Too High To Fail: Inside Denver’s Weed Boom

Welcome to the city where pot nerds are growing the new American economy

Gaia’s master grower Phillip Hague, with some of his Afghan-derived plants.

Tristan Spinski/Grain

Even if you didn’t know that Denver has become America’s undisputed stoner capital, there are clues. Like the two Jerry Garcia-themed bars. Or the 24-hour-a-day stand-up-comedy radio station. And the too-perfect-to-be-a-coincidence nickname (Mile High City) and NBA franchise (the Nuggets). But even if you didn’t pick up on any of that, there’s a good chance you’d notice the smell – skunky, green, a little piney – wafting through an open car window as you cruise along I-25 into town.

Follow the scent to the industrial zone of Platte River Valley, where vast, anonymous warehouses hide more than 250 high-octane, connoisseur-grade weed operations. Or as one grower says, “Platte River Valley – highest concentration of marijuana on Earth.” If your nose is Snoop Dogg-calibrated to sniff out only majorly primo herb, you just might end up at Gaia Plant-Based Medicine, a booming high-end cannabis enterprise with big-time ambitions. There, in an unmarked 40,000-square-foot warehouse across the street from a police station, 15 or so gardeners tend to an indoor jungle of artisanal weed worthy of a Peter Tosh album cover, which the company sells in its three medical-marijuana dispensaries.

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