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Lindsey Mintz: Combining Cannabis Education & Retail

Lindsey Mintz is the owner and managing partner of Smokin’ Gun Apothecary, a prohibition-themed and self-described “late-night” cannabis dispensary located in Glendale, Colorado. Lindsey is also a co-founder of Arcanum, a hemp CBD company that focuses on creating approachable CBD products for athletes, including unique offerings like CBD-infused kinesiology tape.

In this Ganjapreneur.com podcast episode, Lindsey and our host TG Branfalt dive into a discussion of Colorado’s retail cannabis industry and the day-to-day operations of running a cannabis dispensary. We hear about the Smokin’ Gun Apothecary’s brand mission to spread cannabis education and Lindsey shares some of her experiences as both a cannabis business operator and current city council member for her local community.

Note: we experienced some audio issues during a segment of this interview, starting at 20:40 in the recording.

Tune in to the full interview via the media player below! Keep scrolling down to read along with a full transcript of the podcast.


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TG Branfalt: Hey there, I’m your host TG Branfalt, and thank you for listening to the Ganjapreneur.com Podcast where we try to bring you actionable information and normalize cannabis through the stories of Ganjapreneurs, activists, and industry stakeholders.

Today I’m joined by Lindsey Mintz. She’s the owner and managing partner for Glendale, Colorado’s Smokin’ Gun Apothecary. It’s a female-owned, late night, vertically integrated dispensary, and the first in the state to be built from the ground up rather than repurposing an existing space.

How you doing this afternoon, Lindsey?

Lindsey Mintz: That was quite the introduction. Thank you. I’m doing great.

TG Branfalt: You have a lot going on. I’m really excited. You have a very interesting space. So before we sort of get into the details of that, tell me about yourself. How’d you end up in the cannabis space in Glendale, Colorado?

Lindsey Mintz: Sure. So I actually ended up in this space… It was the new, we call it the green rush. But it was really the new gold rush here in Colorado. We knew vertical integration was going away, and one thing about our family is I think it’s really important as a business person to know what you don’t know. And we don’t know growing, but we know business. We know regulation with some of the other things we’re involved in, and it just made so much sense. It was so exciting. So we decided to go.

TG Branfalt: So you mentioned sort of what else your family has going on. You have quite the history there in Glendale. Why don’t you tell us about that.

Lindsey Mintz: Sure. So it’s actually my mother-in-law. Her name is Debbie Dunafon. She started or actually, not started but took over Shotgun Willie’s, which is a gentleman’s club over 35 years ago here in Glendale. So one of the only female operators. Maybe at this point and time she is the only female operator of a gentleman’s club in the nation. And that woman is just absolutely incredible. She knows regulation like no other, and really knows how to work with businesses that are marginalized.

TG Branfalt: And sort of risky.

Lindsey Mintz: Yeah. Definitely risky. She has been… People have tried to put her out of business many times throughout the years. She’s been featured on programs like Dateline. Started the actual first Tea Party, the Glendale Tea Party is what we called it when people were trying to put her out of business. And really our mentality as a family and also as a city of Glendale, it’s about liberty. If you’re not doing anything to hurt anyone, there’s no need to add extra regulations.

TG Branfalt: So you mentioned sort of this idea of liberty, and before we get into sort of the regs and sort of some… At your dispensary, you guys include a prohibition museum, right? You’re featuring the exact opposite of liberty. What made you decide to include this museum as part of your shop?

Lindsey Mintz: This is really one of the reasons that led us to open Smokin’ Gun too, is we really feel like we have a responsibility to share the story. It’s the story of prohibition and what it’s done to us. If you actually walk into Smokin’ Gun, a really neat piece inside the dispensary is this bank teller window. It’s from the 1870s, the Bank of Hibernia. And that was actually five years before the first drug laws were passed in 1875. So it’s this idea of walking into… When you walk into the waiting room, it’s walking into this land of prohibition where we’ve spent trillions of dollars and lost millions of lives. Then you can walk into this dispensary and essentially take a step back, right? Before we had some of these laws, like back in the 1870s. And then we actually have a sign when you’re walking out where we talk about this fact that we’ve spent trillions of dollars on this drug war, lost thousands of lives, and you’re reentering this land of contradiction and prohibition. And believe it or not, the addiction rate is almost the exact same. In the 1870s, it was about 1.5% and trillions of dollars later, we’re still at about 1.5%.

