In Aspen, Even the Weed is Luxurious

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(Courtesy: Silverpeak Apothecary)

Unless you’re ready to be the Ralph Lauren of pot, don’t even think about opening a pot shop in Aspen.

Silverpeak Apothecary happens to be a couple of blocks down from Lauren’s shop, as well as the boutiques for Louis Vuitton and Gucci.

“We want to be considered to be on par with those establishments, both in quality of product and of service,” explained Jordan Lewis, the owner of Apothecary, which has been in existence since medicinal marijuana was approved in Colorado in 2009.

To give the shop a jet-set feel, a team led by architects Javier Jarak and Diego Agulleiro of Buenos Aires has been commissioned to create a stylish new space that is both “welcoming and interactive.” The 1,600-square-foot remodel is expected to open by fall, and renderings make Apothecary look more like a jewelry store or art gallery than the drug den people might imagine.

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The offerings at Silverpeak are displayed like jewelry or art. (Courtesy: Silverpeak Apothecary)

Apothecary’s current clientele is a typical Aspen crowd—a few of the expected 20-something ski bums, in addition to well-heeled men and women in their 50’s and 60’s with the money and inclination to enjoy the finer things in life.

Enjoy it they do: Lewis claims the shop is getting up to 600 visitors a day.

Don’t Call Them “Budtenders”

Behind the counter and around the shop, employees of Apothecary are available for consultation. While many shops refer to their staff as “budtenders,” serving baggies of weed like draft beers, Lewis calls his workers “guides.”

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Budtenders at Silverpeak educate customers about their different products. (Courtesy: Silverpeak Apothecary)

“We noticed that many people come into the shop with some apprehension. Our staff is there to guide them through the buying process, to educate those who may have experimented with marijuana decades ago but are unfamiliar with the latest product,” Lewis said.

One of the main things the staff has to school people in is the edible products. Made using oils of concentrated THC (the psychoactive chemical in cannabis), edibles range from gummy bear-type candy, to baked goods and chocolate bars. “The trick is knowing the right the dosage,” says Lewis. Indeed, the difference between the shop’s “Jelly Bean” cannabis strain and “Train Wreck” is like the difference between Aspen’s green and black diamond-rated ski runs.

Some pot shops may sponsor a local t-ball team, or perhaps a stretch of evergreen-lined highway. Not in Aspen. In a quintessentially Aspen twist, when Apothecary sponsors a local sports team, it’s polo. “And our guys won,” Lewis boasts.

Cold Hard Cash

When Apothecary opened to the public for the newly legal recreational trade on March 5, Pitkin County Sherriff Joe DiSalvo was there—not to make a bust, but just to check out the glitzy scene. “It’s a historic occasion,” he told the Aspen Times, “I like to see it done responsibly, and this seems like a well-thought out project.”

Because of federal anti-drug banking laws, Apothecary can’t use any traditional financial services like checking, credit cards, or even bank deposits. Lewis says that “every month, I literally have to bring a big bag of cash to the government offices to pay my taxes.” But fortunately, the police are there to help, providing escorts for the pot-sellers. The times they are a changin’.

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The store offers many cannibis products, including edible ones. (Courtesy: Silverpeak Apothecary)

Long-time Aspen resident Hunter S. Thompson would have been pleased with the new retail business. As he once said about marijuana “I think of it as a basic staple of life, along with beer, ice, and grapefruits—and millions of Americans agree with me.”

Bill Fink is a freelance travel writer for publications including his hometown San Francisco Chronicle, National Geographic Traveler, and many others