By: Celia Carr- Assistant External News Editor
The world’s first recreational marijuana retail license has been granted this past year to a dispensary in Colorado. Those in the area who dabble in the drug can now purchase it at the store legally.
The store, called “Annie’s”, located in Central City, Colorado, is in a historic building that dates back to 1864. The building has been everything from a saloon, to a garage as well as a tourist jail exhibit. Now it has become the world’s first recreational pot shop owned by Strainwise, a private company which also owns eight dispensaries in Colorado. Stainwise is hoping that all eight stores will be approved for a recreational license. The shop will open Jan. 1, 2014.
The communications director for Marijuana Policy Project and co-director of Colorado’s marijuana legalizing Amendment 64 campaign, Mason Tvert, told sources, “Colorado is moving forward and leaving marijuana prohibition behind. For the first time in history, those who sell marijuana are receiving licenses from the state instead of rap sheets. Marijuana will be sold to adults by legitimate, taxpaying businesses instead of drug cartels in the underground market.” He also added, “It will not be long before voters and lawmakers in other states decide to adopt similar policies. Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and it is finally starting to be treated that way.”
The state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division accepted 136 applications in October from people who are seeking to open recreational pot stores. Beginning in January, the state of Colorado could see over 100 of these stores opening. Additionally, the division accepted 28 applications from people wishing to open stores with marijuana-infused products and 174 applications for recreational cultivation facilities.
A spokesperson for the division, Julie Postlethwait, said that a decision will be made for the businesses that applied in October by the end of the year, and that they are in line to be open for Jan. 1, which will be the earliest date for any recreational store to open.
The state law dictates that only businesses who are already licensed for medical marijuana sales and are in “good standing” with the law and state are able to apply for a recreational marijuana license. According to sources, there are about 550 medical marijuana dispensaries that can apply for a recreational license.
Colorado currently has 517 medical-marijuana dispensaries, 138 medical marijuana-infused-product businesses and 736 medical-marijuana cultivation facilities. Only two of the businesses that applied for the recreational services said that they would be making a full conversion to recreational sales. The rest of the applicants would keep their medicinal services. Many of those businesses would run as two separate shops, separated by a wall where one side would remain medical and the other side would provide the recreational services.
By 2012, Colorado voters legalized the limited sale, possession and growing of marijuana for adults of 21 years of age and over legal. Adults are allowed to possess up to an ounce of pot and can grow as many as six marijuana plants within their own home. The homegrown plants can only be used for personal use and are illegal to sell any, but you can gift one another up to an ounce of marijuana. As well, earlier this month voters approved taxing marijuana at 25 per cent. 15 per cent will be labelled an excise tax and 10 per cent will be a normal sales tax. It has been decided that the profits from the taxes will help to fund the construction of public schools and the regulation of marijuana. It is expected that roughly $70 million in taxes will be generated for Colorado in the year 2014 with the first $40 million going directly to school projects.
What leads up to the vote on this amount of tax is the fact that most people do not smoke marijuana, so the communities in which it will be sold want to see benefits as a result of legalizing the drug. Of course, there is concern about whether or not heavy pot smokers will still use the black market in order to obtain the drug so it will be tax free for them.
The application fees for new recreational-marijuana businesses start at $500 and the licensing fees range anywhere from $2, 750 to $14, 000 depending on the type of business and services it will provide. Meg Collins, the executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance, acknowledged that it is expensive for a business to get licensed and that may be why many businesses are not jumping on becoming a fully recreational business. She said to sources, “in the discussions I’ve had with folks, I think that one of the things that possibly forestalled people from immediately jumping in is the financial consideration.”
Another issue that the state of Colorado must concern themselves with is how the drug will be regulated now that it will be sold legally. According to Food Safety News, The Marijuana Enforcement Division is working to establish additional regulations for the sale of both medicinal and recreational pot. This would involve testing requirements for pesticides, moulds, filth, harmful chemicals, as well as the potency of the drug. The potency concerns the strength of the drug and how effective the marijuana and marijuana-infused products are.
Postlethwait said to sources, “Our primary focus is always public safety and to make sure that communication is clear to the end user”. She said that ultimately the state of Colorado needs more time and information before anything will be set in stone as far as regulations of how the marijuana will be tested.
Mike Elliot, the executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group says that businesses are still applying for recreational licenses this month and that they could potentially receive permission by the end of the year to open starting in January. The Marijuana Enforcement Division has already scheduled 13 application appointments for just this month alone.