Colorado Cannabis Cultivation: Free Dispensary Tour Review

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Three years ago this month Colorado residents voted to legalize recreational cannabis. The industry as a whole has come a long way since then. However, people who are unfamiliar with cannabis may have misconceptions about the industry. Some may think that an industrial cannabis garden would mirror a scene from the Showtime television series “Weeds.” Instead, it is closer to your grandmother’s greenhouse, magnified to the size of a Home Depot.

Terrapin Care Station in Denver stands out as the first grow house to offer free public tours in Colorado in an effort to educate the public on cannabis commercial production. Other dispensaries also use their grow houses to offer tours, but for a hefty price tag with private or restricted admission only. Terrapin Care’s recreational grow house has only been open since May 2015 for tours.

The dispensary and grow house owners are grappling with being both shunned and sought after simultaneously.

The promotional video shown at the beginning of the tour depicts Terrapin Care’s owner Christopher Wood saying that family ethos is Terrapin’s objective. Terrapin Grow Station has a total of four dispensaries, in Colorado, but only their northern Aurora location shares the same site as their grow house, where the tour takes place. Attendees must be aged 21 and over for access to the tour.

“We like money, but we love cannabis,” said David Cheslin, a supervisor at Terrapin’s Aurora grow. “Education is half the battle for both.”

Upon walking through the front door into the waiting room for the tour, a security officer asks each person for their identification to verify their age as at least 21. This is required for entry into any Colorado retail dispensary.

“I was not expecting a third-party, armed security officer,” said tour goer Judy Phelps, 69, of Montana. “But some Rastafarian who was maybe friends with the owner.”

Cheslin, the tour director for the overbooked group of eight, had a character closer to that of a grass-roots horticultural enthusiast than that of a former Grateful Dead follower or a drug lord. Following him within the boundary of a yellow tapped path lead the attendees to the 13,000 square foot warehouse, located behind the retail storefront. 

In front of 20 rows of potted cannabis clones, separated by height, the flower cultivation process was chronologically described. A blue tag, called a radio frequency identification technology or RFID tag, hung around the stalk of every plant. 

The state of Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) mandates that every grow house fuse this labeling method in order to track the cannabis plant from seed to sale. For a grow house to stay operational, all MED regulations must be met. This was a constant point made on the tour, and efforts to stay compliant were very noticeable.

We like money, but we love cannabis. Education is half the battle for both.

Cheslin offered details on the types of light waves, the voltages used as well as the duration that the plants are exposed to light. Cheslin was also forthcoming on the present day, hot-button issue, on the use of pesticides. Terrapin grow uses only all natural pesticides in their production: neem, citrus and mineral oils. These ingredients can be found on the side of every package sold, another regulation that must be met for operation.

Since the Colorado residents voted to allow commercial production and sales of recreational cannabis, a major drive for Colorado businesses has been tourism.

A 2014 study by the Colorado’s revenue department concluded that 44 percent of cannabis sales in the Denver metropolitan area and up to 90 percent of sales in Colorado’s mountainous areas are from out-of-state visitors.

The dispensary and grow house owners are grappling with being both shunned and sought after simultaneously. Most have combatted this duality in the public by simply ignoring those who oppose them.

“This company aims for education, otherwise, we would have people coming from all over and not knowing anything,” said Sarah Bacon, Supervisor at Terrapin’s northern Aurora storefront.

44 percent of cannabis sales in the Denver metropolitan area and up to 90 percent of sales in Colorado’s mountainous areas are from out-of-state visitors.

Every grow house has their own technique. In an industry where most operational information is sealed off from all others, Cheslin said, “Nothing in Terrapin Care Station is proprietary.”  

Terrapin Care Station challenges the dialogue of the economically rich community that it is immersed in. The presentation of the information illustrated an experience that you would enjoy on a wine tour or beer factory, only without the samples. There is no shack run by thugs, but rather a state-of-the-art large agricultural warehouse governed by strict compliance laws.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect at all, but this tour was really informative,” said Candice Thurlow, 34, a Colorado native. “Hopefully, other grows will follow suit.”

What do you think about the Colorado dispensary and cultivation systems? Would you like your state to operate the same way? If not, what changes would you make? Join the conversation and comment below!

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