Opening a marijuana dispensary has been something High Country Releaf owner Patrick Labruzzo has wanted to do for a long time.
After 10 years of working in the cannabis industry, he was able to do just that. Releaf, which opened on the cannabis holiday April 20, is one of two that Dolores voters approved last year.
The town approved commercial and retail cannabis sales in 2020. While the recreational possession and use of cannabis has been legal in Colorado since 2012, municipalities had the authority to set their own regulations on the drug.
Labruzzo, who also owns Ayani Botanicals in Cortez, is no stranger to doing businesses in Montezuma County.
“We do hemp extraction from local farms, and we have our own brand of CBD products made from the local extracted hemp,” Labruzzo said.
Labruzzo has a background in biochemistry, earning his degree from Salve Regina University of Newport, Rhode Island. He became interested in the cannabis industry when studying marijuana’s medicinal qualities.
Living in Rico before starting Ayani Botanicals, he thought Dolores would be a great place for a dispensary because it was a gateway to the San Juan Mountains.
“I knew they didn’t have a dispensary, and so I was definitely keeping an eye out. When they lifted the moratorium, I jumped on the opportunity to get the first application in,” Labruzzo said.
Labruzzo believes dispensaries will benefit Dolores because of tax revenue. According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, marijuana taxes raised more than $400 million in revenue last year.
Having the tax revenue is pretty substantial considering the elevated tax rates for cannabis, he said.
Understanding cannabis science is something that Labruzzo and High Country Releaf pride themselves on. With Labruzzo’s background in studying the medical benefits of marijuana, he finds that sharing this information will help people who question its legitimacy.
“We really focus on bringing in the highest quality products and keeping the price point competitive, and from the feedback we’ve gotten, our flower selection is among the best in the area. That’s something we intentionally spend a lot of time sourcing,” Labruzzo said.
High Country Releaf also tries to sustain competitive pricing. According to Labruzzo, the shop sells $93 ounces.
“It’s a nice quality ounce for that price. You’re not going to find that in other dispensaries if they have a price point around that. Our quality for that price point is better than some bigger players like LivWell and Durango Organics,” Labruzzo said.
He said pricing is a key to sourcing the best products they could find.
Part of the training process for High Country Releaf is understanding cannabis science to help customers learn about their options. While Labruzzo feels he is lucky to have a staff in tune with the cannabis industry, he also is creating a training book for new employees.
“I hope to put everything I know down on paper and be able to pass that along to future employees,” he said.
Labruzzo sees High Country Releaf expanding past its new location in Dolores and hopes to use his network to work with others in the industry.