It’s been four years since Colorado’s marijuana dispensaries first opened their doors to recreational users, and Grand County has been no exception to the “green rush”. From Serene Wellness’s opening in 2013 as a medical dispensary to Bonfire Cannabis Company, the newest addition in Tabernash, it’s clear the area’s weed industry doesn’t mean to slow down any time soon.
“It certainly makes the stores have to up their game. The customers have choices,” said Dan Volpe, owner of Serene Wellness, in an interview. Starting in Empire, Serene Wellness was one of the first legalized dispensaries in the state and has since added locations in Fraser and Winter Park (the latter of which opened in June 2017.).
The past few years have seen two other dispensaries open in Grand County in addition to the two Serene Wellness shops, and the launching of Bonfire Cannabis will make five total. Located just a handful of buildings away from IgadI on Route 40, it will also be the closest a dispensary has been built to another one in the county.
“I think the area could certainly do with competition,” said Bonfire owner Dane Casterson in an interview. “You look at Denver and what they pay per gram down there, and it’s significantly less.”
Casterson owns two other Bonfire locations, in Central City and Idaho Springs. According to its website, the chain aims to foster a laid-back atmosphere that celebrates life.
“I’ve been coming up to ski Winter Park since I could walk, “said Casterson, who is from Longmont. He then added that his latest venture is also a means to get his family up to the area more often. Though he hopes to open the Tabernash location in “a few weeks”, the project has faced some delays and does not currently have a set open date.
Regardless of when the competition opens, IgadI marketing director Logan Robinson isn’t worried.
“Our products, customer service and the unique experience of being able to see how we grow our marijuana… have really set us apart not only from local competition, but have brought people from around the state who want that experience,” Robinson said via email.
Tabernash will also not be the first town where Igadi has competed directly with Bonfire Cannabis. Before it opened its Tabernash location in 2015 (becoming the largest dispensary in the county), IgadI was already running stores out of both Central City and Idaho Springs.
Meanwhile, Silver Stem manager Victoria Devine has a slightly different view.
“At the end of the say, we all sell cannabis for a reason. It’s a medicine,” she said in an interview. “If we do not have a specific product in our store, we will call the other dispensaries to see if they have it. I personally have gone into IgadI to introduce myself.” According to Devine, her store (which opened in April 2017) will also be carrying IgadI’s CBD edibles this spring.
Nevertheless, all think similarly when it comes to tourists and locals.
“We have been fortunate enough to have tremendous local support,” Robinson said. “We have not had to focus too much on marketing because the locals support us, and they are the ones that encourage tourists to visit our store.”
All of the county’s dispensaries frequently offer local discounts and specials, although many deals are still available to tourists.
“Business wise, we know we will make more money with the tourists,” Devine said. “However, our main focus is on the locals. They are the reason why we are so successful.
Casterson also realizes the key to success.
“It’s going to take both [locals and tourists],” he said, adding that his Central City and Idaho Springs store “have great relationships” with their local communities.
But when it comes to tourists, the dispensaries may soon be getting fewer of them. As of January 2018, cannabis is recreationally legal in nine states and Washington D.C. and has been decriminalized in 18. Twenty-nine states have legalized it at the medicinal level, and a rising amount of other state legislators have begun talks. Economists have projected falling revenues in states like Colorado as a result.
This hasn’t stopped local stores from being optimistic, however.
“I think it’s only going to grow for the foreseeable future. I think it’s not only good for Colorado, but good for the country,” said Casterson.
“People still go to Napa for wine even though it’s produced in every state,” Robinson said. “While marijuana tourism is very real, people come to Colorado and Grand County for much more than the marijuana and that is not a trend that we see stopping.”
Devine expressed similar sentiments, calling Colorado “the ‘O.G.’ of legalization.” She also said there were no concerns on Silver Stem’s part.
Volpe is meanwhile looking to the possible challenges of the future, having already experienced some marketing difficulties as a sole owner of a small business.
“I don’t think it’s going away,” he said. “I do think it’s going to change.”
Though Volpe also said the initial thrill of customers coming in from all over the country and the world is gone, his focus is still on providing a great experience for everyone who walks through his doors.
“The locals ultimately are the people we need to take care of,” he said. “We really want to keep that small town vibe, that ‘mom and pop’ store.”