Colorado Marijuana News

Colorado advances edible marijuana restrictions

April 18, 2014 — 

DENVER — A Colorado proposal to widen a ban on certain types of edible marijuana advanced Thursday in the state House amid concerns that it could be too broad.

What lawmakers are trying to prevent is accidental ingestion by children who can’t tell the difference between a regular cookie or gummy bear and the kinds infused with cannabis. Lawmakers also worry that officials won’t be able to know when students have marijuana at school when the drug is in the form of an edible.

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Police: Student ate more pot than recommended

April 18, 2014 — 

DENVER — Authorities say a Wyoming college student who jumped to his death from a Denver hotel balcony ate more than the recommended serving of a marijuana cookie.

Police reports released Thursday said 19-year-old Levy Thamba Pongi consumed a little more than one cookie that his friend purchased from a pot shop.

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Medical marijuana ban fails in town of Red Cliff

April 2, 2014 — 

RED CLIFF — Voters here Tuesday retained two town council members and rejected a proposed ban on medical marijuana operations.

Anuschka Bales and Tom Henderson, both current board members, were both elected to four-year terms. But the election still leaves the seven-member board short two people. Town clerk Barb Smith said the town will post the vacancies, with a 30-day period for interested people to apply for the board positions.

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County receives marijuana license applications

March 25, 2014 — 

EAGLE COUNTY — At the Sweet Leaf Pioneer medical marijuana dispensary in Eagle, Dieneka Manzanares gets calls and visitors just about every day. Many are tourists, looking to buy legal marijuana while on vacation to the Vail Valley. Right now, she has to turn them all away.

Those calls and visits are familiar to Murphy Murray, the co-owner and general manager of the Tree Line dispensary in Eagle-Vail.

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Granby medical workers unknowingly ingest THC in holiday treats

March 24, 2014 — 

GRANBY — A batch of drug-laced Chex-Mix delivered to Middle Park Medical Center staff around Christmastime has tested positive for Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical compound found in marijuana, according to Granby Police Chief Bill Housley.

Though the department knows who delivered the treats and has transferred the case to the District Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution, Housley said the District Attorney’s Office is inclined not to prosecute the case due to a lack of intent to deliver the THC-laced treats to the hospital staff.

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Summit County sheriff's marijuana FAQ hits the street

March 25, 2014 — 

Last week, the Summit County Commission and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office released information to help residents and visitors better understand requirements related to the use, purchase and possession of marijuana in unincorporated Summit County since the passage of Amendment 64.

Summit County Sheriff John Minor attended the commission’s most recent workshop on Tuesday, March 18, where he presented a draft document containing frequently asked questions about marijuana. Minor asked the commissioners to sign off on the draft, saying the FAQs would serve as the office’s cornerstone document regarding public use of marijuana.

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FBI balks at marijuana background checks in Washington, but not Colorado

March 14, 2014 — 

SEATTLE — The FBI is refusing to run nationwide background checks on people applying to run legal marijuana businesses in Washington state, even though it has conducted similar checks in Colorado — a discrepancy that illustrates the quandary the Justice Department faces as it allows the states to experiment with regulating a drug that’s long been illegal under federal law.

Washington state has been asking for nearly a year if the FBI would conduct background checks on its applicants, to no avail. The bureau’s refusal raises the possibility that people with troublesome criminal histories could wind up with pot licenses in the state — undermining the department’s own priorities in ensuring that states keep a tight rein on the nascent industry.

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Western Slope police officers watch weed industry evolve

March 14, 2014 — 

This is the final part in a two-part series focusing on marijuana law enforcement and education.

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Recreational pot is here — now what?

March 13, 2014 — 

Editor’s note: This is the first part in a two-part series about the effects of legalized marijuana on children and law enforcement agencies.

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Vail Resorts issues statement on mountain ‘smoke shacks’

March 12, 2014 — 

VAIL — When a structure on the ski hill comes down, for many it’s a sad moment.

Whether it’s Two Elk, destroyed illegally in 1998, or Jaz’s Cabin, destroyed in the name of the law in 2012, it’s been said it’s like losing a close friend or family member. Breckenridge skiers felt that sadness this week with the destruction of their beloved “Leo’s” cabin, but the dynamite used to destroy it was only the beginning of the explosion, as social media sites blew up with activity in response and Vail Resorts issued a press release on the matter.

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Is legal marijuana harming Colorado business?

March 12, 2014 — 

EAGLE COUNTY — Led Gardner is worried.

