Growing the Industry from the Ground Up
Located in Boulder, Colorado, Elements Boulder is a dispensary offering a wide variety of cannabis products including dried flower, edibles, tinctures, topicals, concentrates, and accessories. Over the years, the dispensary has found that tiered pricing has been highly successful, particularly with the wax, shatter, and flower product lines. Tiered pricing allows Elements Boulder to accommodate every customer, from the bargain shopper to the connoisseur.
Initially founded in 2010 with a focus on the medical marijuana market, Elements Boulder transitioned to a solely recreational dispensary in 2014 when cannabis became legal for all adults in Colorado. When the previous owner decided to sell the operation in 2016, Jamie Perino jumped at the opportunity to explore a new opportunity, and purchased Elements Boulder. Perino began her career in the sector with Euflora, where she opened up three dispensaries before deciding to venture out to open this dispensary. She remains part owner of Euflora today, and is also working with a group in Ohio to obtain a dispensary license there.
Several of Elements Boulder’s dedicated employees have been with the company for over two years and one for four years, which is relatively unusual in this industry that is known for its high turnover rate. “We’ve got a good feeling of camaraderie around us and we understand each other well,” says Perino, Owner of Elements Boulder. “Everyone has the same goal: we want high customer service and we want to make sure we provide quality products to our consumers.”
Elements Boulder provides its staff with regular in-house training to ensure that its budtenders are experienced and helpful consultants for the customers. Budtenders must be familiar with all of the products and strains that are carried and comprehend their effects in order to guide people through the many available options.
The cannabis industry in Colorado can be described as a bit of a rollercoaster ride since full legalization in 2014 and this is a result of rapid changes in prices and regulations. Prices have gone up and down in the wholesale and retail markets and recently there have been a number of acquisitions as bigger companies enter the fold and begin to purchase the smaller companies in the area. It remains a profitable business, but the margins are dropping slightly because of the changes in supply and demand.
Colorado expected to encounter this challenge as more states and countries continue to come online, yet no one knew exactly how it would play out. “I think we’re finally starting to see that it’s stabilizing to a more normal marketplace versus when Colorado was the only place in the world with [legal] cannabis. It was quite a different experience then than it is now, for the owners and the operators,” says Perino.
Unfortunately, businesses are sometimes taken advantage of simply for being related to cannabis. For example, when reaching out to contractors or other service providers, it is typical for the price to go up significantly after disclosing the connection to cannabis. Another challenge for dispensaries is recruiting the right employees and avoiding the individuals who assume a position in cannabis will be an easy payday.
The Marijuana Enforcement Division is the governing body over the industry in Colorado. Although the chaos has now begun to slow down, the Marijuana Enforcement Division changes the rules frequently and businesses must be able to change on a dime to survive long-term. Flexibility and adaptability are essential concerning all areas of cannabis including production, packaging, labeling, and sales.
Fortunately, many of the restrictions and limitations have since been reduced and packaging requirements have changed for the better. The childproof packaging containers that are required have not changed in some time and their necessity is generally agreed upon. The possible volume of packaged products that can be sold has increased to one ounce and all edible products must have a THC emblem to ensure they are not ingested unknowingly and that consumers are aware of what is inside the cookie, gummy, or chocolate.
A new trend in cannabis products is micro-dosing, which is lowering the amount of THC per dose of an edible or tincture product to 2.5 mg instead of 5 mg or 10 mg. A tincture is an alcoholic extract of cannabis and it is becoming more popular with people who like to feel the medicinal effects without having to smoke or inhale a substance. Micro-dosing is ideal for new users because it is less likely to be overused and it is easy to manage.
Concentrates, which are highly potent forms of cannabis, are also more common these days, especially in Colorado. This is likely due to the maturity of the market and the high tolerance of regular users. Concentrates come in a variety of forms including shatter, wax, budder, and crumble. Indica pills and capsules are products often used at night as a sleep aid by consumers who do not want to use potentially harmful or addictive pharmaceutical medication.
Any negative perception that may have intimidated people away from dispensaries has changed dramatically over the years. Many dispensaries feel more like high-end jewelry boutiques, featuring an atmosphere of interesting lights, scents, and music. “It’s not a scary place you wouldn’t want to take your mom; it’s a place you’d take your mom and your grandmother because it’s a great experience and it has huge benefits,” explains Perino.
In an effort to increase customer satisfaction, Elements Boulder has flexible hours and tiered pricing, offers online ordering through a user-friendly website, and above all, aims to provide a warm, welcoming environment. The budtenders and managers know most of the customers’ names since the vast majority come from the local neighborhood. The homey feel at Elements Boulder allows customers to feel relaxed and content as they browse the store and learn about new products or strains.
In the future, Perino hopes to see more research and development in the United States to fully determine what specific cannabinoids are best used for. “I feel like we are kind of flying blind; we don’t have exact scientific answers on what will help a migraine, what helps with nausea, what helps with cancer, what dosing is best and how often to take it.” It can be a lengthy and frustrating process for consumers to purchase small amounts using a trial and error method before finding which product works for the desired effect. As more countries such as Canada and Israel continue to legalize at the federal level, testing will become more advanced and consumers all over the world will benefit from the research.
Certainly, the legalization of cannabis benefits society in numerous economic and social ways. Following the news in Colorado and the rest of the United States, there is clearly a massive opioid epidemic and people are senselessly dying from drug addiction at an alarming rate. However, it seems that cannabis is a healthier alternative for pain, and its presence is having a positive impact in Colorado.
“It’s been great to see that Colorado has seen a lower number of opioid deaths in the past few years and also that they’re working to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for pain versus opioids,” says Perino. All the major sports teams including the NFL, the NBA, and the NHL are also looking at other alternatives to pharmaceutical medication for pain management, including marijuana. The cannabis industry is providing opportunities for people who do not want to be in pain but also do not want to take extremely addictive medicine.
Perino feels fortunate to have gotten involved with the cannabis industry at its inception when it was still a grassroots movement. “We just did what we had to do back in the day,” she says. “We didn’t think twice about what we were doing; we just did it because we believed in the product, had a passion for cannabis, and thought it was a great opportunity as an entrepreneur.” As a pioneer in cannabis, Perino has achieved significant accomplishments in the industry that most will never get to experience in their lifetime.
Elements Boulder plans to continue growing and expanding its product offering to support the development of the cannabis industry in the United States further, but it also hopes to remain small enough to maintain the close-knit atmosphere its employees appreciate. “My goal isn’t to be the biggest or the baddest; it’s just to really have a few select locations and be able to help continue to grow the marijuana industry in a positive light.”