After years of trying to start a cannabis company in California with no luck, Brandon Epley decided to give the Colorado market a shot. Teaming up with his longtime friend Eryc Klein, Epley set out to create a brand focused exclusively on extracts, but instead jumped at the opportunity to purchase a cultivation facility and medical dispensary in Lakewood over five years ago. The duo's brand, Leiffa
, is now much more than a dispensary.
Leiffa's flagship store in Lakewood carries house-grown flower, solventless concentrates and rosin-infused edibles, all of which are sold in dozens of partnering dispensaries around Denver. And thanks to new laws in Lakewood, Leiffa is now able to serve recreational customers, as well. We sat down with Epley and Leiffa marketing director Hillary Rowe to find out what makes Leiffa special and what they have planned for the future.
Westword: Brandon, why did you want to start your own cannabis company in Colorado?
I grew up on the East Coast, and in 2010, I moved to California. I opened one of the first five dispensaries in San Francisco when they lifted their regulations, and that got shut down. I had a couple of different delivery services, which were shut down. I had a couple of different cultivations in Northern California, which also got shut down. California was very gray at the time. They hadn't actually started issuing licenses yet, so none of them were illegal, but none of them were fully licensed, legally operating facilities. My best friend from when I was eighteen years old, Eryc Klein, had moved to Denver, and he was attempting the same thing that I was attempting in California. He had a couple different opportunities at dispensary openings that fizzled out. So he was already here, and we had the opportunity to get a license. We made the decision to team up, and I moved here from California.
Did you always plan to focus on extracts, particularly solventless extracts?
Initially we were going to just be an extracts company. While we were trying to get the extracts company off the ground, we found the opportunity to purchase the Patient's Choice/LiveGreen
cultivation, and that was connected to the medical dispensary in Lakewood. We acquired those two facilities while we were getting our lab up and running. When we first started, we had plans to do cartridges, because that's what was really popular at the time. Then we were personally introduced to the solventless experience, and we felt that it was a more user-friendly product to create. It was also a lot safer to produce.
When you say safer to produce, what do you mean by that?
The extraction process only uses ice, water, heat and pressure, rather than needing to build a C1D1 extraction [laboratory] booth for butane or CO2 extraction. At that time, we were pretty confident with the increase in technology that we would be able to mimic the solvent-based extraction skews with a solventless extraction process.
What are the benefits of cultivating your own flower for Leiffa's extracts?
With a solventless style of extraction, there's a lot of different factors that play into the outcome of the final product. By having our own cultivation and control of our input material, we're able to control the [integrated pest management process], which is basically what's sprayed on the plants. Our IPM process is pretty much non-existent. If you spray anything on plants intended for solventless extraction, you can taste what's been sprayed on them in the final product. So by having a really clean garden and having complete control over the material coming out of the garden, it gives us a really clean, quality product to start with for concentrates.
By having complete control of the input material that's going into our lab, we're able to harvest through specific careful harvesting techniques and processes to ensure that the heads of the trichomes stay intact through the freezing and transportation process into the washing process. Since we're totally vertical, we're doing all of those parts ourselves, including the transportation in a frozen van. Once our flower is cut and goes into freeze, it never defrosts. We always make sure that whatever temperature it starts at, it goes down in temperature through the entire process and stays frozen rock-solid until our extractors receive the product.
Leiffa makes strain-specific gummies on the recreational side. How can strain-specific edibles change the edible experience for consumers?
With the gummies, we try and pick strains that will complement the flavor of the gummy. When you're using a product like rosin, it's a full-spectrum concentrate, so you're still going to taste a lot of the flavors of the concentrate in the edible. We don't do strain-specific with our chocolates, because the chocolates have a more robust flavor, so you're not able to taste the specific terpenes of a particular strain.
Is there a certain technique or specific ingredients you use to neutralize the taste of the rosin in your edibles?
No, we actually try to embrace it. We're only using top-quality first-press [rosin] in all of our edibles, so we don't feel the need to hide anything. We want to highlight what's in there.
Leiffa co-founders Eryc Klein (left) and Brandon Epley opened Leiffa in 2018.
Does Leiffa ever do collaborations with other companies?
We just did a concentrate and cartridge collaboration with Olio
. We took half of their product, half of ours, and pressed it. It was a really fun collab that led to some unique flavor profiles that haven't been offered before.
Since we're solventless-only with our extraction methods, we give some of the solvent-based producers our material to run and turn into live rosins and waxes and shatters. We've done gummy collabs with Robhots
, Green Hornet, Äkta
and Cheeba Chews
. We also do seasonal collaboration edibles with Sweet Mary Jane
. They've been an amazing partner for us, and they've helped us with a number of our edibles throughout the years. They make an all-around solid product, and I can't speak highly enough of everybody on their team.
Leiffa's website mentions that Leiffa strives to give back to the local community. What are some of the ways that you do that?
The Action Center in Lakewood
is an outreach for the direct community in Lakewood. We know the neighborhood we're in, and we like to give back directly to them. We'll give them monetary donations, or we'll do can drives and coat drives. We've done animal-supply drives for Lakewood Vet Hospital
. We're also supporting the community through arts events, and things that are not necessarily cannabis-related but are related to communities that we're still a part of. We're doing the Rocky Mountain Record Show
next month, heady glass shows and things like that.
We also always do a back-to-school supplies drive in September, and that goes to all Jefferson County schools — and we always do a toy drive around the holidays. We have a soft spot for children who may have less than they deserve. When we can give back to them, or have our loyal patients contribute to them, we try to do that as much as possible.
Does Leiffa offer delivery, or is that something you plan on offering in the future?
Not yet. Lakewood hasn't written the regulations, or they haven't approved the regulations. But we are totally ready for it once it is allowed. Our products are delivered through other Denver and Aurora dispensaries' delivery services. We are very excited to be able to bring products directly to your door.
As a dispensary owner, do you worry at all that delivery services could eventually overtake dispensaries?
No, because we strive really hard to have a very enjoyable, unique experience when you're in our store, and we don't think that that experience is going to be able to be replicated through a delivery model. Even though we would like to make access to our products easier and more convenient, we don't think it's ever going to replicate or replace the experience you get shopping at our location.
Have you considered opening up another retail location?
We look at that pretty regularly. I feel like we've found a nice balance with having one flagship store, but then being available at hundreds of stores across the state. I wouldn't say that it's in our goals right now, but it is something that we've thought about. I think the next step for us is probably going to be an expansion into another state.
What new products do you have in the works?
We have live rosin cartridges coming out soon that we're really excited about. We have what we're calling "rosin rolls," which are infused joints, that we're releasing soon, and also pre-packed flower. We're also expanding our medical chocolate selection.
The pre-packed flower will feature new strains that haven't been released yet from us. We also have a vegan edible coming up, too. That will be available on both med and rec, and it's going to be like a chocolate wafer cookie. It's something that will be shelf-stable, so it's something you can leave in your car and it won't melt. We were definitely looking for a product that you could take with you when you're traveling, so portability is something we're starting to think about with products, too. We know our gummies and chocolates aren't good in high temperatures, so we wanted to offer something that does better at higher temperatures but also fills that void of a vegan edible, which we don't have right now.