Gardner, a broker with Slifer Smith & Frampton, is concerned that legal marijuana in Colorado may prompt some people ­— specifically some of the valley’s high-end clients — to take their business elsewhere.

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Retail reefer sales brisk in market’s first month

March 12, 2014 — 

DENVER – In their first month of legality, Colorado’s reefer retailers sold $45 million in legal reefer, and generated $3.5 million in tax and fee revenue for the state.

According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, January saw $14 million in legal reefer sales to adults, and another $31 million in medical marijuana sales.

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State launches campaign to discourage pot-impaired driving

March 8, 2014 — 

EAGLE COUNTY — Colorado made history when we became the first state to legalize marijuana, but the Colorado Department of Transportation wants you to understand that driving under the influence of anything except good karma is a monumentally bad idea.

That includes the newly legalized marijuana, said Amy Ford, CDOT’s communications director.

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Commissioners seek clarity on marijuana science

February 27, 2014 — 

Hot Sulphur Springs — County officials are working to clear the haze of marijuana confusion before they tamp down their marijuana employee policy.

During their regular public meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 25, the board of county commissioners had Sarah Urfer of ChemaTox Laboratory, Inc. provide some clarification to the murkiness of marijuana use. She provided insight on best testing practices, how to determine impairment and how to develop policy.

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First Colo. county reports its marijuana taxes

February 25, 2014 — 

DENVER — A southern Colorado county with two recreational marijuana stores has become the first in the state to announce tax totals from the new industry.

Pueblo County finance authorities announced Monday that its two shops had about $1 million in total sales in January, producing about $56,000 in local sales taxes.

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Marijuana legalization plan stalls in New Mexico

February 7, 2014 — 

SANTA FE, N.M. — A proposal to allow New Mexico voters to decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana stalled Friday, putting the measure in doubt — for now.

At a disjointed meeting, the Senate Rules Committee failed to debate the proposed constitutional amendment that would allow for the possession and personal use of marijuana for those 21 years of age and older.

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Grand County considers zero tolerance pot policy for employees

February 5, 2014 — 

HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS — County commissioners may have agreed to allow recreational marijuana businesses, but they may prohibit their own employees from partaking.

Current regulations for county employees prohibit working while under the influence of any substance that could cause harm to themselves or others. County commissioners and staff agree this policy should continue, but things become murkier with marijuana’s legalization in the state of Colorado.

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Marijuana superstore proposed for Eagle

January 24, 2014 — 

EAGLE — A Denver-based group has proposed a $5 million marijuana superstore for Eagle.

Rocky Mountain Pure Retail Marijuana would include a 6,000-square-foot retail operation and a 22,500-square-foot indoor cultivation center to support the store. The proposal was submitted in late December and was reviewed by the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission this week. In a split vote, commission members recommended approval of the proposed operation with a number of conditions. The Eagle Town Board will have the final say regarding the proposal, and the public hearing is planned for Feb. 11.

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Colorado governor praises marijuana banking announcement

January 24, 2014 — 

Gov. praises pot banking announcement

DENVER — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is responding with relief to word from federal officials that marijuana businesses will be allowed to access banking services.

Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that the Obama administration is planning to roll out regulations soon that would allow banks to do business with legal marijuana sellers.

Hickenlooper’s spokesman released a statement Friday morning saying the news is welcome. Spokesman Eric Brown says Colorado hopes the guidance is specific.

Currently, processing money from marijuana sales puts federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges.

Because of the threat of criminal prosecution, financial institutions often refuse to let marijuana-related businesses open accounts.

Fraser, Colorado approves recreational marijuana stores

January 24, 2014 — 

FRASER — Grand County residents could soon see the first recreational pot store open its doors in Fraser.

Fraser town trustees passed an emergency ordinance allowing for existing medical marijuana businesses to submit an application to open recreational marijuana stores.

Fraser is currently the only town in Grand County that has a licensed medical marijuana dispensary, Serene Wellness Fraser, the owner of which, Dan Volpe, indicated he would attempt to make the medical marijuana dispensary a recreational marijuana store.

Serene Wellness Fraser

Volpe said he would “most-likely” make the store a recreational pot shop, though is undecided whether he would keep a portion of the shop dedicated to medical marijuana or transition the store to a strictly recreational marijuana shop.

Under state law, a store can be operated as both a medical marijuana dispensary as well as a recreational marijuana store, so long as the two operations are physically separated.

