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Eagle County home to four new recreational marijuana dispensaries

Phil Lindeman
Special to the Daily
Roots RX has two locations in the Vail Valley, in Edwards and EagleVail. It also has several other locations in mountain towns, including Aspen and Leadville.
Charles Townsend Bessent |

Pot talk

You must be at least 21 years old to buy, use or simply possess recreational marijuana.

You can only buy marijuana from a licensed dispensary. Corner drug dealers are still frowned upon.

Colorado residents can buy and posses up to 1 ounce of recreational marijuana at a single time.

Everyone else can buy and posses up to a quarter-once at a single time.

Any marijuana, recreational or otherwise, can’t leave state boundaries. That includes sending little gift bags via snail mail.

Any marijuana user, resident or otherwise, can’t consume marijuana in any form outdoors. That includes patios, chairlifts and, yes, the entire U.S. Forest Service property known as Vail Mountain.

Marijuana is the most common name for cannabis, a genus of flowering plants native to the lower Americas, Asia and India. It’s what all the hoopla is about.

Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, is the cannabinoid compound behind marijuana’s psychoactive effects. It’s why you get high: The higher the THC levels, the higher the potency. THC levels in most Colorado products range from 5 to 30 percent, with no legal limit.

Sativa is a cannabis strain known for cerebral highs and energetic effects. These are your diesel, skunk, sour and haze varieties.

Indica is a cannabis strain known for mellow, almost sedative effects and body highs. Look for OG, Afghan and Kush varieties.

Hybrids are the mutts of marijuana, produced when cultivators mix and match different strains. There are too many effects and strains to name, but they’re always entertaining — say, White Widow at Roots Rx, or Glass Slipper at Native Roots.

Sources: State of Colorado website; World Health Organization Programme on Substance Abuse

It was only a matter of time before marijuana got the craft beer treatment.

Less than a year after marijuana became legal in Colorado, four recreational dispensaries have opened in Eagle County. Most sit along a stretch of U.S. Highway 6 in Eagle-Vail dubbed the Green Mile — a fitting nickname for the county’s undisputed cannabis capital.

Like the craft-brewing scene, competition along the Green Mile is already fierce. Each dispensary is vying for a niche and a following, with custom strains, edibles, waxes, hash oils and everything in between. Some sell vape pens, others sell organic products, still others boast repeat clients like Afroman, all from a coveted shared home near the base of two world-class ski hills.

If the whole thing sounds completely foreign, it is — legal weed is a new concept for everyone. But it shouldn’t be intimidating, just as ordering a beer at any Vail Village watering hole shouldn’t be intimidating. Just sit back, relax and let the friendly neighborhood budtenders be your guide. Welcome to the Green Mile.

Native Roots // Eagle-Vail

When the guys from Slipknot and Korn play a date in Denver, chances are they’ll pay a visit to Native Roots on the 16th Street Mall. Owners Rhett Jordan and Josh Ginsberg launched the brand in 2009, and thanks to Jordan’s ties in the Denver marketing industry, traveling artists soon had a go-to stop for pot.

“There are plenty of choices for cannabis, especially in Denver,” said Jordan, who planned events for nonprofits before getting into cannabis. “There are hundreds and hundreds of dispensaries, but we’ve established ourselves as a brand that appeals to artists and celebrities of that sort. We take care of them just the same as anyone else.”

The Eagle-Vail location is right in line with that brand. It has a chic, urbane feel, with lofted ceilings, exposed pipes and bare-bones modern wallpaper. Jordan has heard it described as “Apple Store meets art gallery,” and the comparison fits.

But still, Jordan knows a sexy storefront is all for naught if the product is lackluster. He’s spent more than a decade collecting strains for Native Roots, and the shop now boasts roughly 100 varieties, with eight or nine available in Eagle-Vail at any time. Indicas like the Snoop Dogg OG are popular, but Jordan is already talking with one grower about new strains for the mountains, like a Blue Sky Basin hybrid made by breeding Skywalker with Blue Dream.

Native Roots has already found plenty of local love, thanks in large part to simplicity. It’s the only rec dispensary to take debit cards, and along with weekly social media specials, the shop pays sales tax on all local purchases. It brings the price of an eighth of an ounce into the low $50 range.

Marquee products: The Orange Herijuana indica, with a smell Jordan describes as “scratching your fingernails over a citrus rind.”

Find it: 41290 U.S. Highway 6 Unit B5, Avon. Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Roots Rx // Eagle-Vail

If Roots Rx quietly carves a niche in the local cannabis market, that’s just fine with co-owner Pete Tramm. Found on the western edge of the Green Mile, it’s one of the smallest recreational dispensaries, with little more than two display cases and a few shelves arranged tastefully in a single room. There’s no lobby or waiting area, and chances are a budtender will pick your brain about skiing or British house music before even getting to strains. Similar to Holistic Healthcare, his medicinal dispensary in Edwards, the shop feels like an extension of your living room.

