How 10 Colorado Dispensaries Are Handling COVID-19
Updated: Jun 15
Last week, we covered how dispensaries in Los Angeles are adjusting to the Coronavirus pandemic. Now we head to the first state with legal adult-use cannabis: Colorado. How will these essential Rocky Mountain businesses continue to provide world-class service for their patients and consumers?
How are Colorado dispensaries operating during the COVID-19 pandemic?
In this article, we dive into real interviews with dispensary owners and managers who are constantly adapting to this new world. These generous individuals are sharing their knowledge, so you can learn and improve your own cannabis businesses today!
Tate from Terrapin Care Station
What has been your primary challenge due to COVID-19?
Adapting to rapidly-changing rules and regulations has been the biggest challenge. Terrapin is proud to have been one of the first cannabis companies in Colorado to successfully establish curbside and express pick-up options after the Governor passed emergency COVID-19 response rules. Customers responded with praise for the system, which cuts back on external exposures inside stores.
At Terrapin, we want to do our part for the community, so we’ve released the Terrapin Relief Package, which combines our most popular products at a great price to help those who may have lost income in the pandemic.
We’ve always had high standards for cleanliness, and we’ve really increased that to cleaning every hour, making sure anyone who feels sick stays home, and wearing personal protective equipment at all times. All of our employees have been supplied with N95 masks, and all employees wear gloves at all times. We also require regular hand cleaning and sanitization practices. Health and safety come first.
Do you believe Terrapin Care Station has a role to play in helping the community?
Terrapin Care Station hopes to lead the cannabis industry in a socially-conscious movement that supports thriving communities through advocacy, innovative environmental practices, responsible policy-making, and collaboration with hyper-local, social justice community programs and efforts. We plant local roots, which means that we are not only locally focused but we are also future-oriented.
We work with communities to achieve their vision, innovate alongside leaders to challenge old-world thinking and educate partners for mutual benefit. We aim to leave a positive impact, model authentic relationships, and support local — both within communities and within our industry. That is why Terrapin has partnered with 19 nonprofits for over $600,000 in giving. We have also prioritized our nonprofit partners as part of our COVID-19 response, highlighting their needs during this time.
We are particularly proud of our partner, Community Food Share, which distributed an all-time record amount of food in response to the virus. Terrapin supported the distribution of 1.1 million pounds of food; a 48-percent increase compared to last year.
What is Terrapin Care Station's role during this crisis?
The COVID-19 outbreak shows the value cannabis plays in many people’s lives. What started as a grassroots fight to provide medicine and an alternative to alcohol has evolved into an essential service during the crisis. Terrapin feels fortunate to remain operational during this time as a critical business, and there are several responsibilities that come with that:
We must take care of our employees and prioritize their health and safety;
We must protect our customers;
We must lift others up, and help those who have been knocked down; and
We must do our part to encourage others to contribute to this war against COVID
Lindsay from Euflora
Have you seen any changes in purchase behaviors since the Coronavirus hit Colorado?
We saw a big jump in sales since the mayor announced then retracted the prohibition on dispensaries. We saw this jumpstart our sales since more of our customers are stocking up along with purchasing higher quantities each time they visit. People are also trying new products when their favorites are out, since keeping some products in stock is difficult.
How have you adjusted business practices at Euflora?
How we conduct business has changed dramatically. We’ve encouraged all our customers to call in for orders or to reserve ahead online. At Euflora we’ve been diligent about keeping everyone safe, including our customers and employees, by having a strict limit to people being in stores, making sure everyone’s at least 6 feet apart, and tons of hand sanitizer.
Lisa from Lightshade
How has the Lightshade team adjusted to the new requirements?
I want to really highlight our whole staff at Lightshade since they’ve been great at pivoting on the fly with the daily rule changes. We are following all guidelines from the CDC and Jared Polis, including wearing face masks and gloves. Our operations team has always been very buttoned-up, but we’ve been proud of their ability to adapt and innovate.
Since we’re cash only, we’ve stopped doing curbside only since you have to use a debit card. We’ve limited our bud bays in half to encourage social distancing since we have more of a pharmacy style, consultative experience.
How have sales been affected by COVID-19?
After Mayor Michael Hancock’s executive order to close dispensaries, we saw sales jump up like crazy as if it was the 1st day of recreational legalization again! It was similar, but this time there was a lot more fear that Denverites would lose access to cannabis. The week after we did see a dip in sales like many others. We’ve seen sales return to normal in April and have seen that our customers are buying their cannabis staples. We’ve also seen an increase in CBD edibles since the outbreak.
Rocky Road Aurora
Have you started online ordering of any kind?
Yes, we’ve seen pre-ordering help tremendously since we can only have 3 to 5 people in the store at a time. It helps to speed orders up, but also we can make sure people are getting the correct product. It gives us time to answer any questions they may have and give them advice.
Have you had to lay off any employees or change hours?
We’ve been fortunate to keep our entire staff on board and have been planning for this outbreak since mid-January when one of our executives started doing more research on the coronavirus.
We are hiring more staff to support our community with jobs and to make sure we serve those who are looking to purchase cannabis. Because of the rapid changes, our staff has cross-trained in many different roles.
What adjustments have you made inside the store?
On March 13th we started implementing social distancing measures, using tape marks to show where people should stand.
We stopped allowing customers to touch or sniff the product. When they were ready to check out, they put their cash and ID on the table while the budtender was as far back as possible. We’ve cut our hours slightly and have divided our team into two distinct shifts, giving them more time off and ensuring that we can stay open if some become sick.
