Aspen Times Weekly: Six in the City | AspenTimes.com
by Rick Carroll & photos by Lynn Goldsmith

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Aspen Times Weekly: Six in the City

Working class-Aspen residents often lament they must go downvalley or online to buy underwear and socks. Most restaurants don't stay open past 11. The town doesn't have a detox facility. And flying in and out of town is hardly hassle-free.

But when it comes to cannabis, Aspen has got you covered. There are more pot shops than there are liquor stores, pharmacies, supermarkets and gas stations, not to mention churches, ski mountains, hardware stores and dry cleaners.

Aspen hasn't seen the push back that other Colorado communities have seen since the first recreational dispensaries opened in the state in January 2014. Some towns have put limits on the number of cannabis stores, while others have outlawed them altogether.

Concerns range from marijuana's long-lasting impacts on children, as well as adults and society, to the potential for more crime and cannabis being a gateway substance to harder drugs.

But the industry marches on in Colorado, in spite of it being a cash-only business. Last week the Huffington Post pointed out, referring to a study done by the cannabis research firm The ArcView Group, that legal marijuana sales totaled $2.7 billion in 2014, up from $1.5 billion in 2013. Recreational pot is legal in four states — Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon. Voters in Washington, D.C., also approved recreational cannabis in the November elections, but sales of the product remain banned in the U.S. capital.

Meanwhile, in Aspen, when Silverpeak Apothecary and Stash opened last March, it could go down as a watershed moment in modern Aspen's history. Four more dispensaries followed suit. For cannabis users, call it the joy of six. But for those opposed to the budding industry, it's the opposite.

The Aspen Times Weekly reached out to the proprietors of the half-dozen dispensaries that are peppered throughout the downtown core. Each shop has their own identity, from the products they sell to the staff and interior design. But the looming question is: Is there room for six cannabis shops in Aspen? Or even more?

Shop operators answered those questions and a number of other ones.

Here's a look at their responses …

Store address: 106 S. Mill St., Suite 203

Company owners: Ben Bayko, Charles Karnes and Michael Lluria

Date opened: Recreational opened on Oct. 7, 2014; medical opened in October 2009

Number of employees: 14

Square feet: 1,400

Do you have a dress code? Besides our badges, we believe comfortable employees make comfortable customers. We encourage our staff to express themselves while maintaining an appropriate appearance.

What makes you different from your competitors? After six years of business, through trial and error, we have learned that Aspen locals keep this town going. We give fair prices to locals and tourists alike, and place a strong emphasis on meeting the needs of our diverse medical patient population.

What's your most unique product? Our most unique products include our wide selection of indica, sativa, and hybrid flower and the interactive method we use to display them.

What's your best-selling product? Our best-selling products come from Highway 710. They make consistent, high quality edibles and concentrates.

What's the most common question you get from consumers? "Can I fly home with this?" We ensure that our staff is well versed in the law and can relay that information to our customers.

Do you believe Aspen can support six cannabis dispensaries? The competition is strong in Aspen, may the best bud win.

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be? We would love to expose other states to the potential benefits medicinal marijuana can have from a financial and health standpoint. It's been a personally rewarding experience for our employees to see the wide reaching benefits our products have on consumers, so it would be great to help other states explore those benefits.

Store address: 409 E. Hyman Ave. (under New York Pizza)

Company owner: Ron Radtke

Date opened: Recreational shop opened in 2014, company established in 2009

Number of employees: 50-plus Roaring Fork Valley locals

Square feet: 1,300

Do you have a dress code? Come as you are.

What make you different than your competitors? Locally grown bud available in a friendly, non-pretentious atmosphere, tended by a laid back and cheerful staff.

What's your most unique product? 3.5 gram Dragon Joints, full nug-run concentrates, and Colorado-blown glass.

What's your best-selling product? Everything.

What's the most common question you get from consumers? Now that I've made my purchase, where can I consume and smoke legally?

Do you believe Aspen can support six cannabis dispensaries? Yes. With Aspen embracing free-market cannabis-capitalism, they are allowing one of the world's largest social experiments to take place. Part of that process is free choice of the consumers, and without variety there is no choice.

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be? Nothing. The industry is a living thing that is growing organically and ever evolving. Moving forward, enforcement should be an educational process, and not operate under an old-school us-versus-them punishment dynamic, and we feel this is happening.

What's the most common misconception about the cannabis industry? The perception that the industry is "run by stoners," "has no infrastructure," "has disregard for public safety." "The trouble with you is the trouble with me; you got two good eyes but you still don't see." — Grateful Dead.

Store address: 308 S. Hunter St.

Company owner: Josh Ginsberg

Date opened: Jan. 21, 2015

Number of employees: 10

Square feet: Approximately 1,250

Do you have a dress code? Yes, clean and professional with some sort of Native Roots apparel.

What make you different than your competitors? Our brand, our culture, our fresh perspective on the industry and understanding of the products we sell, our quality of cannabis, and the fact that we are downright the hippest, most fun and coolest place to shop. We try to build and set the trend of what this industry will be.

What's your most unique product? Foria, a cannabis-infused sensual enhancement topical designed for female pleasure. Manufactured and distributed by Native Roots for Foria. Launched at the Aspen store last week during the X Games.

What's your best-selling product? Cannabis then concentrates.

What's the most common question you get from consumers? Do we grow the weed in the store? Second would be how exactly something will make them feel? This is where our highly trained and skilled staff of budtenders steps in and eases any of their anxiousness or answers any questions they might have.

Do you believe Aspen can support six cannabis dispensaries? Yes. There are plenty of locals and visitors to Aspen during the summer and winter months to fill six stores. The off-seasons will be slim, but that's the same for all businesses in the mountain community. Native Roots knows that we need to stick to our business model of running our shop like any other service business selling any other widget. We watch every input and output to make sure that we are always providing the customer with the best product for the best value, while internally everything runs like a top. In the end we are a service business, so as long as we give exceptional service, we will continue our legacy in Aspen regardless of the store count.

