I remember my first time going into a dispensary. It was in the city of Amsterdam, where the preferred term is “coffeeshop” rather than dispensary. Here is an activity, possessing and smoking marijuana, that you had to work to be secretive about, and now, all of a sudden, you can just walk into a store, ask for a few joints, and then be on your merry and flabbergasted way. When recreational stores came to Colorado in 2014, it was much of the same feeling. Part of me was half expecting federal agents to burst in the doors, and arrest everyone inside. In short, it was a dangerous and exciting feeling.
To an extent, I believe that AlterMeds in Louisville, has held onto this exciting feeling. They are located right off of Highway 36 in Louisville, just east of Boulder. The store is in a rather unassuming strip mall, which made parking a little difficult, but not impossible. Their waiting room is an eclectic mix of art and furniture: a large flat screen television rests on the back wall, over a few leather chairs, right next to a statue of Siddhartha Gautama. A pastoral scene is depicted on an oil painting on one wall, and an art piece that says, “BELIEVE” on the other. In all honesty, it does not seem like there was any method in deciding on theme in AlterMeds. It appears as though the owners just wanted to fill the walls (which, I don’t blame them; the walls of the waiting room are a peculiar mustard yellow color).
I didn’t have to wait long until my bud tender, Patrick, took me into the product room. The back room also has an interesting choice of décor. A bright purple wall held posters that were disappointingly scotch-taped up. A few water pipes and other decorative smoking devices sit out on a shelf, topped off with a friendly little bonsai tree. Again, screams of a place that is unfinished, undecided, or uncaring of the look of the store. It’s almost as if the store workers took a few posters, said, “Cool. This is marijuana related,” and smacked them up onto the wall.
AlterMeds is another store that chose to go fully recreational with the new laws starting in 2014. “Business has tripled,” Patrick declared proudly. The signage in the store, however, has yet to keep up with this switch. On the racks behind the display cases, and on the display cases themselves, are the labels “Recreational” and “Medicinal.” However, all of the products that AlterMeds currently has are available for recreational purchase. To incentivize medicinal patients to continue visiting the store, they give a solid discount to people with a Red Card.
The store’s eclectic variety of decorations also extended into its product offerings. A lone box of medicated trail mix here. A smattering of concentrates in syringes there. In the corner, a cooler with Mile High Ice Cream. A display case filled with various smoking devices, lighters, grinders, and rolling papers. Honestly though, I believe this is where AlterMeds got my attention: they have a little bit of everything. At the time of my visit, they had eleven different strains of marijuana available (although, two of their more popular strains, the Northern Lights, and the Sublime, were nothing more than shake). The wall behind the display cases was dominated by edibles of all different shapes and sizes. Do you want candy? Cool. Savory treats? Awesome. Ice cream? Why the hell not? AlterMeds also had no shortage of concentrates to choose from. For a store that seemingly does not care what they look like on the outside, it becomes apparent where AlterMeds focuses their attention: they are providing perhaps the most diverse selection of cannabis products that you can offer.
Finally, what really caught my attention in the store was how the bud tenders and the owner interacted with one another, and the other customers in the store. As I was looking around at the various product offerings, another man came in, to purchase some of those concentrates that I mentioned earlier. As he was shopping, both store workers asked him how he was doing, what his plans for the weekend were, and if he had any exciting plans for the day. After procuring payment, the customer’s hand was shaken, and he was told to come back soon. The golden rule for retail is that every customer should be made to feel special, and I think AlterMeds passes this litmus test with flying colors (as colorful as their paint choices for the walls).
AlterMeds reminds me of a late-night deli that you stumble into, order, and wind up with one of the best meals you have ever had. It’s dangerous (will this sandwich poison me?), and it’s exciting, as hole-in-the-wall places tend to be. Now, it would be a stretch to call AlterMeds a hole-in-the-wall dispensary. I think it’s better to say the place is “rough around the edges.” The guys working are unrefined, and are intensely “real” with their customers. It is the location for a person looking for variety, catering to the more whimsical of cannabis users (“How should I get absolutely blasted today?”). Don’t worry. The gentlemen in AlterMeds are more than willing to help out.