For sale, for real

The historic passage last year of Colorado’s Amendment 64 —essentially legalizing marijuana for adults across the state — was but a first step toward the establishment of a framework of retail pot shops that Colorado communities have allowed. That means tax revenue to the tune of an estimated $70 million per year, if voters this November approve the sales and excise taxes on retail marijuana laid out in Proposition AA. Here, a caregiver picks out a marijuana bud at a dispensary in Denver.

On the website, tiny marijuana leaves dot the cities and addresses in Colorado where people can shop for medical marijuana.

The green leaves march east along Interstate 70, landing on Rifle, Glenwood Springs and a number of points east on to Denver. Once there, the marijuana leaves are so numerous the name of the state’s largest city is covered in pot leaves, smothered because of the dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries there.

What you don’t see are any marijuana leaves in the Grand Valley, save for one blip in Palisade, Colorado Alternative Health Care, 125 Peach Ave.

Medical marijuana dispensaries are one thing. Residents must obtain a card to purchase marijuana at those stores.

Yet the landscape for marijuana in the Grand Valley will remain unchanged after Jan. 1 ­­— the date residents can legally purchase marijuana at retail storefronts.

Your closest bet to purchasing recreational marijuana in the new year might be the hour drive to Rifle, providing councilors there give the OK in the next few weeks.

Plenty of Grand Junction customers already travel to Rifle to buy their marijuana, said Brian Sullivan of Green Medicine Wellness, 109 W, Fourth St. in Rifle.

“I mean, we really are the closest place on the Western Slope,” Sullivan said of Grand Junction-area residents heading east on Interstate 70. The business also sells plenty of medical marijuana to out-of-state tourists.

“We also get a lot of people coming through from Denver,” Sullivan said. “They’re passing through on to Utah.”

Rifle city councilors haven’t yet decided whether to allow retail sales of marijuana in their city limits in the long term.

Rifle’s Mayor Jay Miller said the city has collected about $100,000 in sales taxes from its five medical marijuana dispensaries.

Miller said he can’t get a reading yet on how councilors are feeling about retail sales of marijuana in their city, especially because three councilors are new.

“I’m going to wait until we talk about it,” he said.

Councilors recently enacted a moratorium on retail marijuana sales that will last until Jan. 1, 2014. Local medical marijuana businesses had pressed for a Dec. 1 date, and explained how that time line would make it easier to convert their stores to a recreational marijuana format, Miller said.

If Rifle is off the table, it appears there will be plenty of areas to purchase marijuana in the nearby Roaring Fork Valley. Garfield County has banned retail sales of marijuana, but cities inside the county, including Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, have not.

Retail marijuana gets an even friendlier reception along Colorado Highway 82, en route to tourist destination Aspen.

Pitkin County is finalizing regulations for marijuana businesses and the city of Aspen has allowed retail sales, though city leaders may limit its number of marijuana clubs and require them to be private.

Brian Sullivan, whose family also owns a medical marijuana facility in Glenwood Springs, under the same name, Green Medicine Wellness, 1030 Grand Ave., said the marijuana industry’s business leaders are keeping close tabs on how city and county officials weigh in on marijuana businesses.

“We can finally afford to get a bigger grow operation and expand,” he said, if Rifle councilors approve of retail marijuana sales. “The next several months are extremely exciting. The amount of taxes and business for local community will be great. We’ve been here for about a year and a half. What this is going to do for our business is help us finally take that next leap.”

Don’t completely write off the future of retail marijuana in Mesa County. At the earliest, voters in Fruita could approve of it on a planned ballot measure April 2014.


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