Cresco Labs Marijuana Plant
It takes four months to grow from a bud to a plant that can be dried for smoking or turned into concentrate for edibles. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

PHOTOS: The Life Of A Marijuana Plant

The four-month cultivation process might be contributing to Chicago’s shortage of legal cannabis

It takes four months to grow from a bud to a plant that can be dried for smoking or turned into concentrate for edibles. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Cresco Labs Marijuana Plant
It takes four months to grow from a bud to a plant that can be dried for smoking or turned into concentrate for edibles. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

PHOTOS: The Life Of A Marijuana Plant

The four-month cultivation process might be contributing to Chicago’s shortage of legal cannabis

How does Baby Mary Jane go from an 8-inch bud to the bud sold in marijuana dispensaries? Let’s just say she lives a complicated life.

It takes about four months to grow and process the female plants, which is part of the reason for shortages at Illinois’ legal pot shops.

In southwest suburban Elwood, workers at Cresco Labs grow strands like Katsu Bubba, Apple Rock Candy and Rollins inside a 43,000-square-foot facility. Nearly half of their plants will be sold to smokers, while the rest will be turned into concentrate, edibles or topical lotions.

Here’s a look at the life of a marijuana plant, from baby to dispensary.

Born as clones

Inside Cresco Labs, baby marijuana plants don’t grow from seeds — they are snipped from “mother plants.” Each plant will produce about a half pound (220 grams) of usable cannabis flower, said Jason Nelson, Cresco’s head of growing operations.

Cresco Labs Baby Weed
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Only 6 weeks of childhood

Rows and rows of these baby plants spend six weeks in the Vegetation Room, where workers feed, water and trim them.

Cresco Labs Teenage Weed
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Teenage plants need more space to grow

After six weeks, the plants are transferred to the Bloom Rooms, where they’ll spend two months growing their desirable flowers. For consistency, netting is used to help keep the plants the same size.

Cresco Labs Teenage Weed
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Cresco Labs Weed Marijuana
Marnuel Martinez / WBEZ

Dried and extracted

At three months old, the fully-grown plants are dried and distributed for production. Some plants will be sold to smokers; others will be turned into edibles or oils.

weed factory
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Weed Factory
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
weed factory
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
weed factory
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Prepared, packaged and distributed

The dried plants then spend about a month inside the kitchen and production spaces, where they are cooked and packaged in odor- and tamper-proof containers.

weed factory
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
weed factory
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
weed factory
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
WBEZ
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Sold in stores

The final products are then sent to legal dispensaries around the state, where consumers spent nearly $40 million on recreational weed during the first month of sales. Dispensaries sold more than 970,000 cannabis products in January, according to state officials.

Cresco Labs Marijuana Pot
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Additional reporting by WBEZ’s Mariah Woelfel. Manuel Martinez is a visual producer at WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter at @DenverManuel.