Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

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July 11, 2014
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Marijuana pricing wars heat up in Aspen

The lines started forming during the week of the Food & Wine Classic and haven’t slowed down since then.

Aspen’s recreational marijuana shops have been booming since the tourist season kicked into high gear in June. According to Hunter Beaudreau, an employee at Green Dragon Aspen, recreational sales have at least doubled in the past month.

“We were slammed when we first opened here in March,” Beaudreau said. “Our recreational sales were good and have only gotten better with all the tourists in town. For the recreational customers, the experience of buying pot seems more important than the prices.”

There are three outlets selling recreational pot in or near Aspen right now: Green Dragon Aspen and Silverpeak Apothecary in town and Stash at the Aspen Business Center.

Two other outlets located in Aspen, Alternative Medical Solutions and Leaf Aspen, currently only sell medical marijuana.

Recreational prices fluctuate greatly, depending on where you buy. Keep in mind that every shop offers specials, so prices can change on a day-to-day basis. With prices that range from $52.50 to $122.50 for 3.5 grams — or an eighth of an ounce — of pot before taxes, customers can spend anywhere from $400 up to nearly $1,000 for an ounce of pot, depending on where they shop.

“Our recreational prices depend on the strain and on how much we have available,” said Stash owner Garrett Patrick. “We’re a rec shop only now, but if we recognize one of our former medical patients, we’ll give them a great deal at reduced prices.”

That makes sense because medical marijuana is much cheaper than recreational.

Why? There are several reasons. The first answer is taxing — recreational marijuana requires a 10 percent pot tax on top of the 9.3 percent in local sales taxes. There’s also the influence of supply and demand. Many recreational outlets are still ramping up their grow operations to match the demand for recreational pot. With lower supplies and higher demands, retail costs have gone up.

With more recreational sales taking place, the medical marijuana supplies have backed up and several shops now have surpluses of medical pot, allowing for lower pricing.

There also appears to be a pot price war brewing in Aspen on the medical side.

Silverpeak Apothecary started lowering prices when it announced in March that 7 grams of any of its medical marijuana strains would cost only $40 to members. Green Dragon Aspen answered in June by offering its medical members the same amount for $30.

John Rogan has been an employee at Leaf for three years and has seen the medical prices drop, especially in the past three months.

“The price wars between Silverpeak and Green Dragon have affected us, as well,” he said. “People come in now and expect to find 7 grams for $40. We now have ounces as low as $150, with our premium flower up to $275. The focus has gone from how good the bud is to how cheap it costs. I think our deals are great because our product is all pretty much top-shelf.”

Rogan saw several Leaf customers not renew their medical-card coverage to give recreational pot a chance, only to renew eventually.

“Medical pot is such a better deal,” Rogan said. “A lot of people still worry about having their names on a state registry as a medical-card holder, but the savings are incredible if you partake on a regular basis.”

Alternative Medical Solutions has been selling medical marijuana for almost five years in Aspen. The dispensary offers sales every day and currently sells an eighth of an ounce of top-shelf pot for $20 to members.

“We offer exclusive specials to our patients,” said Alternative Medical Solutions owner Ben Bayko. “We never charge more than $40 for an eighth. We see a lot of curious tourists that want to see our shop, but they aren’t customers. Our customer base is mostly locals, and we try our best to take care of them with quality product and competitive pricing.”

Silverpeak was the first outlet to sell recreational pot within the city limits of Aspen. Manager Michelle Salvati said when the shop began selling recreational in March, she noticed a drop in its medical sales, which spurred the $40 medical special.

Salvati said she thinks there are several reasons why Silverpeak has had such consistently good business, both medically and recreationally.

“We believe in the total experience at Silverpeak,” she said. “We educate. We offer advice and recommend products on an individual basis because we work hard to know our customers. We also have great prices and feel we have the best product, but I would expect all the shops to say the same thing.”

Beaudreau said Green Dragon’s $15-an-eighth pricing is a great way to establish the shop in Aspen.

“We want to be the best shop with the best deal,” he said. “We’re like the other shops in town in that we’re trying to provide this community with some great deals while we establish our customer base. We encourage our customers who qualify to look into getting a medical card and save money. Face it: Medical prices are way cheaper.”

Patrick said he expects the same thing to happen with recreational pot once the supplies match or exceed the demand.

“I’m not sure rec prices will get as low as medical is now, but they will eventually drop” he said. “Give it time, and the market will dictate prices as it always does, even in Aspen.”

mmclaughlin@aspentimes.com


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