To separate the two, shop owners would need to build a wall, though Volpe’s shop already has two rooms that are separated by a wall.

Volpe said he feels a responsibility to his longtime medical marijuana customers who have helped keep him afloat since opening the store in April of last year, though he would also like to take advantage of the ability to sell his product to anyone older than 21.

Volpe already operates one recreational marijuana facility in Empire, Serene Wellness Empire, which he has indicated has seen a large increase in business since making the transition from a medical marijuana dispensary to a recreational shop.

As part of the legalization of recreational marijuana sales, the state imposed a 90-day period where only existing medical marijuana dispensaries could apply for and transition to a recreational marijuana shop.

If Volpe were to transition the store to a recreational marijuana facility, he would have to attain license from both the Town of Fraser as well as the state.

Fraser’s decision

Fraser trustees passed the emergency ordinance during their regular meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 22, with 5 yes votes and one no vote. Trustee Cheri Sanders was the dissenting vote, citing concerns about the required distance pot shops need from childcare facilities as well as concerns about the unchartered territory of recreational marijuana sales.

“I’m going to probably vote no on anything we have in front of us tonight, I don’t care how it reads, I don’t feel comfortable with it,” Sanders said. “I’m interested in continuing the moratorium, and then I can vote the way that I feel when I have gotten enough information.”

The board attempted to address the required distance a recreational marijuana shop could be located from a childcare facility by increasing the required distance to 500 feet from the originally proposed 200 feet.

The board chose to pass an emergency ordinance before the town’s moratorium on applications for recreational marijuana stores expired on Thursday, Jan. 23.

The board also discussed the requirement for stores to be located at least 500 feet from each other and decided to reduce that amount to 200 feet in order to provide a level playing field for any other potential pot businesses.

Trustee Vesta Shapiro discussed concerns with over-regulating recreational marijuana stores, which could potentially leave them vulnerable to being legislated out of existence.

“I get tired of people not listening to the voters,” Shapiro said. “Lets make the regulations reasonable and not put a stranglehold on a new industry just because it is new.”

Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334

Marijuana superstore proposed in Eagle, Colorado

January 24, 2014 — 

EAGLE — A Denver-based group has proposed a $5 million marijuana superstore for Eagle.

Rocky Mountain Pure Retail Marijuana would include a 6,000-square-foot retail operation and a 22,500-square-foot indoor cultivation center to support the store. The proposal was submitted in late December and was reviewed by the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission this week. In a split vote, commission members recommended approval of the proposed operation with a number of conditions. The Eagle Town Board will have the final say regarding the proposal and the public hearing is planned Feb. 11.

“It is our intent to work in cooperation with the town of Eagle to develop Rocky Mountain Pure, the nation’s premier retail marijuana destination, on the 5-acre parcel located at 1125 Chambers,” said applicant Ethan Borg of Colorado Cannabis Co., of Denver.

Borg noted that Colorado Cannabis Co. was established in 2009 and employs 30 people in three medical marijuana centers, a commercial infused product kitchen, a commercial cannabis extraction and concentrates laboratory and 14,000 square feet of medical marijuana indoor cultivation. All of these operations are located in the City and County of Denver.

“Rocky Mountain Pure will be a destination that Coloradoans and visitors alike will come to know as the location to not only purchase the best available products, but to learn about the wonders of cannabis and the last 90 years of prohibition, to enjoy the facilities and to even gather together for a cup of coffee in our world-class botanical gardens,” said Borg.

To that aim, Rocky Mountain Pure has proposed:

6,000-square-foot retail store

22,500-square-foot indoor cultivation facility

45,000-square-foot green house operation (for export product)

3,600-square-foot extraction laboratory

12,000 square feet of “other commercial space”

3,750-square-foot “prohibition museum”

Borg said “an economic stimulus will be experienced in the town within a year. From the construction needs of a $5 million facility to the potential of generating more than $500,000 in tax revenues annually (year 5), Rocky Mountain Pure will simultaneously diversify and help to balance the economic base.”

Commission Reaction

While members of the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission did vote 5-2 to recommend approval of the proposal to the Eagle Town Board, members attached seven conditions to their action. The very first one goes to the heart of the issue.

In its deliberations, the planning commission members noted the town board has the ability to determine the size of retail marijuana facilities in the community.

“There was a lot of discussion about the size of the proposal. Some members felt it is terribly large,” said Eagle Town Planner Tom Boni. “This whole project is something quite different for the Western Slope and the some of the commission members felt it is not in keeping with the character of the town.”

