Longmont smoke shops seeing benefits of pot dispensaries’ return to city

Owners, managers say weed retailers in city limits helps complete suite of cannabis-related services

LONGMONT, CO – MAY 9: General manager Shelby Johnson straightens merchandise on a shelf at The Little Dog, 622 Main St., May 9, 2019. (Photo by Lewis Geyer/Staff Photographer)
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Longmont’s recent move to again allow marijuana sales within city limits isn’t only sparing pot users trips to Louisville, Boulder, Lafayette or stores in unincorporated Boulder County.

Other retailers in the city also are benefiting from the return of marijuana stores: Longmont smoke shops that sell all that you need to inhale cannabis smoke or vapors through myriad apparatuses.

Owners and managers of city smoke shops, also called head shops, that offer pipes, bongs, dab rigs and other accessories — all once considered drug paraphernalia and now thought of as common equipment for the cannabis consumer — say there has been a noticeable increase in business since the city in 2018 allowed four marijuana shops to open within Longmont proper. Prior to that, pot buyers had to do their shopping at retailers in unincorporated enclaves within the city and in neighboring municipalities.

“Sales are way higher” this year, said High Society Smoke Shop Assistant Manager Sofia Raygoza. “… Specifically, we do have a lot of new people coming in, and asking us how to use cartridges or wax pens” — devices used to heat concentrates derived from cannabis for inhalation.

After a split Longmont City Council vote in 2017 to lift a ban on pot dispensaries instituted by the council in 2011, the city set a cap of four marijuana retail permits that have all been issued to businesses. Terrapin Care Station became the first to make a recreational weed sale in the city last year. Two of the stores, Medicine Man and Yuma Way, have since opened, with The Green Solution not yet having set an opening date.

Out-of-state visitors make up a sizable portion of customers, Raygoza said, and sometimes she still hears newbies to Colorado’s open approach to pot avoid using the word “bong” when perusing the store, instead substituting it with “water pipe,” the preferred term in head shops in states where legalization has not occurred.

“Everyone is trying to experiment, and just wants to know what the whole weed thing is about,” Raygoza said, adding the head shop has a discount program for shoppers who show receipts from the Native Roots dispensary, which has long operated in an unincorporated enclave of Longmont.

High Society and the Little Dog smoke shops are exploring setting up similar discount programs with the dispensaries in Longmont proper.

“Medicine Man is always sending people over to us, and we’re sending people to them …,” Raygoza said. “It’s a really giving community.”

The city’s reintroduction of pot businesses has made its cannabis culture feel more complete again, Little Dog smoke shop owner Andy Delpapa said, adding he has noticed a very slight uptick in business since.

An array of glass pipes made in Fort Collins on display Thursday at High Society Smoke Shop in Longmont.

“A lot of people just changed who they were picking up their medicine or recreational marijuana from,” Delpapa said, adding the city lost out on sales tax revenue for years because of its ban. “… This is really just kind of making right what I considered a big mistake back in the day. In some ways, I’m surprised people trusted Longmont to come here because of what happened in the past when they destroyed so many businesses with the arbitrary swipe of a pen.”

While some dispensaries try to sell smoking equipment alongside marijuana and marijuana products, Medicine Man tries to steer clear of taking that business away from head shops, which in some cases like Little Dog’s, were established long before Colorado legalized recreational marijuana.

“We’re just happy to be a part of the Longmont community,” Medicine Man Marketing Director Trey Fisher said. “Anything we can do to help out other Longmont businesses, we’re all for it. We like to stay in our lane, and our lane is selling cannabis. When we can work out a partnership with a head shop, I think it’s a good thing for both of us, for sure.”

Plus, the glass work that goes into many smoking tools is considered an art form that local head shops have been fostering for years, even decades, prior to Colorado’s pot movement gaining incredible steam since legalization.

“We definitely want to focus on supporting local artists,” High Society Manager Kendall Bullock said. “It’s not just about the utensil they’re smoking out of, it’s also about a subculture that is an art medium. To keep the art aspect of it alive and not have it go strictly to functionality is important. … We’re happy to have (dispensaries) here, we’re happy to have the culture more accessible to the community.”

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