Road Trip

Marijuana Venture hits the road to expand its successful Interchange event to new markets

In our effort to bring Marijuana Venture’s Interchange event to new markets, a few states came to mind as the obvious choices, and Colorado was at the top of the list.

From the safety of our desks, it seemed like a no-brainer. Marijuana Venture has successfully produced Interchange eight times in Washington, bringing cannabis growers and processors together with retailers in a series of face-to-face meetings. The Washington event is popular because it saves participants time and money and brings the community together.

As we headed for the airport for an initial exploratory visit to Colorado, I would be seriously understating our mood if I said we were excited.

We planned a five-day road trip for the sole purpose of meeting cannabis professionals, exploring dispensaries, networking with growers, testing new products, finding interesting brands and just immersing ourselves in the world of Colorado cannabis.

We spent five jam-packed days visiting people all around the cities of Denver and Boulder. What we found, without exception, was a deeply passionate community of people committed to serving for the betterment of the industry. Whether we were talking to growers, processors or retailers, lawyers or brands, CEOs or budtenders, everyone was willing to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of the marketplace, and the efforts to make the industry stronger.

And yes, after five days in Colorado, it’s clear that the state’s cannabis industry is ready for Interchange.

Our first stop, straight from the airport, was Terrapin Care Station, where we met Peter Marcus, the communications director for the six-store chain that also has operations in Pennsylvania. Not only did we get to tour the retail store, but we also saw the company’s impressive grow, where head cultivator Ian Peak oversees production. This was definitely a highlight of our trip as they took an extraordinary amount of time to educate us on both their products and the intricacies of the Colorado market. Their passion for providing the very best products carries over to their Double Bear brand of concentrates, which they carry in their own stores and wholesale to other Colorado dispensaries.

Our next stop was Timberline Herbal Clinic, a small, woman-owned shop that is celebrating its 10th anniversary. This is a one-location dispensary, serving a loyal clientele.

What struck us about Green Dragon was the passion about the brands it carries, the people that work there and everything it creates. Although the company produces much of its own cannabis, Green Dragon also carries a wide variety of outside brands and also creates products for sale in other dispensaries. The company also bought and renovated a historic building nearby, turning it into the Marijuana Mansion, a cannabis-friendly private venue. We met with co-CEO Alex Levine, and I couldn’t help wondering how it was possible that this young man from my own hometown of Boca Raton, Florida, who is about the same age as my kids, has become the “King of Cannabis.” (My name for him, not his.)

At Apothecary Farms, store manager Chad Kalina showed us the shop and explained that the company considers its customers to be family. (Ambrosia is its signature product, so customers are called “Fambrosia.”) Kalina shared his own medical story and how cannabis saved his life.

The Coffee Joint is the first legally licensed consumption lounge in Colorado, which is the new phenomenon thanks to the recently introduced licenses for “hospitality establishments.” The Coffee Joint was pretty low-key, but while we there we met The Flower Collective doing a pop-up for its Bubble Joints.

After spending our first full day of touring Denver and visiting shops, we suited up for the Indo Expo. Long lines awaited us when we showed up at the Denver Mart. Interestingly, the other side of the venue was being used for a gun show. It was pretty easy to know which line was ours.

We planned the trip around this show because we thought it would be the best way to gauge what was happening in the market, to see who was showing, what they were showing and what the crowds were like. We found the whole event to be high energy, with a great variety of attendees and exhibitors. Everybody we spoke to seemed very enthusiastic about Interchange!

The next day we went out and about, looking at potential Interchange venues in the RiNo District (River North Arts District) and stopping along the route to visit various businesses that round out the industry here, including RiNo Supply Company.

This area also features Tetra Lounge, a popular consumption lounge that gets a lot of press. I read somewhere that the owner says it is a cross between the basement you first got high in and a nightclub. Further down the street was Cultivated Synergy, a co-working space dedicated to the cannabis industry. The whole area is hip and cool with tons of street art, coffee shops and dispensaries.

Diego Pellicer was one of the higher-end environments we experienced, with a cool vibe and retail design and a big display of glass. The store’s assistant manager, Lazarus White, looked suspiciously like the company’s logo, but the staff explained the company’s namesake was the founder’s grandfather.

White showed off some awards, including Business of the Year 2019 from the Cannabis Business Awards.

 

Day 4 was another full day of talking and learning. As it started getting late, we needed to take a break, grab some food and try out some of the products we purchased along the way. One thing we found for sure was that although Colorado shops were initially required to be vertically integrated and grow 70% of what they sold, this is no longer the case. All the stores we visited had a great variety of products, making it hard to decide what to try.

While some stores carried the same things, others were a bit bolder in their decisions to carry lesser-known brands and products from smaller companies. This is a good sign for Interchange, as it proves there is a taste for broadening product offerings.

High West is in the process of expanding its grow and has plans to remodel its dispensary, both housed at the same location. I fully expect the next six months will bring an entirely new experience built around the High West brand.

Lyssa Surface shared some of the trophies won by the award-winning company.

We found another woman-owned business at Lucy Sky Cannabis Boutique. Lucy Sky stocks its shelves exclusively with third-party vendors, which was different than most retailers we visited, but this approach allows the company to carry only what it sees as the best products. Larina Scofield, the director of operations, shared with us the story of the boutique’s beginnings and the philosophy that has made the company successful: It’s about caring for each customer like a friend.

While looking for Herban Underground, the next store on our itinerary, we passed it a few times, unable to find the entrance. Not a good sign, I thought — and then once we found it, we ventured into an office building and followed the signs downstairs. I was even more convinced this would be, literally, an underground dive. But guess what? Herban Underground is growing down in that basement — and you can peek into their grow facility from the retail space! The whole experience suddenly became clear! The company’s head cultivator says the plants respond to music, so staff are experimenting with that to see the effect on the different strains. A true family business, led by Clif Gordon, his sister Anne and their cousin, David McCormack, and grower/partner Nick Lafaver.

Talk about a consumption lounge! International Church of Cannabis features ping-pong, video games, a dog named Munchie, daily light shows, a cool outdoor space and generally funky place to hang out. After touring the church we ventured out of Denver to hit a few highlights in Boulder, including an NCIA social. This was a great place to meet all different types of people that are working to keep cannabis regulations moving in a positive direction, both nationally and in Colorado.

Once in Boulder, our first stop was Elements Boulder. This is a one-location dispensary with a big waiting area, comfortable couches and a really nice variety of products. It also uses a lot of different technology-based services to do everything from checking IDs to tracking inventory. This woman-owned business was just one of many we found in our travels. From an unscientific observation, this was more the norm than the exception in Colorado.

In addition to its retail space, Verde Natural sells cannabis wholesale and has teamed up with PAX Labs to sell pod-style vaporizers. Manager Christopher York told us that Verde Natural emphasizes sustainable growing practices, using organic soil and biodegradable packaging.

The company is also building a consumption lounge next door, called The Dablogic House.

The Colfax Pot Shop was somewhat different than other locations because it carried a large variety of merchandise like clothing and accessories. The Colfax Pot Shop only has one location, but like everyone in the area, they’re in the process of expanding.

Pictured above is operations and account manager Zach Hill.

 

After spending five days in Colorado, it was pretty clear that we would start planning Interchange for August 25-26. The event will be free for retailers, who will meet with growers, processors, brands and other ancillary companies in a scheduled series of one-on-one meetings. Space will be limited to keep it intimate and beneficial for all who participate.

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