Business

Marijuana Dispensaries See Long Lines and Software Crashes on 4/20

Customers wait in line as 4:20 approaches at Cookies dispensary on South Broadway.
Customers wait in line as 4:20 approaches at Cookies dispensary on South Broadway. Thomas Mitchell
Shopping for gifts on Christmas Eve or for beer on Super Bowl Sunday seems ridiculous, yet malls and liquor stores are always packed when those days come around. Denver has its own special holiday on April 20, when dispensaries see lines out the door — and in some cases down the street — during the world's unofficial marijuana celebration.

Still not out of a pandemic, Denver was without public activities and large events for a second straight year as 4/20 rolled around, but that didn't stop people from showing up at their local pot shops, according to Alex Levine, co-owner of one of the state's largest dispensary chains, Green Dragon.

Says Levine: "4/20 still definitely has a spell over people. I get it, but a part of me also doesn't get it. There are still no events or big concerts going on, really, and there's no festival happening downtown again. But we were still blowing last year's [sales] out of the water. I had a store that was close to 45 percent higher yesterday than the day before."

From Denver to Breckenridge, Green Dragon's stores saw sales increases over 2020 on April 20, 2021. That was no small feat on a Tuesday, Levine adds, as Mondays and Tuesdays are typically the slowest sales days of the week for dispensaries.


"I think the big question for us was 4/20 during COVID last year is harder to compare to this year, because the lockdown was still new," Levine says. "4/20 never fails to impress me."

The action wasn't smooth everywhere for dispensaries, however. Flowhub, a major provider of point-of-sale systems for the marijuana industry, began experiencing technical difficulties and even shut down for an extended period of time early in the day at stores across town, leading to customer complaints on social media and even longer lines than usual as dispensary employees were forced to conduct transactions on paper.

Lightshade, a Denver-based dispensary chain with nine locations in the metro area, experienced outages with Flowhub "intermittently throughout the day" at most of its stores, according to vice president of marketing Lisa Gee. The glitches were generally short, she adds, and didn't affect operations overall.

In a statement to Westword, Flowhub blamed an "interruption" in the third-party software authentication system used by the company, Auth0.

"Flowhub, along with many other notable technology companies, rely on Auth0 for secure-logins. A portion of our customers were affected," the statement read. "As we are committed to preserving the security of our customers and their corresponding data, we worked with Auth0 to resolve this issue as efficiently as possible. Systems are now fully operational and working as normal. We apologize for this situation, and are committed to making this right for all of our loyal customers and users."

Green Dragon doesn't use Flowhub, but Levine has experienced software shutdowns before. A lengthy problem "can lead to a major loss in revenue, is very stressful on the staff, and is not fun for customers," he explains.  However, dispensaries are used to going to battle on 4/20, he adds, and most of them now have "crash kits," a set of instructions and materials for staff to manually process transactions if electronics fail.

Even when sales systems were working yesterday, the lines were long. Dispensaries in Capitol Hill, around the Golden Triangle and down South Broadway all had overflow customers stretching down the streets.

Some shots of those lines on 4/20, 2021:

click to enlarge Outside Lit dispensary on South Broadway. - THOMAS MITCHELL
Outside Lit dispensary on South Broadway.
Thomas Mitchell
click to enlarge Customers wait outside Higher Grade dispensary in the Golden Triangle. - THOMAS MITCHELL
Customers wait outside Higher Grade dispensary in the Golden Triangle.
Thomas Mitchell
click to enlarge Local Product of Colorado at 419 West 13th Avenue. - THOMAS MITCHELL
Local Product of Colorado at 419 West 13th Avenue.
Thomas Mitchell
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell