When curious visitors come to Colorado with questions about legal marijuana, Durango now has the go-to place.
The mission of the Durango Cannabis Discovery Center is to provide information about cannabis, the cannabis industry and laws governing the marijuana industry.
“We deal with people every day, mostly tourists, who have questions, and we wanted to provide a center that provides information from seed to sale,” said Jason Barker, co-owner of the discovery center at 965 Main Ave., the space previously occupied by Jewelry Works.
The genesis for the center came after the city of Durango rejected a variance request from the Colorado Grow Co., a recreational marijuana shop upstairs, to move down to the ground level after Jewelry Works closed. The variance was rejected because the site was within 990 feet of two preschools, the Durango Early Learning Center and the preschool at the First Presbyterian Church, both located on East Third Avenue. The law requires recreational marijuana shops to be at least 1,000 feet from a school.
Barker and his business partner, Adam Gifford, own Colorado Grow Co., the discovery center and another company that has distribution rights to equipment used in large, industrial-scale marijuana grows.
“It’s been popular, and we haven’t done any advertising or marketing. We’re getting great feedback,” Barker said.
Durango Cannabis Discovery Center offers an array of hemp-derived cannabidiol-infused products, such as honey, coffee, tea, chocolates, tinctures, lotions, salves and soaps. Barker said he plans to add a full line of pet products, and virtually all CBD products are from Colorado firms.
Eddy Tinguely, a discovery center employee, said, “A lot of tourists are enthralled that everything they buy here they can take back home with them. If they go to a recreational marijuana shop, one parent has to stay outside with the kids, but here you can walk through it with them, holding their hand.”
Durango Mayor Sweetie Marbury was unaware the center had opened.
“It is interesting. Durango is full of interesting surprises,” she said.
Joseph Klem, director of public relations for the American Alliance of Museums in Arlington, Virginia, was unaware of any other museum in the country dedicated to marijuana or cannabis.
He said a search of the alliance’s records indicates it has no member museum with the word “cannabis” or “marijuana” in its name. He also said a large database maintained by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency, failed to indicate any museum in the country dedicated to “cannabis” or “marijuana.”
The discovery center also markets T-shirts, pint glasses, hats, tumblers and other gift items centering around CBD, the non-intoxicating marijuana extract that is frequently touted for its anti-inflammatory properties.
“If people are interested in buying recreational marijuana, we send them upstairs to the Colorado Grow Co.,” Barker said.
Upon entry, visitors can tour various stations explaining the marijuana industry, starting with the propagation station, which explains cloning plants from genetically gifted mothers to provide a consistent strain. Visitors also learn how grafts are rooted in gel and nurtured until roots form and they are ready to be grown hydroponically or conventionally in soil.
Other stations include information about lighting at industrial grows and automation used in debudding and trimming.
Museum-quality displays include “The History of Cannabis Prohibition,” “Magic Molecules, Cannabinoids” and “Game Changer, Terpenes.”
Other displays point out the benefits of cannabinoids on various parts of the body and the difference between sativa and indica.
Future plans include adding a commodities trading area with flat-panel displays showing ticker prices of marijuana stocks traded on the Canadian Stock Exchange in Toronto.
“It will provide another educational experience, and this is where the whole industry is going,” said Barker, who is a former commodities trader.
Barker and Gifford also plan to create a virtual reality room that recreates what it would be like to be in a large marijuana grow.
“Our goal was to open by Iron Horse,” Barker said. “We accomplished that. But it’s all kind of a work in progress.”