Medical marijuana sales are dropping and a handful of dispensaries have recently closed up shop in Denver, but new store owner Elias Egozi isn't scared of a fight. In fact, fighting is how he spends his off-time.
Last week, the Florida native opened Alto, a medical marijuana dispensary at 2160 South Lipan Street, in the South Platte neighborhood. When he's not tending the garden, though, Egozi is an amateur mixed-martial artist and a member of Elevation Fight Team, one of the sport's most successful training centers. And according to the 33-year-old Egozi, working out in the same gym as UFC stars Justin Gaethje and Cory Sandhagen has more in common with his day job than he expected.
"There's definitely overlap between fighting and cannabis. I was kind of surprised at how much there was," he says. "When I'm in the back of the house with the plants, I find myself using a lot of the same things I use while training: the discipline, staying focused on a task for a long time, and being detail-oriented."
Alto also houses a cultivation and solventless extraction lab, which is a lot to pack into under 5,000 square feet. A family operation, Alto is funded by Egozi and his mother, brother and sister; Egozi and his girlfriend, Juliana Mohr, run the business. The new operation will specialize in trichome-heavy strains that favor solventless extraction, such as Gary Payton
and Project 4510
The family purchased the facility from Simply Pure
, a Denver-based dispensary owned by Wanda James. They qualified under Denver's social equity requirements for new marijuana business owners,
thanks to Egozi's marijuana possession arrest while he was growing in California's gray market. After moving to Colorado in 2017, he eventually landed positions with HRVST Labs
and cannabis lifestyle magazine Sensi
"I've definitely had some of those experiences [with law enforcement]," he recalls. "My family has watched me do this for ten years, though, and they believe in me. We thought this was a good place to start a business."
Alto is now open at 2160 South Lipan Street.
Courtesy of Elias Egozi
Around the same time that Egozi entered Colorado's marijuana industry, he began training in MMA. He's since compiled a 2-2 amateur record, and most recently competed in December in Greeley, on the same Colorado Combat fight card as former UFC contender Elias Theodorou, who received the first medical marijuana exemption from a United States athletic commission
in order to participate. Egozi won the fight by unanimous decision, but later suffered a torn meniscus during a training session. He's been sidelined from fighting for several months, but has plenty of work to keep him busy while targeting a return to the cage in August or September.
Alto has only two other employees working in the grow, and Egozi is still trying to organize a block party to celebrate the dispensary's grand opening. He's also trying to secure the recreational sales license the store will need in order to sell to customers who aren't registered medical marijuana patients. He recognizes the importance of that license: Medical marijuana sales have hit their lowest point in Colorado since 2014, according to the state Department of Revenue
Alto's cultivation and extraction licenses permit both recreational and wholesale operations, so Egozi Cannabis products will eventually be available in other dispensaries, Egozi says. However, he hopes that people prioritize the flagship Alto location.
"We're working against companies that have ten to twelve times the space that we do, so ideally most of what we produce is sold through the store," he explains. "We believe we can pass some of that production savings on to the customer, and want to develop more of a loyal, family atmosphere."