and allow marijuana connoisseurs to taste and distinguish the flavorful terpenes.
Syken creates his concentrates using fresh-frozen product.
“What we do is we harvest it and then freeze it at cryogenic temperatures, and then we’ll process it under cryogenic temperatures. This preserves the terpenes,” he says.
Most people are familiar with dried cannabis, but with drying, the terpenes in the plant begin to evaporate.
“We freeze it within 20 to 30 minutes of cutting it down,” Syken says. “The idea is you’re preserving everything in there. We ensure that all the terpenes are there, along with the cannabinoids. The terpenes themselves intensify the effects of the THC and the CBD and the other cannabinoids, and it has a really unique effect that people haven’t been using. Almost no one’s been using fresh cannabis.”
The goal for Syken is not mass production. “We’re not looking to grow the most cannabis. We’re looking to grow truly craft cannabis,” he says.
While Syken has grown and sold his share of flower, the farm now focuses on live resin concentrates, sublingual drops, sprays and cannabis-infused syrups. Strains he's growing this year include Tangine, Clementine and Dog Walker.
His products are in nearly 300 stores statewide, including Fireside in Phoenix, Talent Health Club and Dab Town in Medford.
Syken says he became interested in the industry at a young age.
“I’ve been self-medicating since I was 14 years old, essentially. I have asthma and ADD (attention deficit disorder) and use cannabis for both of those. I originally started smoking because I was experimenting, and then over time I realized how much it brought to my life. I know this is my calling and what I’m supposed to be doing.”
He and his wife, Melissa, oversee all operations of the farm, including cultivation, extraction, marketing and sales.
Dirty Arm Farm is classified by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission as a Tier 2 indoor farm.
Syken says his methods allow him to have three annual harvests, grow strains that the natural seasons would not allow and control the overall product.
“Indoor will look the best,” he says. “We like outdoor, but we want to make it a little more babied so that when it gets to the customer it’s in really good condition. We like the control of indoor, but we want natural sunlight. That’s a huge part for us.”
He believes sun is essential to growing good cannabis, and the local climate is the reason “Southern Oregon grows some of the best cannabis in the world.”
Syken says the region is leading the world in cannabis cultivation, research and genetic development.
With legalization for recreational use, some of the stigma surrounding marijuana is evaporating, he says.
“A lot of people are seeing that it’s been proven completely safe. I think a lot more people who haven’t used cannabis are going to use it and find out the benefits of it.”
Legalization has resulted in a new, regulated marketplace, which has made it “harder to be the gray-area guy,” Syken says.
“I don’t think there’s a future in the gray area. Most of that gray-area cannabis is having to leave the state. The gray market’s gotten harder, cheaper and less lucrative. I think the gray-area people should see that there’s a lot of opportunity, unlimited potential in the recreational market.”