Ultimately, Boni said the commission opted not to force the size issue and to leave that decision to the town board. Additional conditions suggested by the commission for the special use permit request included requiring a major development permit for the proposal and a requirement that Rocky Mountain Pure comply with all state licensing regulations. The town of Eagle does not have its own licensing procedures for retail marijuana, but instead requires applicants to comply with the state procedures.

Sweet Leaf

The Eagle Town Board is slated to conduct its first retail marijuana special use permit review next week when the community’s existing medical marijuana dispensary, Sweet Leaf Pioneer, presents its plans for a retail operation. In conjunction with the retail operation, Sweet Leaf is proposing a new cultivation facility along Marmot Lane.

This comparatively modest proposal prompted a letter from the attorney for the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, which recently opened a training facility along Chambers Avenue. Attorney John. T. DeCarlo voiced the organization’s strong opposition to the Sweet Leaf cultivation facility saying “it raises serious safety and environmental issues for young trainees who will be utilizing the training center.”

New Hope Wellness Center

While Eagle has specifically limited retail marijuana operations, cultivation operations and medical marijuana dispensaries to two such operations each until the time the community’s population reaches 10,000, an interesting mix of proposals has emerged.

Sweet Leaf Pioneer has proposed both continuation of its medical marijuana operation and the retail and cultivation expansion. The Rocky Mountain Pure proposal includes retail and cultivation. A third proposal was also presented to the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission this week from Kim Barbieri for the New Hope Wellness Center. Barbieri operates the New Hope center currently located at Edwards.

The New Hope proposal in Eagle is for a medical marijuana and cultivation operation. The planning commission tabled action on the proposal until Feb. 4.

Fewer 2013 marijuana arrests in Vail, Eagle County since Amendment 64

January 24, 2014 — 

EAGLE COUNTY — Local law enforcement wasn’t sure what to expect after Colorado voters legalized pot, but most agencies have been pleasantly surprised a year later.

In November 2012, the passage of Amendment 64 made it legal for people older than 21 to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use. Starting Jan. 1 of this year, the sale of retail marijuana also became legal, with the closest retail shop in Breckenridge.

The result for law enforcement is a decrease in tickets written and arrests made related to marijuana infractions. The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office recorded nine summons or arrests in 2013, compared to 50 in 2012. The Avon Police Department had 15 narcotics-related arrests, which included seven marijuana related arrests in 2013. That’s a huge drop from 153 arrests in 2012 and 101 arrests in 2011, although Avon Police Chief Bob Ticer points out that many of those arrests were at the SnowBall music festival, which is no longer held in Avon. Before the festival, an average year saw between 36-50 narcotics arrests, with roughly half of those relating to pot, he said.

“There’s a different threshold now (for the legal limit), and subsequently we had a lot less arrests,” Ticer said.

Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy said he has instructed his officers to simply enforce the law where they come across an infraction. There haven’t been too many problems with public smoking, either, he said.

Interesting year

“I guess by chance our officers weren’t in contact with that many people who were under the influence,” he said, although he added that the availability of retail marijuana might change things. “It’s going to be interesting what this year brings. There are a lot of us still waiting to see what direction the whole system goes in the future. I’ve directed my guys that if they have the legal amount on them, we’re not going to do anything. If they have more, we cite them for what they have that’s not legal. “

The penalty for being in possession of more than one ounce is akin to a bad speeding ticket — in Vail, for example, it’s up to a $100 fine and appearance in court, unless you plead guilty.

Not much change in community

Avon’s Ticer said that some people expected Amendment 64 to create a visible change in the community, but so far that hasn’t been the case.

“We’re seeing a lot less arrests, but not a significant change in our community,” he said. “There were people thinking there’d be a lot more people smoking in public, but in 2013 we had four tickets for consumption in public.”

Like other law enforcement officials, he’s not sure what the advent of retail pot will bring, but he said the department’s focus will be on educating the public about where they can use marijuana.

“It’s been very difficult to predict either way. We’ve been monitoring the law change, but I haven’t had expectations either way. I think (enforcement) will be more and more evolving as retail marijuana goes into effect around the state. We’re trying to educate the public on when you can use it. It’s similar to what you can do drinking alcohol.”

Hoy said he doubts that the pot laws will dramatically change the county.

