It’s Harvest Day at Dayton’s Ohio Clean Leaf, a Level 2 cultivator. The MedicateOH team is on-site at their facility to learn about what makes their craft cannabis stand out.
Our Tour: Ohio Clean Leaf and Diamond Science LLC
Online feedback informed us that strains like Banana Puddintain, Lemon Royale, Sticky Buns, GMOz and Blackberry Kush from OCL have been patient favorites. We wanted to know more about how their cultivation practices play into the end product that hits dispensaries.
The weather outside is chilly, but indoors, our senses are warmed by the familiar earthy, herbal aroma. After suiting up in protective gear, we walk through the building to where a team of trimmers stand around large, lush bouquets of high-quality cannabis flower.
Ohio Clean Leaf: The Facility
Ohio Clean Leaf (OCL) cultivation and Diamond Science LLC (DS) extraction were founded by high school friends that grew up in Springfield, Ohio—Jason Kabbes and Aaron Morgan. “We partnered with co-founders Robert and Davey Landis in Spring of 2017 to form OCL. We all co-founded Diamond Science too, but just Aaron and I still retain ownership in DS,” explains Kabbes.
Dayton is a small and proud city, with a lot to offer when it comes to cannabis. With a vibrant culture around shopping small, craft breweries, and excellent restaurants, it makes sense that cannabis would thrive here. Located in an inconspicuous red brick building off Valley Street in Dayton, OCL quietly—but fragrantly—produces some of Ohio’s best-loved medicine.
Our team was welcomed into a gated lot by security, where we parked our cars and met up outside. Upon entering the facility, our team noted that it was well-organized and clean. All of the staff wore smiles on their faces and were extremely welcoming. We were asked what our favorite strains were – Banana Puddintain and Lemon Royal making the list.
The staff was diverse – people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. It had a family-type atmosphere, very inviting. You could tell they were passionate about what they do and that they loved their job. The company was also size-inclusive with their personal protective equipment (PPE). Most places do not have plus sizes for people on a tour so it meant a lot to our team.
Now serving as the Vice President of Cultivation, Compliance and Inventory for OCL and Diamond Sciences, Aaron Morgan led our tour. He drew the parallel of OCL to a craft brewery—the culture of the two have a lot of similar aspects. Small batches, terpene profiles, seasonal offerings, and passionate fans.
Ohio Clean Leaf: A Level 2 Ohio Cultivator
Ohio’s program contains 20 “Level 1” and 15 “Level 2” Cultivators. Level 1 Ohio cultivators can grow up to 25,000 square feet of plants and those with Level 2 certification may grow their plants within just 3,000 square feet. Small and large grow operations encounter many of the same issues, but there are unique challenges as well as benefits to smaller grow operations.
Cannabis cultivation methods vary widely, and Morgan stresses the importance of setting themselves apart from the competition. “If you look around, you’ll see a lot of people are just growing small plants really quick and then using machines to trim.”
Their process requires attention and patience. We noticed a branch of a plant bandaged, but still thriving. This level of attentiveness becomes a part of the overall experience of their product.
The Strains: How Do They Choose?
Patient favorite strains like Lemon Royal, Sticky Buns and Blackberry Kush have been hugely successful for OCL. But how did they choose these particular strains?
Morgan says they did some piggybacking off some pheno-hunting some partners did in Michigan to find the strains they’ve been producing. Because high-potency strains are in highest demand in Ohio dispensaries, they have needed to shift some of the strains they are producing.
“Fruity, and high THC is what the market is demanding,” Morgan notes. Runtz Your Face Off and Banana Puddintain check both of these boxes, and top sales, too. While the OCL team may have had strains in the past that they personally liked, they’ve made valuable decisions to stay competitive in the market. Taste, terpenes, and cannabinoid profiles stand out to patients.
We noted upon examining and catching the aromas that the terpenes of the freshly cured flower smelled very much like their names. The blackberry and banana smells were especially pronounced.