TG Branfalt: So whose idea was this? I mean, who’s the historian that…

Lindsey Mintz: That would be Debbie’s husband, Mike. He is a completely visionary. He’s actually the mayor of Glendale as well, and really he’s run for governor. So if I could for a second tell you a little bit about Mike. He was the only mayor in the metro mayor’s caucus that was in support of Amendment 64. So he actually single-handedly prevented the mayors from coming out in opposition to Amendment 64.

TG Branfalt: No way.

Lindsey Mintz: Yeah. Actually filmed… You can look this up. It’s called The Trap. But he actually filmed a… This is a country boy, right? His father was one of the original Marlboro men.

TG Branfalt: No way.

Lindsey Mintz: He did a rap video with Wyclef. It’s there. It’s called The Trap. So you can look at it.

TG Branfalt: Unbelievable.

Lindsey Mintz: And really he’s done some stuff with Snoop Dogg, but as working from the political side, to really talk about… There is no need for us to have prohibition on something like this.

TG Branfalt: So let me ask you, how do you find the items to exhibit for this thing? Is it easy for you guys to find this sort of stuff, or do you really have to go searching for it?

Lindsey Mintz: Believe it or not, it was Mike and… Or actually, I believe it was our CFO that was at an antique store up in Idaho Springs, which is on your way up I-70 as you’re going to the mountains, and they actually came… It was either our CFO or Deb and Mike, but they found this actual teller window in this little antique store. It was a complete coincidence, but we were just like, “Oh my gosh. We have to have this.”

TG Branfalt: So you mentioned the window. Tell me about the unique design of the building, and then tell me who came up with it and sort of give me the low down on that.

Lindsey Mintz: So if you actually look at the shop from Google Earth, it’s shaped like a MAC 10 pistol. And that kind of playing on this Smokin’ Gun idea. We had this plan to possibly have the building smoke, actually like be a smoking gun. That could still definitely happen one day, but we haven’t done it yet. So it’s starts really from Google Earth that you can actually see that our shop is shaped like this. Then when you walk in, we walk you into that land of prohibition with that prohibition museum. We have a live feed from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and it’s actually really neat because a lot of people… You walk in, and we’ve made the door into the dispensary a speakeasy. So a lot of people actually walk… They start walking into the bathroom because they don’t see the door.

So it’s this whole idea of walking into this speakeasy, and then once you get into the shop, we really… One thing when we were looking at some of the dispensaries that were already around in Colorado that were vertically integrated, one thing we really didn’t like was this idea of it was very rushed. It felt like a lot of pressure. It was you one on one with a bud tender. I didn’t feel like as somebody who wasn’t a consumer, I didn’t really feel like… I didn’t feel comfortable. I didn’t feel like I could ask my questions. There were other people waiting, and I didn’t want to be that person spending 15 minutes.

So what we decided to do was really take this… Make our shop like a supermarket and let capitalism take over where the best products are really going to win.

TG Branfalt: So you’re obviously put a lot of thought into everything from the design to the layout, right? You got to build this from the ground up. But tell me about sort of your promotions, the ones that you have with the gentleman’s club and how important are sort of promotions in general in this space, especially in Colorado, which has this far more mature market than most others.

Lindsey Mintz: Not only does Colorado have a very mature market, but we actually have more dispensaries than we have Starbucks. And that is a true fact. So I think it’s incredibly important, and I think it’s really important to find a need, fill a need, and be really passionate about your unique differences. For us, one of the things we really play to is our relationship with our sister company, which is Shotgun Willie’s. We do on Thursday nights, we actually have go-go dancers. So not entertainers. But we use the girls from next door. They come over, and they do go-go dancing. We’ve got live DJ’s, and that’s one of the benefits that we have to being a late night dispensary. Our late night crowd is obviously very different than our daytime crowd where we do see a lot of working professionals, the soccer moms that might not be as comfortable with a promotion like that. That is one thing we do. And then we also have the Prohibition Pass.

TG Branfalt: Tell me about this Prohibition Pass. Talk about how it drives revenue at Smokin’ Gun.

Lindsey Mintz: I think one of the things that has been difficult in this industry in Colorado is customer loyalty. Because this is essentially a commodity, right? So people are I think a lot of times are still walking that line of business versus somebody that really comes in with a passion for the plant. So what we’ve done is try to create this Prohibition Pass to fight against the people that say, “I want med card pricing.” So the Prohibition Pass is a monthly membership fee, but with that, it has everything from $89 ounces to we’ve got phenomenal flower discounts and concentrate discounts. So it’s essentially giving our customer base not only med card pricing but also inviting them to some special events that T Bar does or Shotgun Willie’s does or maybe giving them swag bags from our vendors that have t-shirts, stickers, all that kind of stuff that people like. So it’s this idea of creating this culture and group of loyalty in Smokin’ Gun.

