FRISCO - Summit County's only medical marijuana store - Medical Marijuana of the Rockies in Frisco - has prospered in its first month as other entrepreneurs await regulations.
"For a few hours during the day, we're slamming," said Jerry Olson, the store's co-owner.
In its first month after opening Aug. 1, the store saw about 150 to 180 patients and accrued about $30,000 in revenue before taxes.
It opened before Frisco put such businesses on hold to draft regulations. Breckenridge, Dillon and Silverthorne have done the same.
By mid-October, Frisco and Breckenridge will likely have zoning and operating regulations in place for more dispensaries to open their doors.
And the number of physician-approved patients is growing.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment last updated its website at the end of June, when 111 patients in Summit County were registered for medicinal marijuana ID cards through the state.
Statewide, there were 8,918 registered.
But experts with the state health department registrar predict the number to hit 15,000 by the end of the year, according to a report in Aspen Times Weekly.
Jerry Olson, co-owner of the Frisco marijuana dispensary, said folks have become less apprehensive about applying for the registry.
"People have finally gotten to the point where comfort levels are OK with discussing their need," he said.
According to the state, 89 percent of registrants report severe pain and 26 percent report muscle spasms.
Severe nausea, cancer and HIV are among the eight conditions listed on the state medical marijuana website at www.cdphe.state.co.us.
Medical Marijuana of the Rockies is discreetly located in Frisco's Crossroads shopping center off Summit Boulevard next to Jazzercise.
From the sidewalk, one can only see a desk and office area through the large glass windows.
It's preferred that patients make an appointment before visiting, and nobody gets access to the medicine without a physician's referral.
Once the paperwork is in place, the patient is taken back to an open area with comfortable chairs, an acoustic guitar and marijuana-related reading material ranging from magazines to books on cultivation.
On one side of the room is a rack of small plants, or clones, with names like "AK-47," "Blue Hawaiian," and "White Widow" growing under some lights.
There's a bar/display case that Olson said came from a skate shop in Beaver Creek. Behind it is a tray full of cookies and Rice Krispy treats.
To select paraphernalia or a strain of marijuana, the patient is taken back to a small room with large jars of fragrant herb. There are about five strains to choose from, and all are priced near street value.
Patients across the state are welcome, but those with the business operators listed as their primary caregiver receive a 10 percent discount.
Caregivers may legally cultivate more plants the more patients they have.
Olson said selecting a caregiver should be a decision that takes three to five days after one's doctor has provided a referral.
He said caregivers vary among prices, product quality and availability.
He plans to offer free yoga classes and other discounts to "care members."
Olson said the dispensary welcomes quality products from other patient growers.
"With a maximum of six plants, you can sometimes cultivate more than you need," he said. "There are a lot of capable growers out there."
Breckenridge Town Council recently gave preliminary approval to a set of regulations specifying signage, security (surveillance cameras, permanent locking safe), hours (9 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days per week) and location, among others in a roughly 20-page ordinance.
A similar set of regulations is moving through the town of Frisco.
Both towns' laws for dispensaries are to be approved by mid-October, and potential dispensary entrepreneurs have already inquired with the towns.
Both towns' rules would prohibit on-site consumption, which Olson said is irrational.
"There are times when I want to consume on-site," he said. "They're not being compassionate toward the patient."
He said it's the responsibility of the patient to arrange a ride home from the dispensary, and that driving under the influence is a police matter.
He compared the situation to traditional pharmacies, where patients generally aren't stopped from taking medication if they need them immediately.
As dispensaries continue to pop up across the state and in the mountains, local municipalities are burdened with creating their own regulations.
Winter Park and Granby recently enacted moratoriums similar to towns in Summit County, to allow time to draft laws.
Breckenridge Councilman Eric Mamula said at a recent council meeting that the state appears to be handling issues related to medical marijuana "very loose."
Town manager Tim Gagen said local entities are working to get some changes made at the state level.
Though medicinal marijuana in Colorado was voter-approved in 2000, the recent wave in new dispensaries is likely the result of the Obama administration's decision not to target operations compliant with state law.
Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or email@example.com.