Story written by Sara Knight | Photos provided by Colorado Grow Company
Although Marijuana has been legal in the state of Colorado since 2014 and is gaining traction and legal status in other state around the country, most of the population still has plenty of questions surrounding the substance, and few places they can go to find answers. While most dispensaries welcome questions and are very knowledgeable everything cannabis related, it can be intimidating to enter one for the first time.
So let us enter, together, the Durango Cannabis Discovery Center. Located at 965 Main Avenue, this museum and education center is nestled between El Rancho and Hair Fusion, right in the heart of downtown.
“We decided that we wanted to provide a space for anyone to come in and feel comfortable asking questions, learning and being educated about cannabis, the industry, the laws and regulations, without actually having to go into a dispensary. Sometimes that can be really intimidating for people,” said Rachel Landreth, General Manager of the Discovery Center.
They have created just that. As you walk through the front door, you may initially wonder if you are in the right place. Don’t worry, a friendly employee will promptly greet you and welcome you in.
“Sometimes people grab the door and you can tell they are debating whether or not they want to come in,” Landreth explained. “That’s why we have the staff here, welcoming them to come on in. Once visitors get in here and really talk to our employees, they leave with a completely different view and they are a little less intimidated, less scared and usually curious to learn more.”
The space is welcoming and bright, as sunlight floods through the large, front windows. Colorado Grow, the dispensary upstairs, and former space of Jewelry Works, had undergone an extensive remodel to the space, making it open and inviting. The original brick walls have been maintained while the old carpet was ripped up and replaced with clean laminate wood flooring.
The first indication that this is not your average downtown shop is the little cannabis leaf puzzle sitting at a small table in the front window. As you gaze around the room, you’ll begin to see other hints – the videos playing along the south wall, the display boards towards the back and the shelves along the wall to your right displaying their CBD products for sale.
The friendly staff will happily and intelligently answer any questions you may have from the start. The general ambiance of the room is the same as in any museum or space of knowledge, it’s all about sharing information, promoting learning and addressing questions.
Start on your left as you walk in the door. There are five TV’s mounted on the wall as you make your way back, and each describes a step in the industry process, “from seed to sale,” as Landreth put it.
The steps include propagation or cloning, lighting science, harvesting, trimming and finally extraction. A video loops for each step explaining the methods and purpose of each part of the process. Starting with propagation, it explains just how the plants start their lives, as either a seed or a clone of another plant. Lighting comes next.
Landreth said that, generally, people know that most grow operations use supplemental indoor
lighting. The interesting information here is “about LED lighting, and the new science about it,” Landreth explained. “You can see how far we have come from these massive grows that are having a huge footprint. Really the industry is changing a lot. We wanted to enlighten people about that.”
As you walk the wall, the next three steps are de-budding, trimming and extraction. Each step in the process has an example of the machine used to perform that role. The CO2 extractor on display at the end of the row came from a local extraction company, Sweet CO2.
The Discovery Center prefers to keep most of their products local.
Following the final video, turn around. Directly behind you, you will find a three-sided presentation stand with voiced explanations of the information provided there. Each side tells a different story about cannabis plants, from the history of cannabis prohibition, to the basics of indica versus sativa, and finally some basic info on Endocannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid system, as well as terpenes.
“Terpenes are the aromatic molecules that give cannabis its distinctive fragrance,” according to the board, and can be found all over nature. The terpene exhibit allows visitors to smell the variations of terpenes and see where they might recognize those scents. As these oils are only aromatic oils, your senses will not be affected!
Wrap up the tour at the CBD shop. The products range from CBD infused gummies, honey sticks and chai, puzzles, soothing bath salts and even treats for your dog. There’s a little something for everyone.
Landreth explained that all of the products in their CBD shop “are hemp derived and legal in all 50 states. You can take them across state lines. So if anyone wants to take something home or buy something for grandma for her aching joints, they can actually take that with them on the plane.”
The Cannabis Discovery Center space can also be rented out. “We wanted a place where the cannabis community can congregate,” Landreth said. “We can hold educational speakers or educational events.”
In fact, they are working on arranging a few speakers in 2019, including growers as well as some doctors. Landreth also mentioned an idea that she is working on to open the space to yoga classes, where guests can fully enjoy the bright, open space along with a refreshing CBD infused water or tea.
All in all, from the moment you set foot in the door, the experience is a professional, friendly and enlightening one. It will be exciting to see what the future holds for this space and the knowledge it has to share with the community and our visitors.