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be? Native Roots would love to see our business treated like any other sort of retail business. Especially since our industry generates such huge amounts of tax dollars for our state. I want to be able to bank like any other business, process money like any other business, pay my staff like any other business, pay income and other taxes on the money I generate in my legal store like any other business, not have employees denied for mortgages because they work in this industry, I could go on and on.

What's the most common misconception about the cannabis industry? That everyone is a bunch of stoners. I personally get up at 6 a.m., go to the gym from 7 to 8 a.m., home and on my email at 8:30 a.m. and go from meeting to meeting until back at my computer until around midnight before I get to bed. I am married, with an amazing daughter, a second on the way, and I wear a sport coat and jeans to work every day. I meet with executives of Fortune 500 companies. I ride my snowmobile for fun every chance I get and spend every other free minute with my wife and child. Do I smoke, sure, but only on the weekends and only if I am out socially. If that makes me a stoner, then I guess I am a very successful and efficient one that knows how to balance my time with family and play while running one of the largest cannabis companies in the world.

Store address: 555 E. Durant Ave., No. 2E

Company owners: Cloud Shadowshot and Jesse Miller

Date opened: Sept. 29, 2014, was opening of recreational dispensary; medical shop opened June 2009

Number of employees: Four

Square feet: 949

Do you have a dress code? Yes, soon to be unveiled.

What makes you different than your competitors? Local to Aspen, Cloud Shadowshot is simply the best grower in the region. Cloud started watering his dad's marijuana plants at 3 years old. He lives it, breaths it and is a rock star of growers. The quality of our flower and bud that Cloud grows is the most aromatic, beautiful and the highest quality flower around.

What's your most unique product? Aspen Blondie's is LEAF Aspen's signature edible-infused product. The ever-popular Aspen Blondie is a butterscotch-flavored, marshmallow-based infused soft candy. These are handcrafted, fresh and flavorful.

What's your best-selling product? Aspen Blondie's.

What's the most common question you get from consumers? Can we do this in public?

Do you believe Aspen can support six cannabis dispensaries? Yes, Aspen is a thriving market. Competition is good for business and keeps the quality high.

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be? The conflict between federal and state laws on marijuana. You can't open a bank account, take credit cards, access loans or write off expenses to the IRS.

What's the most common misconception about the cannabis industry? That it's a gateway drug and it's a negative substance.

Store address: 710 E. Durant Ave, Unit E-1, (Beside City Market)

Owners: Owned by Garrett and Shawna Patrick

Date opened: We opened medical dispensary in 2011, rec in March 2014

Number of employees: We currently employ a total of 12 employees to staff our retail store and cultivation facility.

Square feet: 650

Do you have a dress code? We do have a dress code but do not require employees to wear uniforms.

What make you different than your competitors? All of our cannabis is locally grown in soil, hand-watered, hand-trimmed, and slowly cured to perfection to ensure the highest quality and THC percentage, unlike most cultivation facilities who grow hydroponically and harvest their plants two months earlier than we do.

What's your best-selling product? Our best-selling edibles are Edipure Watermelons and Sweet-N-Sours. Our best-selling strain is our locally grown Chemdawg #4 and Banana Kush.

What's the most common question you get from consumers? A lot of customers are new to the edible products, so they often ask about how to use them safely. Some ask if they can take it out of state. Some customers ask about the difference between indica, hybrid, sativa.

Do you believe Aspen can support six cannabis dispensaries? No. Some will most likely go out of business and some will have to find other ways to sell their products because there are not enough customers to support this industry year-round.

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be? Banking.

What's the most common misconception about the cannabis industry? The most common misconception is that it is an easy business to get into and manage, and that all marijuana businesses are making millions of dollars.

Store address: 520 E. Cooper Ave.

Company owner: Jordan Lewis

Date opened: March 2015 for recreational; 2009 for medical

Number of employees: More than a handful

Square feet: 1,500

Do you have a dress code? Our employees wear Silverpeak Attire

What make you different than your competitors? 1) Education: Silverpeak created the Guide to Responsible Consumption, which covers appropriate serving sizes, time till onset and duration of effect for all forms of cannabis, as well as legal parameters for the usage, storage and transport of the products. 2) Community involvement: Silverpeak was instrumental in the formation of the Valley Marijuana Council, a coalition of community leaders including the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office, Aspen Skiing Co., city of Aspen, Pitkin County, Aspen Police Department, Aspen Valley Hospital, Aspen School District and Aspen Chamber Resort Association. 3) Customer experience: The shop itself is the most dramatic difference from any other cannabis company in Aspen, or anywhere in the world. With handcrafted wood and glass displays, custom lighting, millwork and design, employees who are educators not salespeople, and strict compliance to state laws, the shopping experience at Silverpeak is second to none.

What's your most unique product? Locally grown product — sustainable, technologically advanced farming practices coupled with mountain water and sunlight are the main ingredients. High Valley Farms, which is right here in the Roaring Fork Valley, takes every detail into consideration. From seed to sensation, there is no one growing cannabis like Silverpeak.

What's your best-selling product? It is a fairly even split between flower and infused products. People from out of state or international seem to trend more toward the edibles because they are somewhat of a novelty.

What's the most common question you get from consumers? Where and how can I consume? Which is one of the reasons Silverpeak created the Guide to Responsible Consumption.

Do you believe Aspen can support six cannabis dispensaries? Time will tell. Aspen residents and visitors will make that determination.

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be? It would be nice to have easier access to banking. There is no legitimate industry in the world struggling with this as much as the legal cannabis industry.