Matt Maletis would like to help Oregon's cannabis business follow in the footsteps of the state's wine industry, which has carved out a high-end niche by combining science with a small-batch approach.
Maletis, 37, this week announced the opening of Oregon Hub, a five-acre campus just north of the Aurora State Airport in Clackamas County.
"We think Oregon can provide a model for other states," he says. "If we get this right, we can be like Cuba with cigars or Kentucky with bourbon."
The announcement marks a broadening of the scope and ambition of Oregon's young recreational cannabis industry and a milestone for property that's been at the center of political battles for years.
Matt's Maletis' father, Tom Maletis, and his uncle, Chris Maletis, who made their fortunes in beer distribution, spent more than a decade trying unsuccessfully to develop Langdon Farms Golf Club and the surrounding land at the edge of the Portland metro area for industrial purposes. Oregon Hub is located on farmland south of Langdon Farms.
After years of trying to get the land brought inside the Urban Growth Boundary and used for warehousing and distribution, the Maletises finally found an acceptable use for the land: marijuana.
The land is zoned for exclusive farm use, and growing marijuana fits that bill.
"It's the highest yielding agricultural product," Matt Maletis says.
He will now develop buildings on the property and lease space to tenants.
Oregon Hub will house Phylos Bioscience, which is attempting to modernize cannabis-seed technology. Newcleus Nurseries, which is seeking to advance cultivation practices; and a grow operation for Ideal Farms, a leading cannabis producer.
"The vision is for this campus to be an innovation engine," says Mowgli Holmes, the founder of Phylos, which currently employs 17 people.
Holmes says other agricultural crops have benefited enormously from research and development over past century, which cannabis technology has remained rudimentary because it was illegal until recently. "It's really kind of a backward crop right now," Holmes says.
Jeremy Plumb, of Newcleus Nurseries, would like to bring the same kind of innovation to growing techniques. He believes that growers currently use vastly more resources—and pesticides— to grow cannabis than is necessary.
"You have an industry trying to get to commercial scale with no study of how to use energy and water effectively," Plumb says.
The third tenant on the property, Ideal Farms, will simply grow cannabis. Mark Seid, managing partner in Ideal Farms, is an experienced grower and also was part of Oregon's Finest, a retailer.
Maletis says that nearly a dozen other companies have expressed interest in locating at Oregon Hub.
Maletis says his family's history in the beer distribution business informs his aspirations for Oregon Hub but he wants people to know that it's his business, not a family endeavor.
Convincing his father and uncle that cannabis was the future wasn't easy.
"It's been a challenge," he says, but they are now fully supportive.