“We try and get Colorado-sourced products,” Landreth said. “We try to keep it as local as possible, and preferably in Colorado. We make sure that everything we source from has all of the testing and everything. And try to make sure it’s the highest quality grown, which we know Colorado is, so that’s where we prefer to get it from.”
Durango is known far and wide for its Narrow-Gauge Railroad, it’s outdoor adventuring and its southwest cultural heritage. Perhaps though, with more restaurants per capita than even San Francisco, this little mountain town should also be on the map for its food.
There must be something in Durango’s water, drawing so many great culinary talents to this out-of-the-way mountain town. According to Dave Woodruff, President of the Durango chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association and General Manager at El Moro Spirits & Tavern, Durango has close to 200 food service establishments at any given time. You can find almost any kind of food you could want within bike-riding distance of your home or hotel.
But how could you ever hope to try it all in one trip?
Fortunately, Durango is not only a fan of its fabulous food, but also of any excuse to have a festival. With celebrations for everything from Blues and Bluegrass, to award-winning wines and winter time, this community knows how to throw a party.
Every spring, on the Saturday between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, (this year on May 19th, 2019) a big chunk of Main Street is roped off. Lined with tents, the street is filled with the scents and aromas of Durango’s best chefs, hard at work as they prepare for the Taste of Durango.
“It’s basically a time for the community to come into one central location and test out everybody’s culinary fare one bite at a time,” explained Woodruff. “It’s a time for restaurants to showcase a little bit of what they are all about and also to hold a benefit for local, community nonprofits.”
For many years, the festival had one beneficiary, The Manna Soup Kitchen. More recently, the event organizers have decided to spread the love a little more.
“We realized there are some great nonprofits here that we could be supporting as well,” Woodruff said, “So we decided that maybe instead of just one nonprofit, we could give back to five or six different nonprofits.”
The beneficiaries are different each year and are chosen through an application process which closes around the first of March. Last year’s chosen recipients were SASO (Sexual Assault Services Organization), Adaptive Sports, Music in the Mountains, the Alano Club, the La Plata Open Space Conservancy and the Durango Adult Education Center.
“It’s a great time for beneficiaries to say what they do in town,” Woodruff said. “We have a lot of nonprofits in La Plata County and we don’t always know what they all do. It’s a great time for them to have a say.”
The benefitting groups supply many of the volunteers for the event, helping with ticketing and other various festival tasks. The organizers can use all the help they can get. With between 6,000 and 10,000 visitors during the festival’s four-hour window, it’s a whirlwind of activity as drinks are poured, bites are served and visitors are entertained up and down Main Avenue.
Woodruff and his fellow members of the Restaurant Association spend about six months planning and pulling the whole event together, and it’s all worth it.
The people of Durango embrace any opportunity to come together as a community in celebration. The scene on Main is lively and joyous. Winter is hopefully wrapping up, and the promise of summer fun lies just around the corner.
Last year, the Taste lined both sides of six blocks of Durango’s downtown with a different band or entertainer at every block. The vibe is ever-shifting and changing as you move through the venue. Find tacos at one stand, juicy steak bites at another, and even grab a few samples of local beers and signature cocktails along the way. There is really no right or wrong way to make the most of this event.
“Just come and be open minded and have fun,” Woodruff said. “You are going to have cocktails, and beer and we have all of these great restaurants that are participating that are going to give you a little bit of an idea of what they are all about.”
“It’s a good time just to see how many people show up. It’s like a family reunion. I feel like you see everybody: Family and friends and people you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s just the way Durango is.” – Woodruff said
About 50 restaurants participate in the event each year, bringing with them the perfect tasters to represent their identity as a restaurant. The challenge is to find a dish that showcases your restaurant’s strength while also being affordable and easy to execute quickly for the massive quantities of people you’ll be serving. Woodruff explained that finding the balance among these three factors is the key to determining what each restaurant will contribute.
The Taste of Durango is about showcasing the talents here in Durango. While the Restaurant Association has considered branching out into the surrounding area, for now the taste remains a local affair. It’s a time to celebrate Durango and the incredible talent we have here.
“I have been to the Taste of Denver and I’ve been to a couple of other places,” Woodruff said, “and I feel like they do a great job, but we have a community feel. I think that’s why we do really well. We bring in what we are all about as Durango. It’s not just a time to go out and eat and drink but it’s also a time to be together as a community, and to give back to a community that provides so much. We are building relationships.”