The Atrium guys are as local and as wholesome as Gravenstein apples. Born and raised in West County, they grow some of the best weed in California and have awards to prove it. I recently visited Shawn, Max, Adam, and their buddies—one of them an American Indian—at their “Trinity Patch” in Sonoma. Sitting in the shade and gazing as far as my eyes will travel, I see a bright green field with thousands of marijuana plants. They’re perfectly aligned to make maximum use of the space where the guys are permitted to grow.
In the summer of 2020, with fires raging across Norcal, Atrium survived lighting storms, cold rain, warm rain, and tornado-like winds that blew the plants this way and that way.
Shawn Gardner calls himself and partner Max Bowen, “weed nerds.” They smoke weed, eat weed, think weed and talk weed.
Much of their A+ product is consumed locally. It also travels to L.A., the largest cannabis market in California. “L.A. has a mighty love affair with OG,” Max says and explains that there are countless OG strains. After decades of cross-breeding, nothing is pure anymore. Touché purists.
“We had an epic harvest in 2020,” Shawn tells me. “Our weed is on the way to market now and we’re planning for indoor and outdoor in 2021.” SPARC dispensaries carry Atrium products.
The term OG comes from “original gangsta’,” which migrated from hip-hop culture to suburban kids and techies. Max tells me that the weed that he, Shawn, and lead cultivator, Adam Schlesinger, grow is rich in Delta-9, the key psychoactive ingredient. It might get you stoned faster than you can recite the ABCs.
Not surprisingly, almost all of their crop is sold months before it’s harvested. Indeed, the demand for Atrium weed is off the charts. Aficionados and connoisseurs recognize what’s good.
“We harvest when the crop is actually ripe, not when it’s convenient,” Max tells me.
Creating the best strains requires careful attention to genetics and sifting through thousands of seeds. Then, there’s lab testing, tasting, smelling, and looking at buds, in much the same way that winemakers look at grapes. Shawn says he’s learned heaps from helpful folks in the wine industry. Not all viticulturists, he explains, are anti-cannabis. Shawn and Max also get great feedback from social media and sales reps. “If consumers don’t like our weed, it doesn’t matter what our opinion is,” Shawn says.
Max adds, “the only thing that was better in the old outlaw days were the stories.” Take it from an OG like me: that’s true.
Jonah Raskin is the author of “Dark Past, Dark Future: A Tioga Vignetta Murder Mystery.”