“I’m not sure if we’ll see a big explosion of pot use in the community,” he said. “Some think it will change the culture of the county. I just don’t know if we’re going to see it. The people who come here to ski or golf will still come here. I don’t think people will come just because we have pot available. It’s still pretty expensive with the 25 percent sales tax. My guess is those people will go to the Front Range.”

Vail deals with public use

The one notable exception to the trend has been Vail. The town’s police haven’t seen a drop in marijuana-related crimes during the past year. Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger said that whether or not someone is charged is based on officer discretion, but police have dealt with a fair number of infractions at public events such as the Hot Summer Nights concerts.

In 2013, Vail police wrote 15 tickets for public display or consumption and two felony charges of intent to distribute. In 2012, there were also 15 tickets for public display or consumption and three for intent to distribute. In the past six months, officers said they’ve noticed more out-of-towners publicly using marijuana — perhaps because they aren’t clear on the laws, Henninger said

State laws on where you can use marijuana put law enforcement in a difficult situation, he said.

“The laws that are passed at the state level are difficult to interpret,” he said.

“You can’t smoke in restaurants, hotels or public places,” Henninger said. “If you’re smoking on the front lawn, from my perspective you’re in violation. If you’re on the back deck and someone else can see you probably are. If your yard is fenced, you’re probably OK.

“That’s one of my thoughts as to why we shouldn’t have it here, because I think if we allow people to sell it, we should also allow them to use it.”

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at

What you need to know about buying recreational marijuana in Colorado

January 6, 2014 — 

Here’s a rundown of the doobies and don’ts for retail pot purchases.

Who can purchase recreational marijuana?

Anyone 21 and older, with a valid government ID, is allowed to purchase, smoke and possess marijuana in Colorado. Much like in a liquor store, individuals will need to show an ID in order to make purchases. You can share with a friend, as long as you aren’t getting paid in the process.

Coloradans 18 and older can get a medical marijuana card. Medical marijuana was legalized in 2000 in Colorado, and the annual registration fee will now be reduced to $15.

Where can people purchase marijuana?

Licensed retail shops will be able to sell marijuana starting Jan. 1. The shops were previously medical marijuana dispensaries, and may or may not choose to continue to sell medical products in addition to retail products. The earliest brand-new retail shops can open is Oct. 1, 2014. Shops have hours mandated by the state, much like liquor stores, so no purchases can be made before 8 a.m.

Currently, Colorado has issued licenses to 136 shops. Most of the approved locations are in Denver, but four shops in Summit County will be open for business Jan. 1, as well: Alpenglow Botanicals, Bioenergetic Healing Center, Breckenridge Cannabis Club and High Country Healing.

How much can individuals buy?

In a single transaction, Colorado residents can purchase up to 1 ounce, while out-of-state visitors will be able to purchase 1/4 ounce. All adults 21 and older will be able to possess up to 1 ounce on their person.

Researchers have concluded the average joint has slightly less than a half gram of marijuana. An ounce is slightly more than 28 grams, so 1 ounce will equal approximately 60 joints.

How much will it cost?

In the medical-marijuana market, ounces run from $150 to close to $300. But the more common purchase amount is an eighth of an ounce, which costs around $25 to $45 for medical marijuana. Stores will set their own prices for retail product, but customers will have to pay high state and local taxes for the pot — 25 percent for the state, on top of a 5 percent excise tax in Summit County and other retail sales taxes. Most stores will only accept cash, which presents a security concern as well. Federal banking regulations mean that marijuana stores commonly don’t have access to banking services. People can make multiple purchases in the same day, as long as they do not exceed the 1 ounce limit.

Where can people legally smoke or consume marijuana?

The only place it’s 100 percent OK to consume marijuana is in a private residence, with permission from the owner. Most ski slopes are on federal land, where marijuana use and possession is still illegal. Same with national parks, national forests and national monuments. Hotels and resorts can institute their own smoking policies. Under Colorado’s Clean Indoor Air Act, pot smoking isn’t allowed anywhere that cigarette smoking is also banned. Consumption is specifically banned in any state-licensed marijuana facility.

How will marijuana sales be monitored?

Turns out, Colorado’s seed-to-sale marijuana inventory tracking system won’t track every plant Jan. 1. But businesses are required to record their process through the tracking system, which is meant to ensure the product does not get outside the state. Businesses are subject to audits or inspections by the state Marijuana Enforcement Division as well. The pot must have a label that lists its potency and any nonorganic pesticides or fungicides used in its cultivation.

What can people grow?

