Watch now: Gate City firm seeks to share cannabis knowledge | News
GATE CITY – The motto of the Commonwealth has long been “Virginia is for lovers.” But Jacob Kessler and his team at GCVA Limited Company in Gate City think Virginia is now for growers, especially cannabis growers.
GCVA Limited Company is Gate City’s premier cannabis store and is located at 103 Cleveland St. with a focus on indoor growing supplies. The business opened in 2022, following Virginia’s Cannabis Control Act in July 2021. The new laws legalized personal and private use of no more than one ounce of cannabis for adults 21 years and older. The law also allows adults 21 and older to grow up to four plants per person.
Now Gate City’s new business has joined the Commonwealth’s new industry.
“Our approach was to take the toughest challenge in town and make it your cornerstone,” said Kessler, the store‘s lead producer and one of its four owners. “Everyone was gravitating towards Bristol and Roanoke, but for me you could zoom out and look at Gate City. Economically this little piece may not have it, but as a region it has.
Kessler’s original plan was only to become a state-certified cannabis grower on his recently obtained farm in Duffield. But for Kessler, the southwestern corner of the Commonwealth feels a bit like a chance to share his deep and once underground knowledge of cannabis and its industry.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to talk about what I’m doing with people,” Kessler said, standing in front of the brick building on Cleveland Street. “This is my chance to do it before it overtakes me. That’s how we wanted to approach it. If we don’t get our message across, it’s up to the interpretation.
GCVA Limited Company offers indoor growing products such as soil, hydroponic kits, indoor planters and more. The store also offers novelty edibles and seeds. However, perhaps the biggest misconception relates to what the company does not sell.
“What I want people to know is that we don’t sell THC,” Kessler said.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a molecule that serves as the main intoxicating ingredient in marijuana. It is also still illegal to sell in Virginia.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle remains the perception of the store.
“They saw it done poorly,” Kessler said. “They saw ‘lazy days’ and tie-dye flags and it made them sick. Any cannabis they might associate with that. It appears to be the misrepresentation. They think we are just here to sell marijuana to the community and that will make it easier to get to our schools. That’s what we want people to understand, and not just as a business — it’s a form of industry. It’s no different from a cigarette or a beer. It should be regulated as such.
Instead, Kessler hopes small towns like Gate City will view its new Commonwealth cannabis freedoms as opportunity above all else.
“What I’ve noticed is that when small towns have done it the right way, it can really bring that community to life from a revenue perspective with tax breaks, repairing -chicken, stuff like that,” Kessler said. “It takes someone in this industry to be completely transparent. We’re excited to pay our first business tax and do everything that way. Just seeing how city councils and small towns work, I’m excited to see how they distribute it.
The City of Gate City has yet to discuss local cannabis rules or regulations, but it’s a topic Mayor Bob Richards said he expects to address in the future.
“I’m sure we’ll (discuss it) because I’m sure it will be a thing to come. We anticipate that. But it’s kind of new and it’s one of those things that causes a bit of controversy, especially in a conservative field. As long as (GCVA) obeys the law, there should be no problem. I’ve only heard good things so far.
The store didn’t need any special zoning or any other city approval to open. Kessler did, however, meet with city officials to introduce himself and GCVA’s intentions.
“The big fear was that if we put ‘Gate City Cannabis’ on the sign, would it affect or thwart the tourism market they’re trying to create here?” said Kessler. “We are more than happy to adapt to that. We told them we would never put ‘Gate City’ and ‘cannabis’ together on a sign.
“As far as being part of the community, if you can’t hear all the perspectives, you’re not really for the whole community. This is the approach we wanted to take.
Areas of Virginia are full of CBD dispensaries and shops since the new legalization. Gate City, however, might not be the first place you think of when opening a new cannabis store. But for Kessler, the agricultural nature of southwest Virginia provides an opportunity that fits the store’s mission.
“It’s crazy to me that such an agriculturally rich region like this hasn’t really stepped up to welcome him considering what tobacco has and hasn’t done for this region. He came in, brought it back, then left. Everyone still feels the weight of it. With this, they encourage people to go to a dispensary and pay them.
Instead, Kessler hopes to provide education and knowledge about growing cannabis to people in southwestern Virginia — people he sees as independent and ready to get into the industry.
“For me (dispensaries) don’t even touch the demographics of who is here. These people are doing it for themselves. They don’t take their car to the store; they fix them. These people will not go to dispensaries. They will find out for themselves. … We don’t care about being a commercial place. We are not organized for this or to be a pot shop. We can provide services. We can give genetics and flowers. This is the service we want to provide.
Safety, however, is a big concern, Kessler said, especially in states that have just chosen to legalize cannabis. This is where Kessler hopes his 20 years of cannabis experience can come in handy.
“If somebody doesn’t put any knowledge behind it, you’re going to have people growing mold, smoking it, and ending up in the hospital. That happens a lot, especially when states flip. People take this new liberal freedom and they go wild with it. No one is there to direct them.
The store also offers on-site cannabis testing through its Purpl Scientific machines that measure cannabis potency, chemical makeup, and plant quality. This, Kessler said, can help determine the overall health of local cannabis.
The store owners also plan to offer classes and various workshops covering everything from using cannabis oil in the kitchen to supporting a community of growers in their endeavors.
The region also lends itself to specific cannabis seeds, Kessler said. A whiteboard leaning against a wall in the store lists various types of seeds that the store recently ran out of, such as Purple Glue, Blue Cheese, Russian Cream Assassin and AfGoo, which are native to Afghanistan, a said Kessler, and can survive fluctuating weather conditions. .
“We think we couldn’t be different from a forestry company where people have to go and get certain types of products, like if you want poplar or maple,” Kessler said. “Some regions produce certain things. So we think we can be that for this area from Roanoke West.
“We want to take this neighborhood and we want to shine a light on it so people realize you can party with the DC boys, but this side of the state is producing awesome stuff.”
In the future, the owners of GCVA plan to consider a location on Jackson Street. Kessler also said he was interested in opening a comedy club in Gate City. And the store aims to open a community garden in the future. But for now, Kessler and his team aim to educate and serve the Gate City community.
“There’s so much this place has to offer,” Kessler said, referring to Gate City and Scott County. “We just want to be able to bring in a different demographic that’s never been here or vacationed here, maybe a younger crowd that might have given up on buying their first home here. We we don’t think cannabis is the best, biggest, brightest thing to ever happen to a city, we just think it should be where you can walk around and choose whether or not to participate.