Colorado's cannabis industry has come a long way since medical marijuana dispensaries started popping up a decade ago. The industry exploded with the start of legal recreational sales on January 1, 2014, and a boom in capital funding soon ushered in a more corporate era. Now more Colorado towns and counties are allowing retail pot sales than ever before, with consumers buying much more than bags of weed at dispensaries.
Reagan Yeomans has seen plenty of changes burn through the industry since she entered the field in 2010. The Colorado State University graduate and her business partner, Tiffany Goldman, haven't opened a dozen stores, like some of their competitors; instead, they've chosen to grow their dispensary chain, The Health Center, at a steadier pace. Today it has two longstanding dispensaries in Denver, a wholesale cultivation brand and a new store in Boulder.
Westword recently chatted with Yeomans to learn more about surviving and thriving in the developing world of commercial cannabis.
Westword: How did you get involved in the cannabis industry?
Reagan Yeomans: I always believed that cannabis had a medicinal value, and as the Colorado grassroots movement made cannabis legal medicinally, investment opportunities presented themselves. So I jumped in.
What are some ways you've seen Colorado's cannabis scene change over the past several years?
Over the years, the Colorado pot scene has transformed from a taboo market to a legitimate industry that provides jobs, stability and tax revenue, which creates a better living standard for the people of Colorado. In addition, the legitimization of the industry has removed some of the criminal activity associated with the black market and has widened the demographic of the cannabis customer.
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The Health Center recently expanded into a third dispensary in Boulder after owning two in Denver for some time. What caused the expansion? And why Boulder?
Our company has always been focused on the cultivation of high-quality cannabis for our retail locations. Additionally, our current production levels allow us to provide wholesale flower and concentrates under our Nuhi Distribution brand. In order to achieve our goal of complete vertical integration, an additional retail outlet was just a natural progression for the company.
We were so excited when an opportunity presented itself with a location in Boulder and we were able to apply for a new license — and even more so after we received local approval. Boulder is such a cool community, and we are thrilled to be a part of it.
How does a budding entrepreneur without much capital backing start a business in today's cannabis industry? Is that still possible in Colorado?
Honestly, it would be very difficult to enter without financial backing, as it is a very capital-intensive industry. However, if you have relationships in the cannabis industry and could partner up with an established operator, then that would be one option to limit capital requirements.
What are some questions or feedback you often hear from customers that might surprise some people?
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It may surprise some people that many senior customers come into the dispensaries inquiring about alternatives to opioids for pain relief, as well as aphrodisiacs. There are also many customers using cannabis to focus, not just to relax, and some are asking for sativa strains in order to maximize their workouts.
What do dispensary shoppers lack knowledge in the most?
Most of them just lack the general knowledge of cannabis. They ask questions like “Is it legal to drive on cannabis?” or “Where can I smoke it?”
We are trying to bring that knowledge and awareness to both the patients and consumers.