Adults can grow up to six plants in their own home, three of which can be flowering at once, and in a locked, contained space. It is legal to keep the resulting harvest of the plants at home, even if the amount exceeds 1 ounce. Individuals can only transport 1 ounce or less. However, landlords are also allowed to create policies for their private properties.

Where do shops get their marijuana?

Until October 2014, retail marijuana stores must grow at least 70 percent of the product they sell. So, marijuana being sold to customers on New Year’s Day will be coming from a onetime transfer from the stores’ medical marijuana supply.

What about safety concerns?

Many shops must be located at least 1,000 feet away from schools, and the state has mandated any marijuana products must be sold in child-proof packaging. Certain marketing has also been banned, in hopes of limiting exposure to children. Sharing or giving marijuana to minors is a crime, which carries similar penalties as providing alcohol to minors.

Can employers still fire people from jobs for smoking marijuana?

Yes, employers still can fire workers for using it, on or off duty. State law gives employers total authority to impose any drug regulations they wish.

Are people allowed to drive?

A state law creates a preset limit for drivers, similar to alcohol. Drivers with a reading of 5 nanograms of active THC in their systems will be considered impaired and will be cited. It is illegal to smoke or eat marijuana in a moving vehicle, but it may be carried as long as it is in a closed container.

Will people be able to take marijuana out of Colorado?

Definitely not. Every city and county in Colorado has its own marijuana regulations, so even transporting from place to place in state can be tricky. It is still illegal to transport marijuana across state lines, even if it was purchased legally in Colorado. Denver International Airport recently announced it will be against the law to take marijuana into the airport, as well.

What will happen to people in jail for marijuana-related crimes?

New marijuana laws will have little to no impact on people currently serving sentences. But in 2012, the state did announce it would close some current investigations into marijuana-related crimes.

How much money is the state making?

Business licenses cost anywhere from $2,750 to $14,000, plus local fees. In November, voters passed a 15 percent excise tax and 10 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana. That 25 percent state tax is expected to generate $70 million every year. The first $40 million will go toward school construction, and the rest will be used to regulate the marijuana business and put together educational campaigns.

Will anyone know who is purchasing marijuana?

Amendment 64 prohibits a list of marijuana purchasers, but customers will be on camera. The state’s rules require shops have a security cameras pointed at the cash register, the entrances and the exits.

This article includes reporting from The Denver Post.

Breaking ground on marijuana greenhouses in Aspen Colorado

January 6, 2014 — 

The first greenhouses designated to grow marijuana with county approval broke ground Friday.

Representatives and friends from Silverpeak Apothecary, of Aspen, hosted the official groundbreaking ceremony at its High Valley Farm, located at Holland Hills near Basalt.

Silverpeak Apothecary is a medical marijuana outlet whose owners say they hope to begin selling recreational marijuana by the end of February, depending on how the county commissioners designate greenhouse regulations at their Feb. 18 regular meeting.

Silverpeak owner Jordan Lewis said the groundbreaking is another step toward getting his business on track to sell recreational marijuana.

“Today was thrilling,” Lewis said. “The events today represent the culmination of a lot of hard work. It’s great to see some big machines moving dirt here.”

The Pitkin Board of County Commissioners voted to approve the greenhouses in August but dropped the original request for 37,500 square feet of floor area to 25,000 square feet.

When Lewis and planning consultant Mitch Haas made the original request, they asked for no exemptions or special treatment. Their goal was to show that an agricultural operation could exist in the proposed area with little environmental impact while maintaining the rural landscape.

That goal is now one step closer to reality.

The greenhouses are located on the south side of Highway 82, east of the Roaring Fork Club entrance.

Lewis acknowledged the help of Haas, Adam Roy, Greg Johnson and Scott McHale. Roy worked with Lewis to help get the construction project going, Johnson is the contractor, and McHale is the architect who designed the greenhouses.

Lewis said that depending on the winter weather, a best-case scenario would have the new greenhouses up and running by late spring.

“It’ll be a challenge,” he said. “If we get our ducks in line, it can happen.”

Pot tourism? Not on Vail Mountain, officials say

January 5, 2014 — 

VAIL — Since the passing of Amendment 64 in 2012, allowing the retail sale of marijuana in Colorado, Vail Resorts has noticed some obvious effects.

