By Kayla Avery
As Colorado nears the six-month mark of legal, recreational marijuana sales, it’s obvious the business is booming. Through March, legalized cannabis had registered sales of nearly $50 million and more than $7 million of tax revenue for the state.
Including medical marijuana, Colorado’s cannabis-related tax haul in the first three months of 2014 exceeds $12 million.
“I would have never imagined legalizing recreational marijuana would have brought as much business, as fast, to Colorado,” said April Hector, a Denver-area real estate professional.
The emerging industry has created an all-time high demand for warehouse space, and the housing industry is experiencing the first wave of a buying boom. Sellers have been consistently turning down offers barely under list price, Hector said.
Many celebrated the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012 as a victory for legalizing marijuana.
Adults from all walks of life, from the business end to the consumers, have one story or another to share about the momentous event.
However, few truly grasp the process marijuana business owners and managers have had to go through to transition from medical dispensaries to state-approved recreational marijuana retailers. Staying current with government policies is a constant challenge for those in the industry.
Medicine Man, one of Colorado’s largest marijuana dispensaries, overcame many challenges associated with the transition through careful planning — eight months of proactive, productive and very careful planning, to be exact.
“Every day is a challenge with the regulations they make,” general manager Pete Vasquez said. “Every day there is a new regulation. It is important to be current on this information.”
Located only 15 miles from the Denver International Airport, Medicine Man has set customer service as one of its top priorities.
“We get guests from all over,” Vasquez said. “They are curious and ask many questions. We enjoy answering questions and educating our visitors. Many travel from all over the world to experience recreational marijuana.”
The retailer has had traffic from a variety of obscure and unlikely places, including small towns in Africa. Coupled with the recent increase of foot traffic, Medicine Man is doubling its store front, moving from 20,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet of dispensary.
Because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, businesses are still forced to operate on a cash-only basis. Although the state legislature has been working to develop the world’s first financial cooperatives for the marijuana industry, that solution could still be years away from reality. Banks will not allow retailers to open business accounts because cannabis is still a Schedule I controlled substance.
Some businesses have had to take precautionary measures to ensure the business and people are safe.
“We have never had anything happen to us but that goes back to planning,” Vasquez said. “We planned for what this would mean.”
Medicine Man beefed up its security detail, bringing in both armed and unarmed security guards to help with the increased traffic due to transitioning from medical to recreational.
“We knew who was coming when we operated only medicinal,” Vasquez said. “We had to collect their ID and personal information in order to sell to them. … We are doing what we have always wanted to do We wanted to provide a safe, quality product at an affordable price for all visitors of legal age.”