The humidity increases as you enter the 43,000-square-foot grow facility tucked into a discreet location in the Stapleton neighborhood. Erik Williams, MiNDFUL’s national director of public affairs, leads the tour through a series of automatically locking doors and into the warehouse. With each door we pass through, the cannabis smell gets stronger.
MiNDFUL operates five dispensaries in the United States, four of which are here in Colorado; the fifth is in Illinois. This single grow house supplies cannabis and concentrates for all four stores in the state, in Denver, Colorado Springs, Berthoud and Black Hawk. The company has separate licenses for all four but grows all of its product here, in a state-of-the-art facility.
Although the MiNDFUL grow house is among the larger commercial marijuana facilities in the state, the air is filtered so that little to no smell escapes the building to disturb the neighbors, including the city’s largest police-precinct headquarters, directly across the street. “We have a great relationship with the Denver police. We’ve been doing training for officers so they can see what a legal grow looks like,” explains David Crook, MiNDFUL’s director of retail sales.
“We’ve been operating the business for five years,” Crook adds. “It’s one of the few in Denver for that long, which is very remarkable.”
Current CEO and part-owner Meg Sanders has been with MiNDFUL since 2012. At that time, the dispensary was called Gaia Plant-Based Medicine; the MiNDFUL rebranding, which took place in 2014, created a high-end boutique experience that’s unparalleled at most pot shops, especially on Colfax.
Once we pass through a series of doorways, the pungent stench of cannabis cannot be contained. The space is full of equipment, including a distribution system for nutrients. MiNDFUL considers the system to be one of its biggest trade secrets and keeps it under wraps.
The plants are spread out and given plenty of space to breathe. As we move through the different grow rooms, we’re moving through the seasons. In the veg room, it is spring. The flowering rooms mimic fall, with redder bulbs and cooler temperature, which allow the plants to flower more efficiently.
Grower Jackson Ross explains the process. “We go on track with the life cycle,” he says. “So the beginning of our process starts here in the clone room. These are going to be cuttings that we cut from our mother plants. We have about twenty to thirty different varieties that we run currently. What you see here now is mostly recreational, about a quarter of the clones we have. We do not sell clones; these are all for our growing facility.”
“There are a bunch of different reasons we don’t sell clones anymore here,” says Crook. “It’s a protected environment, and in the store, we don’t have that controlled environment; it’s subject to all types of bacteria or pests. So we avoid that mess.”
The grow guru points to the plants in the room. “They’ll spend about a week in here, a week and a half, until they start getting roots,” he says. “When they get roots, we start to transport them out of here, put them into one-gallon pots. Now that they have roots, we tag them as soon as we can before they get too tall. We take MITS extremely seriously.”
MITS stands for Marijuana Inventory Tracking Solution, the “seed-to-sale” system that follows the cannabis plant from start to finish and is monitored by the Marijuana Enforcement Division. It’s not enough to keep up with the changing regulations, Ross says; you have to anticipate and be ahead of the curve.
“This is our entire veg area,” he says, continuing the tour. “From clones, they get put in one-gallon pots; they get distinguished from retail to medical. They go in stages, as you can tell — each one is in a different week. Week one, week two, week three and week four — and then once they get to week four, we move them into three-gallon pots and they go into the flowering rooms, which is where the real fun starts.”
The veg room emulates spring, but Colorado doesn’t have the rainfall or humidity that most marijuana plants require, so the grow room tries to fool the plants into thinking it’s springtime. “We don’t have any freak snowstorms, either; we get to control the environment,” Ross explains. “I’d say it’s May, where it gets warm and hot but then cools off at night.”
“Right over here are our mother plants, so this is our entire stock of varieties we use for MiNDFUL,” Crook notes. “There are about 100 to 167 different varieties in here. The ones in the five-gallon pots are what we run. We try to keep as much variety going in and out of the store as possible. Obviously, our most popular strains stay, and then we can try out new ones.”
The entire operation is impressive.
“I mean, look, you could pack ’em in,” admits Williams. “Especially being here, they’re spread out, and that protects them against a whole bunch of other factors — the biggest being air flow. If you have that air flow, if they’re trimmed, you are protecting yourself from these other factors that could hurt the plant. Just like corn: If you double up the corn, you’re not getting more, you’re hurting your final product in the long run.”
In the largest room, the energy turns on and off, which allows the growers and horticulturists to work all day and night. “If all the rooms are on, then you have twelve hours that no work can be done,” says Williams. “At the time, this was all once state-of-the-art: ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe we’re building this room.’ Then we built our next set, and those were better, and our next set, and those are better.”
“Always better” is a common theme at MiNDFUL. After flowering, the buds are taken into a curing room for an average two-week cure. Then they are trimmed by staffers, hung to dry, and weighed before they’re ready for sale.
Finally, the team leads us to what could be MiNDFUL’s most impressive space of all: the concentrates lab. It’s located on site, in a completely fireproof — even bomb-proof — room. The safety measures are of primary concern for staff and patients alike.
The room is kept at a cool 67 degrees, and you notice the air conditioning immediately after leaving the larger, sunny veg room. MiNDFUL is one of the only dispensaries in Denver that sells a single slab of shatter, in 28-gram form. For medical members, the shatter will sell for around $22 a gram, making the slab worth over $600. And even at that price, the shatter flies off the shelves.
The concentrate lab can also create wax and shatter wholesale for other dispensaries, using product from those operations.
MiNDFUL’s concentrate expert, Kelly Gollotte, pulls out two gigantic slabs of shatter. Both pieces will be weighed into grams, separated and sold for several thousand dollars, depending on the recreational or medical identification. The golden, clear texture is ideal, and Williams swears by the clean aftertaste.
So do I, after having tried three of MiNDFUL’s products at a recent cannabis-pairing meal in Black Hawk at 1859 by MiNDFUL, the only dispensary in Black Hawk.
Our tour over, we leave the grow house. But I know I’ll see this cannabis again, in a joint near you.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.