Fort Collins is known for its weed culture. A local dispensary adds to the already successful industry by growing fully organic products.
Organic Alternatives is a marijuana dispensary located in Old Town Fort Collins that opened in January 2010. They sell quality products and use sustainable harvest and grow methods for “the goods.”
“We live up to our name,” Steve Ackerman, owner of Organic Alternatives, said. “We try to make products that have less environmental impact. We use 100% wind energy to power our grow house, which as you know, can take up a lot of energy.”
Their goal is simple: sustainable quality for the Front Range. Besides wind power, this dispensary also uses only organic plant nutrition and does an extended flush and curing process before any flower gets to the store to ensure maximum purity.
“One misconception about the industry is that it’s easy for us to be wasteful,” Tyler Ellison, Organic Alternative’s head grower, said. “I am here to change the face of agriculture, and I think this plant and industry have been in such a limelight to a point that sustainability is of the utmost importance.”
Ellison, who graduated CSU with a degree in organic crop production, said that biological diversity is something growers should work more on. Creating a symbiotic relationship between the soil, plant and bacteria will help create healthier soil that can be reused, reducing waste even more and creating a better product, according to Ellison.
In the Organic Alternatives store front, you will notice an anti-marijuana propaganda poster from the late 60s framed on the wall, warning you of the dangers of this plant. This is just one reminder of marijuana’s long and bumpy road to legalization, where Organic Alternatives and other Fort Collins dispensaries have experienced the obstacles. In 2011, voters of Fort Collins voted to ban medical dispensaries. The bill won, and all Fort Collins dispensaries were closed for 18 months.
“We had to close in February of 2012 and started a petition drive in April of 2012,” Ackerman said. “We got over 10,000 signatures of people that supported the idea of having this ban on the ballot, and thankfully, the ban was eventually overturned the following election year. We employ 40 people now, and have a great thing going.”
Kirk Scramstad, director of operations for Organic Alternatives, hopes the store can change the heart and mind of one person and then create a snowball effect. He is happy to see other states follow suit of Colorado in the realization that most people can benefit from the use of cannabis.
“There has been a negative stigma surrounding cannabis due to several mitigating factors since the early 1900s,” Scramstad said. “It was ‘reefer madness’ back then, but since I have been in the industry, I have seen this plant have major positive effects in some people’s lives.”
When speaking to the various employees of Organic Alternatives, the one thing they all liked best about their job is helping others, especially those with serious illness. However, this can sometimes be bittersweet.
“We become such great friends with these people who have cancer or a terminal illness that come to us for help,” Maka Kalai, Organic Alternatives director of sales and marketing, said. “We get to know them and their families, and it’s heartbreaking when you find out they lost their battle. But we are continuing to make these kinds of relationships and are helping people have a better quality of life.”
Kalai said with all the attention and revenue the recreational side of marijuana gets, it is sometimes hard to remember there is also a medicinal side that many people benefit from. This is just another reason for Organic Alternatives to use only quality substances when growing their product.
In addition to growing quality herbs, this dispensary’s love of music has increased their involvement with the community. Organic Alternatives is a sponsor for Mishiwaka Amphitheater and Arise Music Festival, and they have worked with Hodi’s Half Note and the Downtown Business Association.
So what’s next for this dispensary? Scramstad said Organic Alternatives is potentially looking for new locations in the state, as well as consulting for new businesses applying for medical marijuana licenses in states nationwide.
“Marijuana is a type of product you should feel good about using rather than cutting corners in production,” Scramstad said. “It is important to us to feel confident about the product we are distributing to the community.”
For more information about Organic Alternatives, go to organicalternatives.com.
Collegian reporter Sarah Ehrlich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SarahEhrlich96.