Business Buzz: Fancy Joints

Written by Leah LeMoine Category: Valley News Issue: August 2018
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Valley cannabis entrepreneurs say the grassi s greener for boutique operations.

Photo by Zee PeraltaSorry, Harold and Kumar – pot culture is growing up and shopping at nicer stores.

“When you come into our shop, you’re not going to see Bob Marley on the walls,” says Raul Molina, marketing director of The Mint Dispensary (themintdispensary.com) in Tempe and Mesa. “It’s going to be highly professional.”

Professionalization and “boutique-ization” have been on the rise in Arizona since medical marijuana was legalized in 2010. Instead of head shops and friends’ houses, connoisseurs visit sleek dispensaries and physician-run centers, like naturopath and medical doctor Elaine Burns’ three Southwest Medical Marijuana Evaluation Centers (evaluationtoday.com).

“We’ve always been about the medical aspect,” she says. After noticing patients’ inability to find medication at dispensaries with “a recreational overtone,” and the lack of scientific testing, Burns developed her own products. Dr. Burns’ ReLeaf tinctures and creams (drburnsreleaf.com) blend healing botanicals with cannabis.

Even the language and techniques used by boutique growers mirrors that of the culinary/craft beverage industry. Touting the “barrel-curing” used in Mesa grower Huxton’s (huxtonusa.com) “single-strain” lines, head of marketing A.J. Montgomery explains how “starches [in the weed] turn to sugar,” akin to tannins softening in a wine barrel. “It’s not done elsewhere in Arizona.”

Business is booming for craft pot purveyors. Burns has spoken at Banner Health and Barrow Neurological Institute. In May, The Mint debuted its cannabis kitchen, a café serving cannabis-infused meals and coffee. Montgomery, whose company supplies The Mint, says the craft cannabis industry’s elevated sensibility and ability to cater to a patient’s “moment of medical need” with specific strains will sustain its existence. “Call it upscale or just call it ‘more relevant to long-term health and lifestyle.’ Either way, exciting things are happening everywhere.”