Long before pot sales were allowed to begin on Jan. 1, Vail Mountain employees noticed a rash of people openly lighting up on the slopes — including on the chairlifts and on the decks of restaurants. When employees approached smokers to stop, (as it is still illegal to publicly consume marijuana or possess it on U.S. Forest Service land), they were often met with less-than-polite responses and the insistence that marijuana was now legal.

It became such a problem that the mountain started training employees to deal with marijuana situations, said Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Chris Jarnot.

“Many employees weren’t sure what to do, so we made these cards to hand out to people to clarify that it’s not legal to smoke it on Vail Mountain, and we helped train staff to confront (offenders) and know the laws,” Jarnot said, adding that the resort is committed to keeping the place family-friendly.

The card is a simple bullet-point list that outlines Colorado pot law — namely, it’s illegal to consume it in public (and that includes in gondola cabins), adults older than 21 can possess up to 1 ounce, it is illegal to ski under the influence of pot and it is prohibited on national forest lands, where Vail Mountain is located.

Mountain officials said they’re only concerned about public consumption, not the hidden activities that may go on unseen.

“You will occasionally smell marijuana on the mountain,” Jarnot said. “Our staff is not going to go sniffing in every tree island on the mountain to root out marijuana, but when it’s openly and brazenly used, we will take it on.”

The rules are also backed by the town of Vail and the U.S. Forest Service. The town has been working to educate the public about pot regulations through signs and an entire marijuana FAQ portion of their website. The resort will be pulling passes of people who don’t comply with the laws, said mountain spokesperson Liz Biebl.

Violators who are convicted also face fines of up to $1,000.

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at

Legal pot sales: Aspen fiddles while Denver burns

January 6, 2014 — 

All over Aspen, the questions from tourists and locals have been the same.

“Where’s the pot?”

“If marijuana is legal, why can’t I go into a store and buy some now?”

There are numerous reasons as to why none of the medical marijuana shops in Aspen — and across the Roaring Fork Valley, for that matter — is yet licensed to sell the recreational product. Essentially, it boils down to red tape, and also the desire on behalf of local governments and many cannabis purveyors to proceed safely and cautiously with the state’s newest retail industry.

It could be early February, or perhaps later, before the first recreational pot shop is open in Aspen, local sources say. The city’s Local Licensing Authority meets Tuesday to decide on the lone application for a “retail marijuana store license,” submitted by Jordan Lewis, managing partner of Silverpeak Apothecary at 520 E. Cooper Ave.

Three other applications before the Aspen licensing board only are asking for approval of a “medical-marijuana center license,” which is considered a step along the process of seeking a recreational sales license. The companies behind those three applications, like Lewis, already have state-issued medical marijuana sales licenses. The requirement that state medical pot vendors apply for a city license is a new municipal regulation.

Even if the city licensing entity approves Silverpeak’s request for a recreational-retail license next week, Lewis still faces other regulatory hurdles in his quest to complement his existing medical marijuana sales operation.

Such explanations didn’t sit too well with Eric Jolson, 23, of Houston, on Thursday afternoon.

As he was walking around in the Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall, he carefully pulled aside strangers who looked like locals and asked them where he could buy “some legal bud.”

“You would think that Aspen would have been one of the first places to sell it,” he said. “My friends in Denver say there are several shops already open over there. I always thought Aspen was about the most pot-friendly town in the state. I didn’t come here to ski; I came here to burn and take in the views and listen to music and drink a few beers and have a good time.”

Frustrated, Jolson said he would check out a tip on a black-market source and then made his way down the mall toward his secret destination.

Indeed, other parts of the state are ahead of Aspen’s curve. According to a Denver Post story Wednesday, at least 37 stores across the state were fully licensed and open to sell marijuana to anyone 21 or older for any purpose. Colorado’s new laws legalizing pot sales — made possible by successful passage of the 2012 statewide constitutional Amendment 64 — allow state residents to buy as much as 1 ounce and out-of-state residents to purchase a quarter-ounce of marijuana, beginning Jan. 1, from stores that have garnered the necessary approvals.

Of the 37 stores reported to be open as of Wednesday, 17 are in Denver. The rest are scattered around the state in places like Central City, Frisco, Telluride, Idaho Springs and Pueblo, the Post story said.

State law is set up to give medical marijuana retail operators first crack at recreational sales. But they must have a new state license before they can file for a local application to go the recreational route.

Complicating the desire of some medical marijuana stores to move into the recreational market is the maze of local government regulation. Municipalities and counties worked during late summer and fall to craft their own rules after the Colorado General Assembly passed a set of laws early in the year to govern the overall industry. It was a long waiting game because even though the state lawmakers had finished their work in the spring, local governments had to wait for the state Department of Revenue, the agency with oversight of the industry, to outline more regulatory details.

