Front Range

A Growing Business

Marijuana legalization has changed the day-to-day of sellers across the state. Hear from the woman behind one shop’s operations.

June 2014

—Photo by Matt Nager

Three months after 3D Cannabis Center made Colorado’s first legal sale of recreational marijuana, the Brighton Boulevard store had already made more money than it did in three years of selling medical cannabis. So owner Toni Fox hired industry veteran Christie Lunsford to help oversee day-to-day operations. Nearly half a year into Colorado’s legal marijuana experiment, we spoke with Lunsford about the shop’s clientele (70 percent are out-of-towners), cannabis and childbirth, and what the industry is missing. 

Who walks through 3D’s doors?

We see everyone, from the cement worker to the gentleman who works in city government. The thing that’s been the most astonishing to me has been how many women shop here. They’re young, they’re old; they’re white, black.

How do people react when they see 3D’s 80-foot-long plant viewing corridor?

They walk around the corner, and they’re just astonished. They’re like, “Oh my God, look at that pot!” They’ll call it cannabis when they’re buying it, but then they walk around the corner and just lose all their reserve.

Can you tell who’s from out of state?

Sometimes you can tell because their eyes are like little saucers. I think a lot of people expect it to be really seedy, and then they get in here and it’s so nice, welcoming, and approachable. Our budtenders are such cannabis connoisseurs themselves that you really get a concierge-style experience: “Tell me about yourself. Do you want an indica or a sativa? Are you here for edibles? Concentrates? Topicals?”

Topicals?

Topicals are nonpsychotropic, meaning there’s no altered state, but they’re amazing for pain relief. The bath soak is great after skiing; just dump it in the hot tub. We call it a bowl in a bowl.

Sounds like kind of a girly product.

Cannabis is actually a women’s herb; it was traditionally used, pre-prohibition, during childbirth to relax the contractions and speed the delivery. Tinctures in tea are also great for menstrual cramps.

What are the most common questions people ask?

“How much can I buy?” Simply because they haven’t had access to it. And, “How do I use it?” There are so many novice smokers, people who haven’t had legal access to marijuana, and they don’t know how to consume it.

What’s next for marijuana in Colorado?

We have thousands of out-of-state guests who are filling our hotels, paying for taxis, and putting money into our local economy—but there are very few hotels that allow cannabis smoking on-site. Vape lounges [an indoor space in which it’s legal to smoke marijuana] are a responsible, safe way to consume cannabis. Do we really want to have our customers from Wisconsin, the nice husband and wife who own the cheese factory, skulking around the park while they consume their marijuana? 


5280.com Exclusive:  Read more from Christie Lunsford below.

Has the clientele changed since 3D went from medical to recreational?

I personally don’t like to call it “recreational.” I like to call it “adult use” because this is marijuana for people age 21 or older; they’re not all using it recreationally. We know for a fact they’re using it as medicine; they just don’t want to be on the registry. They’re paying retail, and they’re thrilled to do it. Because we’re so well educated on the health benefits of marijuana from our medicinal heritage, many people come into this store and they don’t care about the tax.

Do you have any other stories about people walking into the shop for the first time?

I had a guy from Utah come in who’s a registered nurse. We were standing back in the viewing corridor and he had me in tears just because he was so excited and happy; he was telling me about his patients. The other thing I love about the viewing corridor is there’s a wheelchair-height window right as you come up the ADA-compliant ramp; that is beautiful to me.

You have so many customers from out of state; has 3D become a tourist destination?

Toni really hasn’t branded the store as a tourist destination; it’s happened naturally because of the education and advocacy that she lives. A lot of people talk it; she lives it every day. And that’s why—did you hear this guy, he just walked in and he went, [inhales] ahhhh—it’s just such a natural thing for her to have a viewing corridor. Why didn’t anyone else do that? They didn’t live that advocacy and education as part of their blood. People come because they want to have a deep relationship with the plant, and they’ve never seen a plant.

What misconceptions do people still have about being in the marijuana business?

I can only draw on my experience being an “underground” cannabis person for a while, when people would find out what I do professionally. Back then they accused me of being a drug dealer. I’m not a drug dealer, I’m an herbalist and an educator. But here’s how it’s shifting: Those same exact people are calling me now and saying, “My aunt got diagnosed with cancer; do you have any suggestions?”