DENVER, CO - APRIL 29: Pot shoppers make a late night purchase at Emerald Fields, which is open till midnight, April 29, 2015. Denver's experiment with recreational cannabis sales has moved from legalization through regulation and now to potentially representation from the industry as holders of elected office. A handful of City Council candidates represent the industry or are of it. Glendale pot shop Emerald Fields stays open until midnight every night. Shops in Denver are forced by the city to close by 7 p.m., and it's become an issue with pot shop owners within Denver city limits. (Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post)

Picking the perfect pot shop: Are you experienced?

Former store manager and branding consultant says you'll know your dispensary when you find it -- and it's likely to be based on length of cannabis use and if the space 'feels good'

There are more than 900 marijuana business licenses in Colorado for dispensaries. So with all of these choices, how can you possibly pick the perfect pot shop?

Cannabis consultant Will Evans says it’s all about customer service and branding in Colorado’s current cannabis climate.

There are two types of shoppers in legal recreational cannabis: The wet-behind-the-ears newbie and the veteran toker. And while they explore pot shops differently, what makes them stick around — and ultimately return — remains the same.

“People want to shop where they see themselves, right? They want to go into a space that feels good,” says Evans.

The shopper who is new to the scene in Colorado will choose a pot shop based on a few quick factors. For instance, a taxi driver could be the voice of the industry when choosing where to bring a curious tourist fresh off the plane. Or, a buddy who visited Colorado last year could recommend the place they shopped at then. Ultimately, the tourist is likely to go where they’re told to go.

The experienced smoker has a different insight into the retail scene. A number of apps exist to help find the best deals in an area or to find a specific strain in a city, and there also are entire marijuana social networks. They could already know which shop’s “Shatterday” will save them more than another shop’s.

Pueblo voters will decide on allowing retail pot shops in Nov.
Finding the right dispensary comes down to a variety of factors and depends quite a bit on a customer’s familiarity with cannabis. (John Leyba, Denver Post file)

According to Evans, the more difficult task store owners and managers face is enticing all of these customers to become regular, dedicated friends of the shop.

Some shops have armed guards behind a couple of inches of bulletproof glass, and you’ll be escorted into an adjoining room by yourself. For some, this could feel like a safe environment for exploring or asking questions, without fear of others nosing around. Meanwhile, some shoppers might question the “back room” feel of the transactions in this setting and wonder if they’re doing something wrong.

Other dispensaries could offer the polar opposite: Open and airy rooms with customers walking between rows of product, chatting with budtenders or friends about the deals of the day. The customer who was comfortable and happy in the private-room situation might not feel as relaxed in this environment.

Evans says that the successful shop will be the one where customers already feel like they’re home when they walk through the door.

So, whether you’re a novice or a longtime user, it could be worthwhile to explore a few different types of pot shops to see the variety available. You’ll know when to stop.