No matter what your stance on the legalization of marijuana, it’s pretty hard to make a case against the conglomerate it’s become and how vastly it’s growing. Medicine Man, located just outside of Denver, Colorado, is an empire all on its own and we were lucky enough to receive a private tour a couple of weeks back on our trip to the Mile High City.
President, Sally Vander Veer was an open-book about the operations of the facility and seemingly understanding that at first-welcome, it can all be just a bit overwhelming. It’s definitely an odd feeling… entering a place full of something that in most other states in our small, undivided country, is federally illegal. I have to admit, it can feel as if you’re doing something wrong just by being there, but Sally broke down the business in a way that made it easy to understand we were in the midst of a fruitful corporation and there was a real science behind every aspect of the operation.
Sally started out by showing us the dispensary side of the grow facility, where customers of every race, age, religion and gender lined up to speak with their budtender and figure out exactly what they wanted to purchase. There was everyone from Colorado residents who get “the usual” just like you might at your local bar after work on a Friday and tourists who had no clue what to do or say, but were trying. As they say at Medicine Man, “there are no dumb questions.” Which is good, because throughout our tour, I had quite a few.
At Medicine Man, they think of every customer as a patient. Someone coming to use marijuana as a medicine for it’s healing properties, whether of medical purchase or not.
Their recreational side of the shop has everything from lotions to candies and even peanut butter cookies. While they don’t manufacture those products in house, they do grow and sell all of their own plants in clear bags, so that unlike other dispensaries, their patients can see exactly what they’re buying.
There aren’t too many differences between the recreational and medical sides of the shop other than the taxes a patient pays on their order. On the medical side, patients are also allowed to smell before they buy directly from large glass jars instead of the bags on the recreational side. This is so they can get a more pungent sense of how that certain strain might make them feel, which is super important when being used to treat nausea or head pain from diseases and/or their corresponding medications.
Medicine Man is a business that’s all in the family. In 2010 it was founded by Sally’s brothers Pete and Andy Williams who found a way to merge Pete’s green thumb and Andy’s knowledge of the business world into an ever-growing (no pun intended) corporation. At first, the family just wanted to grow. They were good at it and they knew how it worked. Then a law was put into play that changed everything – growers must sell 70% of what they harvest. It turns out, they were really great at that too. With the funding help of their mom, they decided to move their operations into the 40,000 square foot facility we were able to walk through and it was much more elaborate than what you might expect.
The facility is climate-controlled and spotless, making sure there are absolutely no bugs, bacteria, mold or mildew to taint the growth process. The room pictured above is a room for all female plants when they first start out. It simulates Springtime with the air, temperature and light and in Sally’s words “there are no boys allowed because, well, they just start problems” (except for Kyle… he didn’t count). This is really a stage for the plants to mature and move onto the room I found most interesting (maybe because it’s my favorite season), the one that emulates Fall.
Nope. The picture doesn’t have a sepia-tone filter (this isn’t a Myspace page from 2006)! The lighting in this room tricks the “weeds” into believing it’s a different time of year, which allows them to start flowering and developing “buds.” The baby plants we saw in the Spring room that resembled ferns were now… mature women. Some after just two weeks in their new habitat!
After this, the plants are harvested and then taken to their advanced-technology trimming room.
Pictured above are the plants that have been harvested and are waiting to go to the trimming room where they are put into a special machine known as Centurionpro, spinning one-hundred miles a minute and efficiently separating the buds from the plant.
All of the bud trays are labeled with serial-numbered tags and logged into a system that reports directly to the government. Medicine Man plays by the books, following every rule set on the growth, production and selling fronts of the marijuana industry. In doing so, they’re able to employ 80 individuals, all at 40 hours a week and are looking to double in size within the next couple of months.
Just like wine, the trays of bud move to a room for their “curing” process, where they only get better with time.
In the last room we were given some insight into the “cloning” process. This is the room where the babies of the mother plants are kept before they’re sold in the recreational dispensary to any Colorado resident who wants to try their green thumb out for size. These little tiny plants retail for $20.00 or 6 for $100.00 and they’re pretty adorable.
So, there you have it. Your own personal tour of the largest grow facility in Colorado and quite possibly the world. We’re not naive. We know that legal or not, marijuana is a huge presence in modern-day culture and petitions are signed almost daily pushing for non-legal cities to re-think their boundaries. While it’s possible to have a neutral stance, it’s also important to recognize the undeniable doors this industry and Medicine Man have opened. Employing otherwise un-hirable individuals who have strong skill sets and a mindfulness about the products they represent on a daily basis, allowing for their employees to not only show up to work, but be passionate about it as well.
Medicine Man has seen many benefits for their patients on the forefront; allowing parents of an epileptic child to treat their disorder in a way that does not harm other parts of their cerebral system, or cancer patients to feel less pain then they ever would without it. Or how about the man who’s brother went to jail for half of his life for possessing marijuana, and can now legally walk into a store, show his ID and buy it freely.
In addition to helping patients on a case-by-case basis, the first 40 million dollars of marijuana taxes in the state go toward education and public facilities such as parks (there’s a newer, more beautiful one around every corner in Denver and neighboring cities)
Whatever side of the fence you stand on, it’s easy to appreciate the green grass when you see it first-hand. It was refreshing to see the pride and technique that goes into such a heavily-debated industry as well as the measures taken to keep it safe, effective and fun. To learn more about Medicine Man and their practices, you can visit their website or check out their many video segments from NBC, BBC and Pot Barons as well as their docu-series, “Family, Business.”
Medicine Man is a corporation growing faster than weeds and it seems like for them, this is just the beginning.