TG Branfalt: So one of the other things that you’ve sort of done, you decided against opening multiple locations and going the route of vertical integration, which goes against the general grain of the industry. Why did you decide to take that route?

Lindsey Mintz: We are not opposed to opening more locations. That’s definitely one thing I’ll say. We are actually actively looking at this idea of possibly franchising or licensing because of the message that we’re trying to put out there, right? Like it’s more than just a pot shop. We’re really trying to tell the story of prohibition, where we’ve come from, and where we are now. So that is something we are open to. I kind of touched on the idea of why we’re not doing the grow side right now. I think it’s incredibly competitive here. I mean you’ve got people that are phenomenal at what they do and it’s just not something that… We feel like we can offer the best retail experience. Could we offer that from the growing side? I’m sure we could down the road, but I don’t think we can compete with the amazing things that companies like, you know, Binske and Cheeba Chew and Mary’s Medicinals are doing. I just don’t, I don’t think we can.

TG Branfalt: Another super interesting part of your business, I think, is that you guys are a late night dispensary. And since the launch of every industry, right, the sort of debate that happens beforehand is that, you know, they’re going to be dangerous, they’re going to bring in more crime. And you know a late night dispensary, you know you think about sort of a late night convenience store, right? They’ve sort of been magnets for crime in some areas. What’s the late night experience been for you and your staff with regard to safety?

Lindsey Mintz: I really think a lot of the credit for the fact that we have had zero issues at Smokin’ Gun really goes to two groups. Number one is the City of Glendale. I think they do a phenomenal job of just really making sure people are safe. They’re always out and about. We’re a very, very small town so they can be there in a minute’s… I mean we’re smack dab in the middle of Denver. But they could be there literally within 90 seconds actually. Their response time is absolutely ridiculous. So a lot of the credit goes to them.

But what we also do is we do have… It is an armed guard, but not in full on like tactical gear really making people feel uncomfortable. So Scott is absolutely amazing. He knows most of our Prohibition Pass members and our customers. He knows them by name. And not only does he make our staff feel more comfortable, but I really think he makes our customers feel more comfortable. So that’s why people choose Smokin’ Gun as their late night stop.

TG Branfalt: I mean, shout out to Scott.

So you mentioned the City of Glendale and you’re also on the city council. Can you just tell me about sort of the process when you guys were deciding to open the dispensary? I know that in many places, you know, the city council sort of the buck stops here, we’re not going to allow dispensaries. What are the opinions of the local officials regarding cannabis businesses?

Lindsey Mintz: We kind of, we like to joke around about this. So Mike will call Glendale the Luxembourg of Liberty. And he’s been quoted as saying, “If I could have just one law on the books it would be don’t be a jackass.” So you know it’s really taking that mentality… I don’t think you could look at anybody on our city council and say they’re a Republican, they’re a Democrat. I think you’d look at us and say like, “These people really want what’s best for us.” And you know we look at this idea of personal liberty and personal freedom. So as far as that goes, as long as it’s not restricted by any type of zoning, you know obviously the owner of the buildings doesn’t have any issues with it. There are some things that are still within our charter that we have to make sure we’re following, but we’re not going to tell somebody, whether it’s a dispensary or it’s a gentlemen’s club, or you know who knows they legalize mushrooms one day. It’s not our job to tell people what kind of businesses they can and can’t have as long as it falls within our charter.

TG Branfalt: Well and something else that’s happening in Colorado is they’re considering allowing social use and you know Denver’s opened a couple shops already because they have that sort of local initiative. Is that something that Glendale officials would be open to if it were to pass at state level?

Lindsey Mintz: Definitely. So that’s one thing that we listen to what our constituents want. And that’s why we do… We poll for any new business that comes in and we really get the opinions of the people that live in Glendale. Another neat fact about Smokin’ Gun is it’s actually a two story building and we have a rooftop that is live loaded. We have considered this idea of a consumption area just for us from the business side of it. It’s really a matter of can… does it make sense from the financial side, right? Like how do you make money from this venture. And that’s really what we are still trying to figure out.

TG Branfalt: So let’s sort of switch gears here a little bit and I want to ask you, what were the barriers for entry, or were there any, for you getting into this space? And what do you think other women, or what do you know other women in this space are dealing with with regard to barriers to entry?

Lindsey Mintz: I really think this… One thing Debbie has been quoted as saying is this idea where it’s the first gold rush where women could participate as equals. And I really think it’s been a phenomenal space for females to get into. You see an exceptional amount of very successful businesses too that are female owned. And I think that it’s just, not only do you have groups of women that have gotten together and we support each other within this space, but I just think the space as a whole has been phenomenal to treat everyone as equals and we’re just super welcoming.