The cultivation process at OCL starts with reverse osmosis water from a holding tank. From there, the water is pumped overhead into conical tanks. The plant journey begins in a hydroponic nursery after which plants are transferred to soil. At about 80 to 90 days, they go into flower. Morgan stresses that everything they do is done by hand.
They hand mix everything, they hand water, they hand trim and hand package, he says. “We have four primary garden workers, and everybody else helps with everything,” Morgan says. “From harvest day to trimming, to packaging to cleaning to deliveries.”
The grow space is arranged into a series of separate rooms for various stages. The care that they take through the process comes into view when our eyes set upon the massive, 6 to 9 foot plants that tower over us in all their glory. The plants themselves appeared well-groomed. We could detect almost no dry or brown spots on the plants, and the stalks were thick and healthy. All of the plants had vibrant colors and looked almost like they had been perfectly groomed—like a topiary garden for cannabis.
Curing is an important part of what makes OCL’s finished product stand out medicinally. The longer cure helps finish off buds, improving their taste and smell. During curing, chlorophyll continues to break down, getting rid of a vegetal taste, making the buds less harsh. “Ideally I’d like to be trimming this when it’s 8 weeks’ cured is my goal. It goes beyond that sometimes just because we’re doing everything by hand,” Morgan said.
Diamond Science LLC Extraction for Vaporizer Cartridges
Serving as their extraction lab, Diamond Science LLC is housed within Ohio Clean Leaf’s facility. In previous years, they utilized biomass from Farkas Farms and other cultivators to produce their vaporization liquid, but now only process OCL flower for this purpose.
The process Diamond Science uses is called CO2 Supercritical extraction. In this process, terpenes are extracted, then cannabinoids, then the terpenes are reintroduced into the final product to preserve the natural terpene profile of the strain they are using to create the vaporizer product.
Kabbes explains: “We cool cure the OCL biomass, then use a multi-step extraction method that preserves the true taste of the cured flower into our vape carts. We first extract out and cryo store the terpenes and light cannabinoid ‘sauce’ using subcritical (liquid) CO2, then later extract out the heavy cannabinoids using supercritical (gas/liquid mix) CO2.”
Trimming & Packaging
The staff were very knowledgeable about what they were doing. They clearly pay attention to the needs of their employees by moving trimmers out of a typically confined space and into a more communal circle in an open room that allows them to communicate with their other coworkers instead of being isolated or passing germs around.
OCL uses Boost packs to maintain moisture content in their flower, not only in house but also in the packaging that goes out the door.
Packaging comes with a QR code that lets you learn a lot more about your flower – a COA for cannabinoids, terpenes, pesticides, microbes, etc. It is also in the squeeze bottle design, a decision made due to the difficulty some patients have opening child-proof packaging.
Planning for the Future
Everything they do came with a lot of thought behind it. It may be a small facility, but they are using it well. We appreciated the small-business grow and the care they put into developing their terpene profiles for maximum flavor.
OCL staff maintain relationships with not only the dispensary selling their products but they also keep a relationship with the budtenders and value their input. The impression MedicateOH got from our tour was that OCL wants to continue to focus on quality, not quantity.
Ohio Clean Leaf strains can be found right now in select state dispensaries. Morgan notes that as the market shifts and Ohio’s program grows, it creates potential to get their products into more dispensaries. “But what we’ve seen is, with the big multi-state operators (MSOs) coming in, the little guys are kind of getting squeezed out for shelf space at dispensaries.”
What complicates matters more is the MSO’s can sometimes use their size to leverage negotiations between states, e.g., swapping space in Ohio for space in Missouri. Morgan notes, “I don’t have any shelf space to offer anyone.”
Like many of their fellow Level 2 cultivators, Ohio Clean Leaf applied but were shut out of the dispensary lottery last year. When asked if they would apply for more space to grow at a greater volume, Morgan noted that they will see how the market responds before applying to expand. Low patient numbers and more competition puts small cultivators like OCL into a “wait and see” approach. He notes that it isn’t solely financial, but also a sustainability concern. “We don’t see any benefit in over-producing to have to end up destroying the product because it gets old.”