Four of five current medical marijuana dispensaries in Breckenridge have submitted paperwork to either the town or the state to start the process of opening retail operations, Breckenridge Chief of Police Shannon Haynes said.
The Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) began accepting retail applications Oct. 1, 2013. Approved stores can begin selling to adults over 21 on Jan. 1, 2014.
Haynes said once the town signs off on the paperwork for retail licensing, it is sent to the state for approval, then back to the town. The town looks for applicants to meet certain parts of the building code, but since only current shops can apply, Haynes has not yet seen any issues, she said.
“We’ve put out an FAQ sheet and gone to meetings with the restaurant association, the lodging association, to try to touch as many people and places as we can with the information they need,” she said. “We’ve been putting this out to as many people and places as we could get it out to.”
No new marijuana licenses will be issued in 2014 in Breckenridge; new retail applicants must wait until Jan. 1, 2015.
Breckenridge Cannabis Club co-owner Caitlin McGuire will be converting her shop entirely from medical to retail, and said a large part of doing retail sales will be education.
“We get a lot of patients from out of state, who can’t get a card no matter how much they might qualify and we have to turn them down,” she said. “Fortunately, with retail we will be able to serve those people’s needs if they are over 21.”
Medical marijuana cards can be issued at age 18, while the retail sales are limited to those 21 or older. Therefore, a shop selling both must either have separate entrances and inventory for the two crowds, or only allow medical sales to customers over 21.
Alpenglow Botanicals in Breckenridge is keeping just one storefront, so it will be unable to serve 18-year-olds, but will keep selling medical marijuana for those 21 and up.
Organix is still waiting on the state for approval, but also plans to continue to sell medical marijuana. Breckenridge Organic Therapy will begin retail sales while keeping medical product, but most likely not until Jan. 15 or later.
McGuire said the Cannabis Club has paid all of its local and state fees, and now is just waiting to hear back from the town for final approval. McGuire said she hopes it will have the license before the holidays, and she sees no reason she won’t be able to open Jan. 1.
“Without entirely knowing what to expect, we’re expecting sales to go up,” she said.
Currently, the minimum fees for retail application total more than $7,000 at the local and state levels. There is a state application fee of $250, as well as a local authority application fee of $250. At the Colorado level, the cost for retail for a medical marijuana type 1 center, which serves fewer than 300 patients, is $3,750. In addition, the town of Breckenridge charges $2,812.50 for type 1 retail application fees. There is also an additional $2,750 cost for optional premises cultivation for a store, and application fees can reach $10,000 at both the state and local levels for stores serving more patients.
Banking is another challenge medical and retail marijuana stores face, since sales still are illegal at the federal level.
“We can’t accept credit cards, we have to be cash only because there’s a gray area on the legal side of it,” McGuire said. “The federal laws sort of scare the banks away. I’d love to be more transparent and have a bank account for the business. I could pay my taxes a lot easier.”
Marijuana cannot be consumed in public, and Haynes said that presents some unique challenges due to the nature of the product.
“There’s really not a way for us to ID if a lollipop came from City Market” or a pot retailer, she said. “Are we going to be grabbing people off the sidewalk and asking, ‘Where did you get that lollipop?’ No, but we will enforce the law and the spirit of the law to maintain an atmosphere in this town that’s welcoming to everyone who wants to visit.”
Consumption of marijuana is allowed only in private locations, providing it is not prohibited by the property owner. Anywhere on Breckenridge Ski Resort is off limits, as are spaces like the Riverwalk Center.
“We’re going to treat impaired driving the same way we always have,” Haynes said. “Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, any other drug, we have no tolerance and that won’t change.”
For McGuire and other medical marijuana shopkeepers, the opportunity to branch out into retail sales is a welcome one.
“It’s a bit surreal to see it actually happen,” she said. “More than anything we’re just excited to see something we always envisioned happening so fast.”