TG Branfalt: You have another project company that you work, that you founded, right? Arcanum?

Lindsey Mintz: Yep.

TG Branfalt: Can you tell me about that and the role of CBD from full spectrum hemp plays in sort of fitness?

Lindsey Mintz: Of course. So the way we got into Arcanum, I will be the first to tell you that I have… Building Smokin’ Gun and testing out products, I definitely tried it. And THC is just, in marijuana, it isn’t my thing. Which more power to everybody that likes it. I just, it wasn’t something that really struck a chord with me. And then I got really sick. I actually developed breast implant illness. Had one of the most severe cases that’s been seen, actually to the point where I couldn’t get properly diagnosed. I was on everything from PICC lines to steroids to I think I was developing resistant staph infections. It was a really dark time. And I had a bud tender and she saw me. And she was like, “Lindsey will you please just try something really high in CBD.” And I’m like, “You know I just don’t want the psychoactive. I own multiple businesses I can’t have that, I have to be functioning on all cylinders.” And she’s like, “Please just try it.”

So I ended up trying a very high CBD to THC tincture. And within about six months, this wasn’t an overnight thing, it wasn’t rainbows and unicorns. But I was actually able to get off all of my pharmaceuticals with the help of, it was marijuana at this point. But it was very high in that CBD.

So that transition led to… I’m a former professional athlete. My father-in-law played football for the Denver Broncos, my husband played rugby for the United States, so we’re very athletic. And at this point there wasn’t a single company that was willing to ditch this hippy dippy stoner mentality associated with hemp and take the risk and be like, “Hey we’re going to go after the active individual.” Whether that’s professional athletes or it’s, you know, the mom who gets tendonitis from holding her kiddo, or it’s the weekend warrior, I just feel like there was such, there’s such a barrier to entry for hemp.

And this was back in 2017. We don’t need to make it more difficult by having cannabis and hemp leaves all over everything and rainbows. So we started Arcanum. And flash forward two years later we’ve got first to market products like a water-soluble CBD electrolyte, we’ve got CBD infused kinesiology tape, and about I think 12 different products now. First company to sponsor a professional sports team. And it’s just been an amazing ride.

TG Branfalt: Which team are you sponsoring?

Lindsey Mintz: We actually sponsored… So major league rugby started, this is the second year of major league rugby and we sponsored two teams last year. And that was the Seattle Sea Wolves and the Glendale Raptors.

TG Branfalt: So what’s been the response? I mean you have these sort of ties to you know rugby players, you have the ties to the NFL. What’s been the response from these sort of high-level athletes when you introduce them to your CBD products?

Lindsey Mintz: It is definitely, there’s a lot of questions. And one thing that’s been really neat to watch is how the climate changes literally month by month. So if you were to ask me that question in January of 2018 versus talking to me about it now, it is literally night and day. I think I really hit on the idea of third party testing. The fact that, I think last time I checked the statistic it was 126 deaths per day from opioid overdose. And a lot of that really, I mean how many stories have you heard of college football players, professional football players that get an injury and get addicted to opioids and end up overdosing? Like there’s this chain that needs to be broken. So for us and Arcanum it’s really trying to break that stigma and tell people that there is a better way, there is an alternative. To not sacrifice your internal health to be able to do what you love.

TG Branfalt: And it also, I mean some sort of early studies have found that CBD, high CBD products are probably helpful for CTE related symptoms. Which are very much associated with both rugby and professional football. You know you mentioned something very interesting, you said you have kinetic tape?

Lindsey Mintz: The kinesiology tape.

TG Branfalt: Kinesiology tape. I obviously am not a sports guy. How did you come up with that product? That’s really unique, I’ve never heard of anything like that before.

Lindsey Mintz: So how the idea behind that… We obviously see a lot of use of kinesiology tape in the professional space. I think it was really made popular. You had athletes like Kerry Walsh who was using it on the beach volleyball circuit. And we’ve seen companies utilize technology in patches. So for us we were like, “You know what? This is a product that really stays true to our passion, which is this athletic sports channel. And let’s see if we can essentially take patch technology and infuse it into kinesiology tape.” So we actually, it lands… The finished product is going to start shipping out on this coming Monday. Which is I believe April 29th.

TG Branfalt: How long… I’m always really interested in how long a product takes to get to market. How long did the… what was the R&D like for this product?