The warm vibes come straight from Tramm, a Rastafarian of 30 years who grew up on farmland in the Pacific Northwest. As a child, he says nothing went further than your word and a handshake, and Roots Rx is cut from the same cloth.

Tramm brings a decidedly old-school mentality to the marijuana industry. While other dispensaries cut corners, he’s using the same local growers and same passionate staff. Sure, the products are a bit pricier — a top-shelf sativa like Alpha Blue tops out at $90 for an eighth of an ounce, while even the cheapest varieties are $55 or more — but he knows customers get quality over a so-so high.

And that’s the only thing on Tramm’s mind. He knows the shop will never attract Jennifer Lopez and her entourage, but it’s a better fit for the flannel-wearing Harrison Ford and Kevin Costner types anyway.

“If you do something with passion, there’s more detail, there’s more quality, there’s more love, and all those words are pretty synonymous,” Tramm said. “That’s what I look for, and that’s what can set you apart.”

Marquee products: Edibles, like the Blue Kudu bars ($17 each) or nuts and baked goods from Love’s Oven ($30 each).

Find it: 40690 U.S. Highway 6 Suite E2, Avon. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Rocky Road // Eagle-Vail

Born in Colorado Springs, Rocky Road is the Ritz-Carlton of local pot shops. It’s an intriguing experiment, and it just might work in a ski town where dive bars have wine cellars and small-batch whiskey.

Just don’t expect to find it on Bridge Street. Nope, Rocky Road sits next to Pedal Power Bike Shop in Eagle-Vail, but the interior is pulled from an elegant Bachelor Gulch estate. And why not? As Colorado becomes an alpine Amsterdam, marijuana will attract curiosity, and this new breed of international users might expect a pot shop on par with a world-class resort. It’s why they traveled thousands of miles, after all, and Rocky Road wants to be the brand associated with Colorado’s finer side, like the New Belgium of legal marijuana.

With glass-to-ceiling windows and wood accents, the shop atmosphere is more inviting than the dark, dank dispensaries of old, and that’s the point. Owners Renze Waddington and Tad Bowler wanted a boutique experience for everyone, from Denver skiers on a weekend trip to a New York executive who flew in on a Leer jet.

The menu at Eagle-Vail is similar to the original Rocky Road locations down south, including a White Widow strain at 30 percent THC. And get this: The pricing is flat, with no difference between top and bottom-shelf strains. Eventually, the owners want to add more discounts for locals and frequent customers.

Like a few of its competitors, Rocky Road has a vape pen brand, dubbed Terp Pens. The hash oil is made in-house from sativa, indica and hybrid strains, and when paired with a line of potent shatters and waxes, the concentrate menu packs a wallop.

Marquee products: Terp Pen hash oil, the dispensary’s in-house brand.

Find it: 40814 U.S. Highway 6, Units C-D, Avon. Store hours are not yet set; the grand opening was delayed; it’s expected to open Saturday.

Sweet Leaf Pioneer // Eagle

Before you leave Sweet Leaf Pioneer, play a little game the staff lovingly refers to as “Pin the Pothead.”

The rules are simple: Take a pushpin, then stick it to your hometown on a retro map in the large, cozy waiting room at the Eagle dispensary. Every customer pays the wall a visit, so your pin joins those from all 50 states, not to mention Brazil, Spain, Ukraine, Israel, Australia and half the globe.

The pin wall is Sweet Leaf in a nutshell. It became Eagle County’s first recreational dispensary in May, capping an unlikely success story for owners Dave and Dieneka Manzanares. The two have been through the ringer since opening for medical users in 2010 — their shop was on the chopping block in two elections — but that’s nearly behind them. The whole ordeal even resulted in a catchy slogan: “Legal in Eagle.”

After five years in the industry, the owners know how to do cannabis right. Their grow is within walking distance of the storefront — easily the closest grow in the county — and every plant is grown organically in soil. It’s even overseen by a local Crossfit trainer, who waters and trims each plant by hand.

It took a year to get the organic strains right, but the time pays off in top-shelf varieties like Bubblegum ($70 for an eighth of an ounce), a sativa-forward hybrid that tastes like the name. It’s a staff favorite for unwinding after work, and on snowy days, it puts Dieneka in the mood to make a batch of chili for the family.

Sweet Leaf boasts one of the county’s largest menus with 13 to 14 rotating strains weekly, but still, you’ll rarely wait in line. There actually is no waiting room — just a few glass counters — and if smoking isn’t your thing, employees are well versed in edibles, lotions and oils. Take something like Mary Jane’s salve: the transdermal patches work miracles for muscle pain, and they’re only found at Sweet Leaf.

“We’re that small mom-and-pop shop,” Dieneka said. “We love what we do, we love the customers, and I really think that shows here. We’re crazy about it, and you need to be a little crazy to get into this industry.”

Marquee products: The delicious Bubblegum hybrid ($70) and Mary Jane salves ($17.25 to $43).

Find it: 1286 Chambers Suite 105, Eagle. Open Mondays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.


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