By Jennifer Pund
Angelo Butierres and Mario Trujillo have built up their Sergeant Green Leaf Wellness Center, a premium medical and recreation marijuana dispensary in Georgetown, by using both successes and obstacles to their advantage. Their family-owned business is now making a profit, and a new, larger location has allowed them to expand their house-made line of concentrates. After a long, uphill climb, their future looks bright.
The two cousins got into the industry in the first days of Colorado’s legal cannabis industry when family members presented them an opportunity they couldn’t pass up. “We were doing it when nobody really wanted to. It was the Wild West days,” Butierres said.
Sergeant Green Leaf is not like the metro-area dispensaries. It offers a large selection of high-quality products sold by a knowledgeable sales staff at reasonable prices in a laid-back, mountain atmosphere. Parking and access to the interstate is easy. Even before entering their extensive product room, the differences are obvious. From it’s green façade to the colorful mural in the lobby, patrons can tell these guys do things differently.
“When you walk in, it’s a different vibe. It’s a comfortable, inviting feeling. That’s why I had my best friend do the painting on the wall. I’ve been in all kinds of dispensaries across the state. I haven’t seen anything like that. It’s different and it fits the area,” Butierres said. “The biggest thing is I try to pass on the feeling our customers are part of the extended family. They know the quality is always going to be the same. They know the price is going to be consistent—and it’s my price, it’s not up and down like a roller coaster—and they are comfortable.”
Sergeant Green Leaf is proud of its ultra-premium, naturally-grown cannabis and other premium cannabis products, including an even larger selection of edibles and wide variety of concentrates made in house. “We carry over 25 strains on both the recreational and medical sides. That’s over 50 combined, and no less than 15 to choose from at any given time,” Butierres said. “They are all hand-trimmed and cured 12 to 14 days prior to hitting the shelf. Each one you open will be different because they were cured in that manner. It’s not going to be wet, it will be ready for you to consume.”
Trujillo and Butierres started out with a small, 1,800-square-foot grow that was “married” to a dispensary. When they began to have reservations about the dispensary owner, they decided to go out on their own. They knew they had a good product, it was just a matter of finding the right location. “We are young entrepreneurs and we have a good background as far as cultivating.”
To meet state laws, in order to have a grow operation, the two had to open a store. “We couldn’t grow if we weren’t married somewhere, and we were looking for a turn key operation,” Butierres explained. The prime locations in Denver were a lot of money, so they started venturing up into the mountain towns along Interstate 70.
“We thought it was cool to have a mountain cabin that people wanted to visit, not some trailer on the side of the road,” he said. “Georgetown was that little spot. We found one little dispensary here that was available.” It remains the only one in town thanks to limits set by its officials.
Even though locations for growing and selling had been found, financing the venture took some creative thinking. “The landlord at our grow agreed to carry the property for us at a super killer deal that we could do. So, he was our bank, and we were able to start the larger grow,” Butierres explained. “I also got the dispensary for a killer, killer price along with it’s three licenses.”
The business already had a cultivation license and the dispensary came with its own sales licenses, plus two Marijuana Infused Product licenses. With that, the two found themselves both cultivation operators and dispensary owners.
The cousins understand the mountain community and feel they add to the “landscape” of Georgetown. “It’s different up here. The community and customers kind of look out for us. You don’t get that other places,” Butierres said. “We have a really good report with the town, we have open communication… if I have an issue they are always there to help.”
Butierres thinks town officials were surprised when they bought [the dispensary] because they were so young at the time. “I felt like they thought we were going to be the next ones that were just going to be in and out,” he said. “I think they see now we are not just a taker in the community, we are willing to give back. If anyone comes for a donation for the community or school, we are always there to help. And we pay a lot of taxes, 27.5 percent on retail is a real figure. I see that every 20th of the month.”
The success of Sergeant Green Leaf has not been without its setbacks, but they have made them stronger and wiser. “We are excited to be moving forward again. We have had these [MIP] licenses for the past four years, and paying to not use them. There have been a couple of other hurdles, like break-ins both at the grow and the old location, and a lot of long hours while having a family,” Butierres said. “Every year we have barely made it. It’s been an uphill battle, and we are finally starting to see our head above water now.”
Sergeant Green Leaf recently moved into a much larger location just east of the original store on Argentine Street. They have more room to provide more of the high-quality products they are known for, like the award winning “Budderface strain” that tests at 27.64 percent THC. “Now that we are in this larger store, I am going to be offering large selections of edibles. Concentrates will be [made] in-house now. We have full control over quality at a great value,” Butierres said. “I don’t carry any products that are cut with anything. If it’s a cannabis oil… it’s propylene glycol free, there are no additives, there’s nothing, it’s pure cannabis oil.”
The new larger location provides the space they need to start their infusions and make use of the valuable MIP licenses. “When we first opened, everything was still medicinal sales only, and everyone wanted to smoke bud, no one was really eating edibles,” Butierres said. “It wasn’t until recreational sales started. People on the rec side haven’t smoked in years, or haven’t tried it, but feel more comfortable eating a chocolate. We cultivate all the product, so all our trim goes into the [infusions,] which is low cost. I can pass that along to the customers. I am not marking my products up 100 to 150 percent like other dispensaries up here. I am able to pass that savings to the consumer. Plus, we have a superior product consistent every time.”
Trujillo, who oversees all infusions, began cultivating in 2008 when they first opened, and has hired within his family for help. “I work on the infused side of the business. We are going to put a little on our shelves, but our main thing is to sell it wholesale to other dispensaries, mostly down in Denver and on the other side of the tunnel,” Mario said. “Angelo, who does all the sales, and I, kind of kept it going. Now we have my other cousins as our main extractors. My brother and cousin’s brother work down at the grow.” There is just one employee outside the family.
Butierres’ connection to the herb is strong. He spent many years in hospitals fighting childhood cancer, enduring nine years of chemotherapy and radiation. “It was when cannabis was illegal, so the benefits of coming into a store weren’t available. The only thing available were some pretty harsh narcotics that were horrible to go through,” he said.
Volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House, Butierres saw evidence of what cannabis research and treatments can do. “Seeing patients on cannabis, I saw there was something to it,” he said. “I went through chemo for nine years, and seeing some of the benefits [of cannabis] and some of the ailments that it helps ween off [compared] to what I went through, I wouldn’t wish what I had to do on my worst enemy.”
Butierres honors the military and service of his grandfather and great uncle with the businesses name. “Not only did I see what it did for cancer patients, but also for vets. I saw that it’s not necessarily available to them, or they are losing benefits for using, so we decided we are going to employ them,” he said. Active military and veterans with ID also get a 10-percent discount on one item over $30.
When in Georgetown or heading west on the interstate, stop in Georgetown to see what Sergeant Green Leaf has to offer. “You will be welcome when you walk in the door. And, visitors are going to love it. If it’s the first time you walk in the door, you are going to be the happiest camper that you did.”
Originally published in the October 2016 issue of the MMAC Monthly