Pot sales are up in air

Recreational users have few options

An employee of The Clinic, a Denver-based dispensary, prepares marijuana cigarettes for sale in Denver. The Clinic is among the roughly 150 medical marijuana dispensaries hoping to begin selling to recreational users when it becomes legal to sell on Jan. 1. Enlargephoto

The Associated Press

An employee of The Clinic, a Denver-based dispensary, prepares marijuana cigarettes for sale in Denver. The Clinic is among the roughly 150 medical marijuana dispensaries hoping to begin selling to recreational users when it becomes legal to sell on Jan. 1.

A giant carved marijuana leaf decorates the lobby of Mancos’ 2-month-old medical marijuana shop, where an owner said business is blossoming.

“Every week we do see new faces, so it’s exciting,” said Nate Fete, one of the owners.

City governments in Mancos, Cortez and Durango placed moratoriums on recreational sales of marijuana after voters across the state approved it in November 2012. Dolores placed a moratorium on the sale of all marijuana.

Fete said it’s hard to comment on the future of the business and the industry because regulations and fees are changing.

In 2000, medical marijuana was legalized in Colorado, and about $1.7 million worth of medical marijuana was sold in Montezuma County this year. The state made $47,500 in taxes on the county’s sales, the state reported. As of October 2013, there were 692 registered medical marijuana card holders in the county.

The recreational marijuana market was projected to bring in $130.1 million state taxes by an April report from the University of Colorado.

But municipalities across the state have banned it, and the closest place to buy it is Telluride.

Fete said shoppers come in looking to purchase recreational marijuana every day, and he tells them to go to Telluride.

“I see Durango, Mancos and Cortez definitely losing out,” he said.

At Beacon Wellness Group in Mancos, interested buyers don’t get beyond the marijuana-free lobby without being asked for a medical marijuana card and driver’s license.

Outside the building, the state also requires video surveillance on all areas of the building.

“I think we have higher security than banks,” Fete said.

Staff must let shoppers through a locked door into a room constantly monitored by cameras that state officials may review at any time.

On the display cases, dried marijuana is for sale in jars. Chocolate rolls, truffles as well as lotions and salves infused with different extracts of marijuana.

But the locally grown marijuana is not on the shelves yet.

One of the owners and the main grower, Jim Cody, spent months asking the city to revise its codes to allow him to open the store.

Once the codes were changed, regulations prevented him from starting to grow his plants until the business officially opened. It takes about 120 days for a marijuana plant to mature.

“It’s 60 days from my finish line, from offering the first of my medicine,” he said.

Cody hopes to produce consistent strains at connoisseur quality that will produce the same effect every time. Different types of marijuana can either energize or relax a patient.

The store is legally required to grow 70 percent of its product.

Cody said bringing a higher quality of life to patients drove him to open the store.

“Who’s to say the THC and cannabinoids here can’t perform miracles,” he said.

The town of Mancos may put a question about taxing marijuana locally on the April ballot.