The suburban communities surrounding Denver have all taken their own approaches toward allowing Colorado's cannabis industry within their borders, with some diving in quickly while others are still content to sit on the sidelines. Commerce City, a place known more for dog food than retail pot, has chosen more of a slow submergence.
The city approved its first medical marijuana dispensary in 2014 and has allowed several cultivation operations within its border for some time, yet pot consumers have relatively few options in Commerce City. KrystaLeaves, a new dual-use dispensary with Cuban roots, is the latest to open its doors just north of Denver, at 5301 Vasquez Boulevard. Westword caught up with one of the founding family members, Alex Fernandez, who also serves as the store's head grower.
Westword: How did you get your foot in the legal cannabis industry?
Alex Fernandez: My family has always had a green thumb and a passion for growing. Our grandfathers grew tobacco in Cuba, but now we love to grow cannabis. We decided several years ago that we wanted to go all in, leaving Miami and moving to where we now call home, Colorado. We've been working on our dispensary, infused-product factory and grow for over two years, making sure we have a state-of-the-art facility.
Why did you and your partners decide to open a dispensary in Commerce City?
There aren't many dispensaries in this city. In fact, I could count us all on a single hand. But we have many friends in this city that we like to work closely with, and both of our neighbors are actually great friends and cannabis growers as well. We want to bring a boutique dispensary to Commerce City that will carry all of our favorite brands and strains while adding a bit of our Cuban flair to the dispensary experience. We also have a lab and cultivation facility in the same center, where we hope to hold tours soon.
Are the rumors about the smell of Commerce City true? Can you do anything to help fight that smell?
Unfortunately, there is little we can actually do. We are going above and beyond with our heavy-duty carbon filters, putting them in almost all of our rooms, with multiple ones in flower rooms — and we haven't forgotten our dispensary; we have some in there as well. We are looking into odor-eliminating misters for every exhaust, just in case. So we definitely won't be adding to the smell that's already in the air.
What makes your dispensary different from others in the area? What makes it worth the drive for a customer in Denver?
The KrystaLeaves family has made it our mission to produce and distribute some of the finest-quality herbs the industry has to offer. We cater to the modern connoisseur looking for only the finest, most flavorful cannabis, but we offer plenty of affordable options as well. We extend our family values not only to our highly esteemed employees, but to everyone who walks through our front door. At KrystaLeaves, you will never be just another face in the crowd, but a valued member of our ever-growing family. Also, to be fair, we aren't far from Denver — only a block from Denver's city limits.
What's your favorite way to consume cannabis?
If I could only pick one, I'd have to say flower. There's something about seeing the crystals and tasting those terps minutes before you light it up and unwind. But edibles have upped their taste and quality lately, and a few of them are like biting into a Godiva. My favorite way still is flower, but damn, some of these edibles are amazing.
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What are some strains that don't get enough love commercially? What about some overrated strains?
I really like L.A. Confidential, but I don't see it too often. It's a pure indica crossed with Afghani and OG L.A. Affie. An overrated strain, in my opinion, is Pineapple Express. It's good, but not that good, considering all the hype and reputation it has. It's a good day-smoke that makes me feel awake and calm, but nothing mind-blowing.
What current laws surrounding cannabis (other than federal prohibition) frustrate you most as a business owner or consumer?
Seeing dozens of advertisements and billboards from alcohol companies each day, while we're barely allowed to have an Instagram account. It's disappointing how much stigma cannabis still has, and how many laws and regulations try to discourage us from even making consumers know we're here.