Welcome to Cannabis Corner, a weekly column on the “No BS” blog where we look at relevant stories, people, and products in the cannabis industry.
Alright, you got me. The BPR “All-Hands” meeting this last week in Colorado wasn’t solely dedicated to cannabis market research – and you can read about how awesome our company get-together was from Karli’s post. That said, the trip offered the opportunity for our expanding cannabis team to check out the epicenter of the recreational marketplace. Here are some quick thoughts from Washington natives on how Colorado stacks up:
Vertical integration is SWEET…
I won’t attempt to sugarcoat it – being greeted after the customary ID check by a row of plants behind a glass wall is a satisfying sight for us WA folks, where regulations prohibit retail locations from growing their own product. The overwhelming majority of WA consumers rarely come that close to the plant. Being able to open a jar, smell and examine the product outside of individually packaged and sealed bags is a great perk.
…but it doesn’t fundamentally alter the experience as a consumer.
At the end of the day, this feature, while unique, doesn’t revolutionize the buying experience for most consumers. It only affects those purchasing flower (1 in 5 from our group, admittedly lower due to impending travel) and I would wager the novelty wears off by the fourth or fifth trip to the shop. Many other products – edibles, concentrates, and pre-rolls – follow the same format as the WA market. It is great to physically see the source of the cannabis – flower also seemed to be of higher quality than that of WA, specifically denser buds. Better trimming and curing processes? Alternative packaging methods? I’ll let the strain experts figure that one out…
Image: Lodo Wellness Center, Twitter
It’s clear CO was first
Sheer number of dispensaries. Public attitude. Marketing and branding differences. Did I mention there are dispensaries EVERYWHERE? There was no doubt after spending time in Colorado that their market is simply more mature than the market in Washington.
One member of our group remarked that Colorado dispensaries seemed to be “more secure” than Washington. Multiple locations had front office people checking IDs from behind glass. It was common to enter a shop and then proceed to be “buzzed in” through another door to the actual place of business. Early thoughts trend towards public concerns about large cash sums and therefore burglary. Or, this could just be an observation due to the limited about of dispensaries we were able to visit.
Minor diction changes
Newsflash for you Pacific Northwest folks – dispensaries refer to both recreational and medicinal access points. We in Seattle seem to refer to retail shops as, well, just that – or “pot shops” if you’re my roommate, with dispensaries being reserved for medical-only facilities.
“Budtender” education (and level of highness) continues to wildly vary
An uphill battle for much of the cannabis industry continues to be education, and budtenders often serve as the primary instructors on that point. As others have noted, this isn’t always a positive. Many employees have deep personal experience with cannabis, but that doesn’t always translate over to sales/customer service. A male budtender at one dispensary wasn’t able to answer basic questions about their production operations such as yield, harvest schedule, or ratio of in-house to out-sourced product. On the other hand, the female budtender at an access point described to me by a third party as the “McDonalds of Weed” was able to provide terrific insight into their operations and also point us towards some great recommendations.
Weed is weed. Both Washington and Colorado have similarities and differences in their approach to cannabis, and the maturity of each market is evident in a variety of these factors above. It was an awesome experience to check out how another state operates their marketplace. For those interested, we will plan to put together a similar comparison this March for the Oregon market when our team heads to the TechNorthwest conference in Portland to hang out with some other cannabis entrepreneurs.
Thanks as always for reading,