Ground Zero in Colorado's Pot Rush
The young couple, fresh off a plane from Miami for a Colorado ski vacation, stood marveling at the rows of jars -- enough marijuana to send someone to prison for a long time back home.
Here was pot being sold openly in a store, taxed and regulated, everything from fluffy buds to infused candy to pre-rolled joints.
“It’s so crazy how many different types there are,” says Lindsay, who declined to give her last name. She’s used to buying only one type: whatever her pot connection has.
The couple walked out of the Denver Kush Club with a quarter-ounce of something called “Jack Herer” to enjoy on their trip. Outside, a long line of people waited for their turn.
So it goes in the “green rush” across parts of Colorado. Voters approved legalization in 2012, and as of Jan. 1 of this year, an industry that had been allowed to sell only to people with a doctor’s prescription could cater to anyone 21 or older.
Denver is ground zero. The Mile High City, along with many tourist towns, has embraced it as a way to reduce the black market, regulate marijuana, and raise tax revenue. Other towns, including the state’s second-largest city, Colorado Springs, have banned recreational pot stores.
“Everybody smokes, from businessmen all the way down to potheads,” says George Springer, the downtown shop’s “budtender,” as the retail clerks are called.
“Everybody just smokes. I think it’s great. It’s really progressive.”
The Pot Craze
Things have calmed down since New Year’s Day, when people waited in line for hours to get in on the first legal sales of recreational pot in modern American history. But only slightly: Demand is much greater than the supply at some stores.
At Denver’s 3D Cannabis Center, owner Toni Fox says she was used to 25 customers a day and about $1,000 in sales when she sold only to medical marijuana patients, who need a license from a state agency to buy pot legally.
On Jan. 1, she had 450 customers and rang up $40,000 in sales. She ran out of pot quickly and had to start closing on weekdays.
“Business is booming,” Fox says. “We’re turning away 100 times the people we could sell to if we had the cannabis.”
State law allows Colorado residents to buy 1 ounce or 28 grams, enough for about 50-60 joints. Non-residents can buy a quarter ounce. But at many stores, people walk out with less.
Fox limits her sales to 3 pounds per a day, which is enough for about 350 customers. Supply is usually sold out by late afternoon. She has a 14,000-square-foot grow facility and is looking to expand.