Robbie from Seed and Smith
Have you had to adjust hours of operation, reduce staff, or change staff members’ responsibilities?
We're happy to say that staff hours have been maintained. We are actually hiring right now despite the pandemic. We did go to one shift a day instead of two to make sure there’s no overlap and so we can keep the least amount of people in the dispensary at all times to stay compliant with new social distancing rules.
How has the pandemic affected your marketing strategy?
It definitely affected our 420 campaign. We were going to attend the Rooster Cup, the RedRocks 420 show, and other live events. We've readjusted to a far more digital approach now.
Grow tours are one of the ways we promote transparency with our customers. Now we've moved to virtual tours on Instagram. We will also be focusing on live IG performances from musicians to help promote their products and bring our customers and community together over social media.
We also started a new partnership with Leaf 411 (https://leaf411.org). It's a collection of nurses and medical professionals that can answer medical and science questions related to cannabis.
This partnership enables us to practice social responsibility and further increase transparency with our customer base. Leaf 411 is doing a huge part to answer COVID-19 specific questions and how cannabis should play a role in consumer health during this pandemic.
What steps are you taking to protect staff members?
We are prioritizing the safety of our staff on a daily basis while following all CDC, State, and local guidelines for the 14 stores we have across Colorado. We are making sure in every store we are maintaining social distancing of 6-10 feet, along with using safety gear such as gloves, masks, and protective equipment. We have hand sanitizer everywhere and plenty of lotion to prevent dry hands!
How have you been communicating with your customers?
In our text messages, website, and social media platforms, we have kept our customers updated on the rapid changes in rules and regulations, and many of our customers look to us for guidance as to how they can stay compliant and still purchase their cannabis. We have also collaborated with our brand partners to make sure our customers and employees are staying safe!
Andrea & Jake from Strawberry Fields
How have you been processing orders during this time of social distancing?
We got the order from the state to maintain social distancing and do curbside pickups for all recreational locations. While curbside was mandatory, we had two systems for providing cannabis, one for people who ordered online and one for drive-ins.
The order-ahead folks had a designated area where they gave their state ID and purchased. Then we would run the product out to them. For people who didn’t know what they wanted yet, we had one person outside with an iPad who communicated through our point of sale to a budtender by a shop register. Then our budtender in the shop ran the product back outside to the customer.
Have you had any novel challenges as a result of COVID-19?
In Pueblo, we had a huge rush after 4 pm on March 25th when Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said the dispensaries in Denver must shut down. The rush was so huge at their North Pueblo store that by 5:30 pm they had to start turning people away since their parking lot was filled. They could only serve the people inside and had budtenders at the front of the lot turning folks away.
Trey from Medicine Man
How has Medicine Man adjusted to the new requirements?
Responding to the Coronavirus has been a roller coaster. We had one day to implement curbside pick-up procedures and then a week later Colorado changed their stance and allowed customers back in the store. In addition to gloves, masks, and other CDC guidelines we’ve also installed “Sneeze Guards” which are large plexiglass shields to help prevent transmission between the budtender and the customer.
We are fortunate that our dispensaries are fairly large with open floorplans, it has allowed us to comfortably distance customers 6 feet away from each other. We’ve marked the locations where people can stand and have set a limit of 10 customers in the store at one time.
How has this crisis affected your marketing efforts?
We ended up moving forward with our month-long 4/20 pricing to allow customers to get their essential cannabis at a discounted price. We will also be extending the majority of our deals until the end of May.
Social media has been a great way to highlight our amazing staff and share articles about regulatory changes. Text message marketing has been the most effective way of communicating deals and policy changes directly to our customers.
How will this crisis affect the cannabis industry in the long term?
My bold prediction is now that non-legal states have witnessed cannabis companies classified an essential business, we will see many states look at legalizing cannabis to help stimulate their economies when things begin to open back up.
How has COVID-19 affected your business?
We changed our hours from 9 am-9:50 pm to 10 am to 7 pm to ensure our team had plenty of time to spend with family. We offer online ordering, so your order will be ready when you arrive. We encourage all customers to do this.
Everyone in our company has been working hard to adapt to the new rules and regulations, including the CDC, the City of Denver, and the MED. For customers that prefer to come to the store, please know that our entire team wears masks and gloves for your protection. We wipe down all surfaces between each guest and we maintain a six-foot distance at all times between guests and Budologists. We take safety and service very seriously.
It’s great that cannabis is now seen as essential business, an essential service to the goodwill of society. At Simply Pure, we are proud to be here as a provider and a partner to our patients and customers.
Cole from Tokin Tipi
Facebook: Tokin Tipi
How has the Coronavirus affected a mountain dispensary like Tokin Tipi?
Before Covid-19 we were proud to be one of the few mountain dispensaries in Parachute, CO to be truly deli-style, where customers could come in and see it weighed out in front of them. Now, safety and social distancing is the most important part of our business.
Most of our regulars call their orders in ahead, then once they get to the parking lot they call again letting us know they’ve arrived. We go out, ID everyone in the car, take the money (back when taking cash was allowed by the MED), and return to give them their product. Now, all of our marketing material says to call ahead.
Because the situation on the ground is changing every single day, it's important to note that these interviews took place in April 2020. Right now, these Colorado dispensaries are successfully weathering the COVID-19 storm and learning valuable lessons as they face a new challenge each day. Lucky for us, they were willing to share some of these insights so that the entire cannabis industry can emerge from the crisis stronger than ever.
If you have a unique perspective on the pandemic's effect on the cannabis industry, please contact us today!