Colorado's largest dispensary chain has reopened its store on the 16th Street Mall, but this reincarnation won't be selling anything with THC. Native Roots has created a boutique for hemp-derived CBD at 1555 Champa Street — or 910 16th Street, depending on whom you ask.
The location had held the company's flagship dispensary in downtown Denver, but the store had to close in September after a dispute with the City of Denver over the exact location of Native Roots' dispensary license.
Native Roots had an agreement with the city to operate its dispensary at the Champa address despite being originally licensed for 910 16th Street, an adjacent space in the same building. The dispensary ran smoothly for several years, but landed in jeopardy after a 2017 inspection by the city found "a number of violations" pertaining to the store's location within the building, as well as its proximity to a child-care center; the location is a few feet short of the required 1,000-foot buffer between dispensaries and daycares.
Native Roots is still considering fighting the city's decision in an effort to reopen the dispensary, according to communications director Kim Casey, but in the meantime, the company is trying its hand with a different kind of cannabis. Hemp products don't have the same strict licensing and regulation requirements as medical or recreational pot, so now the basement at 1555 Champa is full of CBD-infused lotion, edibles, dog treats and coffee, as well as CBD vaporizer products.
"We had to learn a lot, because this is an entirely new industry. We took advantage of the opportunity to start from scratch, though," Casey explains. "CBD is running like wildfire, and consumers are interested. But they're taking a shot in the dark when they're buying it online," because it's unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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This wasn't a total shot in the dark for Native Roots, however. Colorado dispensaries are barred from selling any consumable product without THC; even their high-CBD products can create confusion for new customers wary of THC's psychoactive effects. But most of the items available at the Native Roots CBD store are made by established vendors in the dispensary sector, such as The Clear, Incredibles and Mary's Nutritionals (the hemp branch of Mary's Medicinals). Other vendors at the new store include known hemp companies such as Strava Craft Coffee and Kured vaporizers.
"We really want to make this an educational experience for people who stop in," Casey says, comparing the new store to a salon-shopping experience. "We have so many tourists in this part of town who haven't learned as much about CBD yet."
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The new advertising opportunities for the Native Roots brand didn't go unnoticed, either, Casey says. Dispensaries are barred from advertising on billboards in Colorado, and the majority of traditional TV stations, publications and other forms of media are hesitant to accept dispensary advertising, as the vast majority of their audiences must be over 21 in order to legally run cannabis ads. The new CBD store, named Native Roots Wellness, doesn't face those same restrictions — but advertising for this single spot also pushes awareness of the Native Roots brand, which includes twenty dispensaries around Colorado.
"Needless to say, our marketers are all really excited," Casey adds. "This is a separate business, but the brands are similar." And unlike at other Native Roots stores, "the receptionist won't be checking your ID," because customers don't have to be 21 to buy CBD products.
Native Roots Wellness is now open at 1555 Champa Street from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.