Well known for prime ski slopes and attracting wealthy visitors, Aspen is becoming more than a luxury resort town where private jets glide between its stark mountains during the winter like migrating birds. Aspen is now a unique center in Colorado’s new cannabis tourism industry. Here, older and often more conservative tourists can indulge in recreational marijuana next to the progressive locals — who voted for legalization in 2012 with a stunning 75 percent approval.
Native Roots Aspen, a recreational and medical dispensary located just two blocks from the gondola, has been crucial to Aspen’s development as a home for presenting responsible and normalized cannabis consumption to the tens of thousands of tourists that visit each year. With beautiful design and friendly employees, Native Roots Aspen sells high-quality flower, tinctures, accessories, topicals, a wide assortment of edibles and their own house-made hash oil concentrates to over a hundred people each day.
“Aspen is a unique town to have a shop in,” says Dillon Gross, an assistant store manager at Native Roots Aspen. “It’s a small town with only six shops instead of several hundred down in Denver, so it’s a lot more personalized. We know everyone around town. We’ve even got people like the sheriff who come in and shop and support the cause verbally and openly.”
Gross says the ratio of locals to tourists is about one-to-one during the winter, but most of the year, the store is buoyed by their strong relationships with regulars. Upon entering the bright natural light in the store, it’s clear to see why. The budtenders engage in easy conversation, making everyone from the most experienced smoker to a first-time dispensary visitor feel welcomed and informed.
Native Roots Aspen is relatively new to town — they opened this January, timed with the ski season — but they’ve already carved out a niche within the music scene, becoming the go-to dispensary for bands that come through Aspen on tour. Their opening weekend party during the X Games included Snoop Dogg and Thievery Corporation, and they’ve since been visited by Lettuce, Gregg Allman, Umphrey’s McGee and Chali 2na from Jurassic 5, among others.
These musical connections enhance Native Roots’ already hip vibe.
“The atmosphere that we provide in here is a nice mix of being professional and safe, while being younger and exciting,” says Gross. “Native Roots is unique in that it’s a lifestyle brand.”
The branding comes from the dispensary’s parent company, Native Roots, which owns 11 dispensaries and counting across the state of Colorado. Native Roots calls itself the nation’s largest and leading dispensary chain, something that can grind against the many people in the marijuana industry who want to support smaller, local organizations.
But the Native Roots company is only expanding to places where the growing cannabis market lacks dispensaries and isn’t trying to push any other smaller companies out, says Mickey Kreger, the COO of Native Roots.
“We are concerned with the communities that we are expanding into and doing things right in the process while addressing communities’ needs,” says Kreger. “In this way we are not concerned with what other companies are doing.”
For Native Roots Aspen, at least, the corporate support behind the store allows it to comfortably grow to best suit the needs of its customers. The owners plan on improving and evolving the store each year, meaning that those who are visiting only during the winter will see something new each trip.
This fall, Native Roots Aspen is unveiling a second wing of the store, remodeled to include a separate medical dispensary area and a boutique retail area, something Gross said he hasn’t seen at other dispensaries.
Much of the product Native Roots sells is homegrown or homemade. They grow all of their own strains, including one hybrid they created in collaboration with the DJ GRiZ called Griz Kush, at various locations in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Native Roots also makes all of their concentrates and some of their tinctures, and they sell edibles from different companies, but only what is deemed potent, consistent and safe. Overall, their products are as high-quality as one would expect in a luxury resort town.
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