World's First Sale by a Government-Licensed Recreational Pot Shop Scheduled for 8 a.m.

The world’s very first sale by a
government-licensed recreational pot store is
for 8 a.m. tomorrow at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver.
Somewhat confusingly, the buyer, designated by the leaders of
Colorado’s legalization campaign, will be someone who would
ordinarily be considered a medical user: Sean Azzariti, an Iraq war
veteran “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. But recreational
consumers will be the main source of new business for outlets like
3D Cannabis Center, which is conveniently located at 4305 Brighton
Boulevard, on the way into town from the airport. (The “3D” refers
to the shop’s former designation: Denver’s Discreet Dispensary.)
When I interviewed 3D’s owner, Toni Fox, about a year ago, she said
she hoped her proximity to Interstates 25 and 70 would help attract
business. “I would think that I would be able to sell out of the
cannabis that I had every day,” she said, “because the demand is
going to be so great.”

Over the short term, Fox and other dispensary
owners expanding into the recreational market stand to benefit from
the shortage
that is expected to last at least until marijuana from the first
plants grown for general consumption is harvested this spring. “The
medical marijuana prices have been cut unfairly in the for-profit
market, because of the competition,” she said. “When recreational
opens up and there’s a limited supply, I don’t have a problem
resetting my prices to street value and hopefully making a profit
finally.” Under state law, dispensary owners have a three-month
head start in the licensing process. Denver, which is where most of
the pot shops will be located, has
new competitors until February 1, 2016, so the existing
dispensaries have a lock on the market until then. So far 102
retailers in Denver have
state licenses.

Although the Justice Department has
that it will leave the pot shops alone as long as
they are strictly regulated, banks continue to worry about the
legal consequences of accepting deposits from cannabusinesses,
which could be viewed as money laundering. When she opened her
dispensary, Fox persuaded the bank she had used for her
construction business to serve her new venture, but most marijuana
retailers are not so lucky. Many are forced to deal exclusively in
cash. “I cannot help but be concerned about the safety and security
threats caused by outdated federal banking regulations,” Fox says
in a
press release
from the National Cannabis Industry Association
(NCIA). “The widespread perception that cannabis retailers hold
large amounts of cash, despite top-notch security and monitoring,
creates an inherent danger for businesses owners, employees, and
communities alike.”

Deputy Attorney General David Cole has said the
Justice Department is talking to officials at the Treasury
Departmentment’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
(FinCEN) about how to address this problem, but so far no
solution has emerged. “Members of Congress, state regulators,
community leaders, cannabis business professionals, and even many
local banks are calling for reform to the absurd interpretations of
law that inhibit banking services for cannabis-related businesses,”

Betty Aldworth, the NCIA’s deputy director. “There is
absolutely no justifiable reason to allow this threat to public
safety to continue in those states where the regulated sale of
marijuana has been made legal. A lack of access to banking services
is, quite frankly, the single most dangerous thing about the legal
sale of marijuana for medical or social use. It is long past time
for FinCEN and the Justice Department to catch up with the American
public and answer the call for safe, regulated markets by allowing
banking services.”

Despite all the hardships involved in growing and selling a
product that the federal government continues to treat as
contraband, Fox is excited about Colorado’s pathbreaking
experiment. “I am so grateful to be a pioneer and to be able to
change people’s perceptions of this plant and change the world,”
she says. “We’re going to change the world by ending

More on what to expect when the pot shops open here.

from Hit & Run

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