The legal cannabis industry is fast expanding: already there are many major retailers whose practices and situations are noteworthy. These are industry pioneers who will help cultivate the future of the American marijuana marketplace, setting the tone for those who follow.
Here are 7 cannabis retailers with interesting aspects worth watching:
1) Native Roots
America’s largest cannabis chain, with ambitions to be the so-called Starbucks of the marijuana industry, operates 18 dispensaries in Denver and Colorado Springs. Of those locations, three are purely recreational, six are medicinal, and nine are a combo of both.
Their selection runs the gamut from traditional bud and edibles, to topical, ice water hash and cO2 oils. The brand was founded in 2009 by Coloradoans Josh Ginsberg and Rhett Jordan after a multimillion-dollar investment from Vail real estate tycoon Peter Knobel. That investment was well ahead of its time in terms of large-scale cannabis financing.
The presence of Knobel, a veteran property developer, has reportedly been propelling the brand’s rapid expansion. Their assets also include the world’s largest marijuana cultivation facility, and 59 active licenses, more than anyone else in the industry.
2) LivWell Enlightened Health
The second-largest cannabis chain counts 14 dispensaries around Denver, Colorado Springs and in the south and western parts of the state. Owner John Lord also owns pot product brands like Infusiasm and Leafs by Snoop: indicative of the not-always vertical integration of this industry.
Lord more or less fell into the industry. He says his career in baby products, “one of the most litigious businesses around,” prepared him well for the legal challenges of the cannabis industry. Already he’s preparing for expansion into Oregon.
The company recently won an award from Xcel Energy for its energy efficient LED cannabis lighting, and was a 2016 sponsor of the Denver Fashion Weekend, the city’s largest of such events.
This Colorado chain operates nine total dispensaries: six around Denver and three in western parts of the state.
The stores offer a Mile High Club membership that, for $100 annually, grants participants preferred pricing on all their recreational cannabis-based products. Medicinal users can simply list Strainwise as their designated caregiver to gain membership.
4) Nectar PDX
The largest cannabis chain in Oregon is based around Portland and is actively trying to buy up additional dispensaries. Already it operates seven fully licensed cultivation facilities in Grants Pass, Oregon, and is known for its popular pre-rolls and large menu size.
A pioneer pot retailer in the state, Nectar has worked closely with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, and has been quick to convert its stores to new license requirements.
5-6) Main St. Marijuana and Uncle Ike’s
These Washington-based brands are the two top-selling cannabis retailers in the state. In and around Vancouver, WA, Main St. Marijuana operates three busy stores. Uncle Ike’s counts three locations in Seattle. Together they reportedly totaled $50 million in revenue last year.
And yet, in a sign of the uneasy times this industry faces under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the owners of both brands have recently attempted a joint sale. Their asking price: $50 million.
The owners claim that they want to sell to explore other opportunities in the cannabis industry — like activism. Though it’s worth noting that in the same interview the owners pointed to industry fears over President Trump and Sessions as reasons why a buyer might not emerge.
This Oregon chain with two locations in Portland, and one in Eugene, welcomes users on its website to click on what how they want to feel after consuming cannabis. These options include: focus, relief, relaxation, energy, happiness and creativity. Depending on the answers, the site suggests certain strains and products to attain that desired feeling.
The stores themselves are setup similarly, zeroing in on a particular feeling — though with an interesting setup. Walking around you might get the sense of being in a fine jewelry store, picking out engagement rings (though much less pricy!). Serra aims to present retail marijuana with a respectful medicinal approach: the shops also have the look and feel of a small museum mixed with a high-end flower shop.
Kyle Swartz is editor of Cannabis Regulator. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece 8 States That Could Legalize Cannabis In 2017.