First Colorado Pot Shops Open Next Week

Yesterday the Colorado Department of Revenue

its first batch of licenses to businesses that plan to
produce, test, and sell marijuana products for general use. The
licensees include 136 retailers, all of which currently operate
medical marijuana centers (the only businesses allowed to apply for
a license at this point); 178 cultivation sites, most of them
linked to pot shops (which initially have to grow at least 70
percent of their inventory); 31 manufacturers of marijuana-infused
products; and three testing facilities. The state
to have approved every application it has received so
far. The stores are allowed to open as soon as January 1 (a week
from tomorrow), provided they have received approval from the local
jurisdictions in which they operate.

first pot store
to receive a local license was Annie’s in
Central City, part of the Strainwise chain, so it
will be among the stores authorized to open on New Year’s Day. The
Colorado Springs Gazette reports that
Michael Stetler, owner of Marisol Therapeutics in Pueblo, also
expects to have a local license by then. The Gazette
says “Stetler has big plans for opening week, anticipating a
rush of patrons from nearby counties and cities that have banned
recreational sales, including Colorado Springs [the state’s second
biggest city] and El Paso County.”

Three-fourths of the pot stores that have been granted state
licenses are located in Denver, Colorado’s capital and largest
city, but it is not clear how many will be locally licensed and
ready to open next week. The Denver Post reports
that only eight Denver pot shops “have so far cleared all the
hurdles in the local licensing process.”

Leaders of the campaign for Amendment 64, Colorado’s
legalization initiative, say the first sale by a newly licensed pot
store will happen at 8 a.m. on New Year’s Day at “a Denver
marijuana retail store that includes an on-site marijuana
cultivation facility.” The specific location has not been announced
yet. The first buyer will be Sean Azzariti, “a U.S. Marine Corps
veteran in Denver who can now legally use marijuana to alleviate
the symptoms of post-traumatic disorder,” a condition that was not
covered by Colorado’s medical marijuana law.

Although Azzariti appeared in an ad for Amendment 64, he is
hardly typical of the new marijuana market, which will be driven by
recreational users. As of next week, anyone 21 or older will be
allowed to buy up to an ounce of marijuana at a time (a quarter of
an ounce for visitors, in case you were wondering). But since
cultivation for recreational use won’t be allowed until January 1,
and it takes about five months to grow a new crop, where will the
pot for these new customers come from? Until next spring, it looks
like the only legal source will be repurposed medical

A medical marijuana center is allowed to grow up to six plants
for each patient who names it as his designated provider. But that
does not mean every patient consumes that much marijuana. Wiggle
room was built into this system, since patients do not have to buy
exclusively from their designated providers and dispensaries may
sell as much as 30 percent of their marijuana to other outlets. Any
dispensary interested in the recreational market has had more than
a year since Amendment 64 was approved to maximize production under
the existing quotas.

Will that be enough? Maybe not. Norton Arbelaez, co-owner of
RiverRock Wellness dispensaries in Denver, told the
Post he does not plan to start serving the
recreational market until February. “There are just so many
questions in terms of pricing, is there going to be scarcity, or
some kind of lack of product in January that is going to lead to
the price of the product doubling or tripling?” he said. “There’s a
lot of unknowns.”

Another Denver dispensary owner, Ralph Morgan, told the
Gazette he and his partner, Tim Cullen, plan to open
next week, assuming they have their local license by then. But they
are not planning to make a big deal out of it. “We’re not inviting
media,” Morgan said. “We’re not blasting things out on social
media….A lot of it has to do with our supply chain, because we’re
mandated to grow 70 percent of what we sell…If our business were
to double we would run out. We would have to close midmonth, and
we’re not unique in that. Everyone is in that same boat.”

If the shops run out or the prices prove prohibitive, there is
another option for those who planned ahead or have friends who did.
Since Amendment 64
took effect
in December. Coloradans have been allowed to grow
up six plants at home and share the produce with others, up to an
ounce at a time, as long they do not make any money from the

from Hit & Run

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