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.
Still, familiar cannabis company names have disappeared as the industry and its financing mature. For a quick walk down marijuana memory lane, here are eight dispensary chains that once looked destined for expansion, only to be consumed.
Most of the entrants on this list were taken out because of cannabis capitalism, but not Sweet Leaf. Once one of the largest dispensary chains in Colorado, Sweet Leaf saw all of its dispensaries raided throughout 2017 and 2018 by the Denver Police Department, state Marijuana Enforcement Division and other local law enforcement agencies as part of an investigation into the company for looping, or illegal pot sales. Those raids eventually led to Sweet Leaf losing all of its dispensary, cultivation and infused-product manufacturing licenses in Colorado, with the company's three co-owners each sentenced to a year in prison and executive leadership receiving jail time, as well.
The dispensary chain's eight locations in Denver are no longer marijuana stores, but the MED did allow another dispensary operation, Xclusive Cannabis, to buy former Sweet Leaf dispensaries in Aurora and Federal Heights — as long as there's no mention of the Sweet Leaf name.
One of the louder, prouder dispensary chains that is no longer with us, MMJ America was a regular presence at cannabis cups and early Denver pot events, and operated four dispensaries in Denver and Boulder at its height in 2015. But founder Jake Salazar left MMJ America in 2017, and the stores started falling soon after. Now, former MMJ America locations house dispensaries including Cannajuana and LOVA, and Salazar is running a hemp-derived CBD brand. One MMJ America store is still open, but it's in Las Vegas.
An early power player in recreational marijuana, Mindful topped out at five Colorado stores, with locations in Aurora, Berthoud, Colorado Springs and Denver. But the company's ownership restructured a few years after recreational sales began, and it's no longer operating in Colorado. Earlier this year, LivWell Enlightened Health acquired all five Mindful locations in Colorado, with the stores all transitioning to the LivWell brand. Mindful still operates a medical dispensary in Illinois, however.
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 Strainwise is still around — just as a new Oklahoma medical dispensary and cannabis business consulting firm.
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 of blocks from Brighton Boulevard. And after the company's staff earned a strong review, iVita seemed on the way 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 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.
Alas, in 2017 the Grass Station's Denver pot shops were swallowed by Sweet Leaf. And we know what happened next.
In 2016, Tru Cannabis had licenses for five stores between Aurora and Denver, but the dispensary chain began to crumble shortly after. By 2018, Tru Cannabis had only one store left in Colorado — after a failed partnership with Damian Marley — as well as one more pot shop in Portland. Now those are gone, too, with most former Tru Cannabis stores scooped up by Green Dragon.
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