Lindsey Mintz: It took 18 months. So yeah. And it was 18 months of, “Next month it’s coming, next month it’s coming!” But really it was making sure that… We were actually having the biggest issue with the adhesive. So our tape was too sticky, which is usually not a problem with kinesiology tape, but we were like this is just… it was leaving a little too much residue. So it was an 18 month process to bring this product to market.

TG Branfalt: That’s absolutely an incredible… It’s incredible that it’s finally coming out, congratulations on that.

You also have a charitable organization. Could you tell me about that? You know because of sort of the stigma that cannabis companies have, do you think that it’s sort of necessary that you do some sort of charitable work to try to win people over? Or you know is it just something that you do because you care about your community? I’m always curious about that.

Lindsey Mintz: Our foundation, it’s the Dunafon Family Foundation and underneath that we do have a couple branch offs of that. It is incredibly important to us and that we’ve been so blessed with the ability to be in business in all of these spaces that it is, it’s a no-brainer for us to give back to not only… And we really like to focus on our community, whether it’s Glendale or the state of Colorado. I think there’s so many great things that can be done, you know, nationally and worldwide. But for us it’s like let’s start on our home turf and really see what kind of difference we can make.

With that said, we have done things at Smokin’ Gun, like supported the flood efforts in Houston when that was going on, our foundation has… we donate a portion of every purchase from Arcanum to providing and funding alternative health options for veterans. We’ve helped put kids in fitness programs all throughout the kind of greater Denver area. So it is something that is definitely very close to our heart.

And to answer the second part of your question do I think it’s important, I definitely think it’s important because there’s such a stigma, especially on the marijuana side, to show people that like hey, yes this is you know hundreds of millions of dollars, it’s a billion dollar industry. But we’re really trying to do some good, too. And we’re not leaving it up to the government. So the government will say, “Oh we’re putting this marijuana tax money towards schools and towards this,” but it’s like hey let us show you that we’re taking it one step further.

TG Branfalt: So a lot of what you are doing is education. You’ve got the Prohibition Museum, you know is this something that you consciously set out to do, you know to say we want to teach people about this plant. I mean even with Arcanum, you know, you had to do a lot of outreach with skeptical sort of athletes. Is this part of your mission at this point?

Lindsey Mintz: 100 percent. It is a responsibility to us. And that’s how we view it. That we are so fortunate to be able to have this opportunity here in Colorado. We have a responsibility as a company, whether it’s Smokin’ Gun or Arcanum, to educate people.

TG Branfalt: And the last thing that I want to get from you here is give me some advice for people who are looking to enter this space. I mean you obviously have a long track record of success. What sort of thing would you tell somebody who comes to you and says, “Hey I want to open up a cannabis business?”

Lindsey Mintz: If you are in it just for the money, don’t do it. And that’s… It’s for a lot of reasons. I think we don’t need any people in this space that aren’t passionate about the education side and about all the amazing benefits of both marijuana and hemp with cannabis as a whole. All the amazing benefits that this plant offers. So I would say if that is your one goal, I mean you could go down the rabbit hole with 280E and taxes and all that, but. That would be my big don’t. I think as far as what you really need to look for is what… It’s such a vast space. So going back, and I mentioned this a little earlier, but finding that need, filling that need and being really passionate about what it is that makes you different.

So for Arcanum, for us, it’s you know we’re going after athletes or the active individual. For Smokin’ Gun we are so passionate about lighting the way to liberty. And we see this shop as our, as just one stepping stone towards really teaching people what liberty and freedom are.

TG Branfalt: I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. You know I don’t think we hear enough from people who are this passionate, especially about the education side of it. And I really look forward to seeing what comes out of Arcanum, the CBD side of it is new, it’s emerging. And I’m really happy that you took the time to come on the podcast. Thank you so much.

Lindsey Mintz: Yeah thank you. I’m really grateful to be able to come on it and help a little bit and share our story because I think it can hopefully point some people in the right direction. And if people are interested in learning more or maybe looking at some pictures of Smokin’ Gun you can go to smokingunapothecary.com and Arcanum is arcanumedge.com.

TG Branfalt: Well that’s Lindsey Mintz, she is the owner and managing partner for Glendale, Colorado’s Smokin’ Gun Apothecary. Thank you again, Lindsey.

Lindsey Mintz: Thank you so much TG.

TG Branfalt: You can find more episodes of the ganjaprenuer.com podcast in the podcast section of ganjaprenuer.com and in the Apple iTunes store. On the ganjapreneur.com website you will find the latest cannabis news and cannabis jobs updated daily, along with transcripts of this podcast. You can also download the ganjaprenuer.com app in iTunes and Google Play. This episode was engineered by True Media House, I’ve been your host, TG Branfalt.

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