Legal marijuana sales will be spotty in Colorado
DENVER (AP) — Legal marijuana sales in the state of Colorado are set to start on Jan. 1, or so the law says. Knowing when the recreational pot shops will actually open, however, is anyone’s guess.
The state’s 160 hopeful pot shops are so mired in red tape and confusion that no one knows yet when or if they’ll be allowed to open. Not a single shop will clear state and local licensing requirements until about Dec. 27.
Colorado last year legalized the possession of up to an ounce of pot by adults over 21, with voters deciding to set up systems of state-licensed growers, processors and sellers. The measures put state officials in the difficult position of crafting rules for a fledgling industry barred by federal law for more than seven decades.
Even as marijuana entrepreneurs are expanding operations, pouring concrete and planning tentative grand openings, they’re still navigating a maze of regulations.
Many of the applicants are still waiting on inspections, local zoning hearings and background checks before finding out whether they’ve been approved to open their doors to adults over 21.
“There might be a lot of disappointed people on New Year’s Day,” Elliott said.
Marijuana tourism companies that already lead bring-your-own pot tours in Colorado are putting off new trips, unsure where they’d bring tourists looking to buy legal pot, not just smoke it.
Even in towns hoping to have at least a shop or two open, there will be no 12:01 a.m. pot sales. Marijuana shops have mandated opening hours, not before 8 a.m. anywhere in Colorado.
The regulatory delays are testing the patience of many in the industry.
Ryan Cook, general manager of a chain of stores called The Clinic, is spending his days not prepping a grand opening plan but going to Denver’s zoning, planning and fire departments to check on permits.
“You guys have put me through the ringer,” Cook joked after picking up the permits, just part of some $300,000 in various permit and license fees The Clinic’s six shops will pay to various state and local agencies this year.
Julie Postlethwait, spokeswoman for the state Marijuana Enforcement Division, said state pot licenses can’t be issued until local governments sign off on potential stores. Cities and counties have in some cases changed fire codes for pot operations, added new signage or zoning requirements or instituted new fees they say they’ll need to regulate the industry.
In Steamboat Springs, Rocky Mountain Remedies owner Kevin Fisher said local permitting delays mean his shop won’t be ready for recreational pot sales until Jan. 8. He said he’s hoping the small delay will be quickly forgotten.
“I don’t think anyone is too upset about waiting to do everything right,” Fisher said. “So we open Jan. 8, 2014. That’s a lot sooner than Jan 8, 2035, when I thought this might happen.”
Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt