Talk to any cannabis business owners in Colorado today, and they'll have something to say about consolidation. Some of them are doing the consolidating, while others are doing their best to not be eaten. They're putting up a good fight: According to a recent study by Marijuana Business Daily, although the state's pot industry has seen increased consolidation as it matures, it's not happening at a rate even close to consolidation in other industries.
Still, familiar cannabis company names continue to disappear. For a quick walk down marijuana memory lane, here are five dispensary chains that once looked destined for expansion, only to be consumed by cannabis capitalism.
At one point, Strainwise had as many as nine dispensaries throughout Colorado, with several in the Denver area. Then, seemingly overnight, Strainwise pot shops changed hands, the locations picked up by different chains such as EverBloom and Bonfire Cannabis. But the story doesn't end there: Strainwise is still around — as a cannabis business consulting firm.
We've had short talks with Strainwise leadership, but we still have questions about the transition. For example, why does the company's website say "coming soon" when you click on its location tab? Is Strainwise prepping itself for a comeback? Stay tuned.
In 2015, iVita Wellness looked like it was poised to become one of the consolidators. The dispensary chain had three storefronts in Denver, all of them in desirable locations: one in Highland, one in Platt Park, and the third just a couple blocks from Brighton Boulevard. And after the company's staff earned a strong review, it looked like iVita was on the up.
Then, in early 2016, it was announced that iVita had been gobbled up by one of the biggest dispensary chains in the state. LivWell Enlightened Health bought the iVita locations at 3980 Franklin Street and 1660 South Pearl Street (LivWell also acquired 100 employees and a grow operation), while Native Roots scooped up the store at 2209 West 32nd Avenue. Still, iVita's Blue OG will forever be in our hearts.
Technically, Greenwerkz isn't dead: Instead, it's been reborn. The brand and its three dispensaries in Denver, Edgewater and Glenwood Springs were already under the Green Dragon umbrella when the two merged a couple of years ago. Since then, all of the Greenwerkz shops have gotten facelifts, and today Green Dragon is one of the state's (and country's) largest dispensary chains.
The Grass Station
The Grass Station only had two locations — at 7200 Smith Road and 4125 Elati Street — but a few years ago it seemed hungry for more. The company was very vocal about its popular coupon-matching policy, and it had smart, aggressive marketing campaigns, such as its promotion pushing the Oskar Blues Pinner session IPA in 2015.
But alas, in 2017 the Grass Station's Denver pot shops were swallowed by Sweet Leaf. (More on Sweet Leaf below.)
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Unlike the other entrants on this list, Tru Cannabis still has one open dispensary — but it used to have much more than that. In 2016, between Aurora and Denver, the brand had licenses for five stores. Today, only its store by Mile High Stadium is still open (there's also a Tru Cannabis location in Oregon); most of the rest have been bought by Green Dragon.
While there's a Denver dispensary called Damian Marley's Stony Hill by Tru Cannabis, the location isn't listed on the company's website, and the business names of the licensee holders aren't the same, according to the state's Marijuana Enforcement Division.
(We're not including Sweet Leaf on this list, because its fate has not yet been determined in Denver District Court. Once comprising eleven dispensaries with a twelfth on the way, Sweet Leaf's Denver locations were shut down by the Department of Excise and Licenses in December 2017 over disputed illegal cannabis sales; its other metro-area locations have since been suspended by the MED. While no Sweet Leaf stores are currently open, the company is fighting to reopen its Denver stores. Read more about Sweet Leaf's downfall here.)