Lewis, who already has secured his state license (conditional upon local approval), said that he would like to open sooner rather than later, but he doesn’t envision it happening until next month at the earliest.

Even if the Local Licensing Authority approves his application Tuesday, which would technically allow him to open immediately, he doesn’t think he will have enough inventory to keep the shop open for long.

That’s because the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners has yet to allow him to use his medical pot-growing operation near Redstone to supply a recreational store, he said. He could take advantage of a rule that would allow him (one time only) to convert his medical product into recreational sales, but he would run out quickly, leaving his medical customers without supply, he said.

“That would be gone pretty quick, and we would have to shut our doors again,” Lewis said. “We only get a one-time conversion for both inventory and plants. From a business point of view, it doesn’t make any sense. We really need to get the retail license for our farm approved for it to make sense for us to open for retail.”

State law requires that recreational sellers produce 70 percent of the products they offer.

“When our farms get licensed by the county, we’ll be fine,” Lewis said. “I know they want to do this right and they don’t want to rush it. But at the same time, they could say, ‘Let’s just let these guys get into business temporarily.’ Every day that we’re not able to sell, it’s a big hit for us financially. It would be great if they could find a way to make it happen.”

At his medical marijuana store on Thursday, would-be customers were dropping by every few minutes, wanting to purchase either cannabis buds for smoking or THC-infused edible candies. Those lacking a state-issued medical marijuana card had to be turned away with a vague promise that the recreational outlet might open in February.

“We have about 100 people a day walking through and asking us when we will open and maybe another 100 calling or emailing us,” Lewis said. “I realize this is new and everyone is approaching this cautiously, but the reality is that nothing’s going to change. No neighbors have complained. We have letters of support from them. The only difference is that one plant is going to have a tag that says ‘retail’ instead of ‘medical.’

Tuesday’s Local Licensing Authority meeting will be held at 9 a.m. at Aspen City Hall at 130 S. Galena St.

Colorado marijuana, Day 2: Summit County pot shops see steady business

January 6, 2014 — 

Before the retail marijuana movement, Nick Brown, owner of High Country Healing in Silverthorne, said on his busiest days anywhere between 85 and 90 people would visit his medical marijuana dispensary.

Yesterday, the first day for recreational marijuana sales in Colorado, more than 500 people purchased a total of four pounds of marijuana from High Country Healing.

Brian Rogers, co-owner of Breckenridge Cannabis Club, had a similar opening day, selling “several” pounds of marijuana to more than 1,500 customers. Day one sales of recreational marijuana exceeded medical marijuana sales for the entire month of December 2013, Rogers said.

And they’re still coming.

“The demand for recreational marijuana is about 30 times higher than it is for medical marijuana,” Rogers said. “We have a fresh group of people coming in and I have a line going out the door. A lot of people told me they came here instead of Utah or Wyoming because you can buy marijuana and ski in the same place.”

By midday Thursday, Rogers said he was pacing to do about 75 percent of the business he had on opening day. At 2 p.m., Brown said his headcount was more than 150 people and the foot traffic was steady all day.

“We learned yesterday that our procedures needed some improvement,” he said. “It hasn’t been as hectic, but we’re also moving people in and out of the retail shop more efficiently.”

Eventually business is going to slow, but Brown doesn’t think that is going to happen for several months. With Summit County now officially in the midst of the winter tourism season, Brown expects to see 100 daily visitors walk through his shop and much more around President’s Day, Martin Luther King Day and during Spring Break.

“This is world news and people are excited,” Brown said. “I think we’re going to see a lot of people in that senior year of college age pick Colorado over other destinations because marijuana is legal. It’s going to be good for the culture, for tourism and for our ski resorts.”

Colorado pot shops face new normal

January 6, 2014 — 

DENVER — The second day of the nation’s first fully legal marijuana industry was just a bit less frenzied than the first. Rather than hundred-deep lines outside the limited number of licensed retail shops, the queues held several dozen.

Still, there were so many pot shoppers that one retailer asked customers to come back Friday. Here’s a look at the new normal in Colorado:


Colorado has no statewide pricing structure, and by midafternoon on the first day, one dispensary was charging $70 for one-eighth of an ounce of high-quality pot. Medical marijuana patients, who worried about being priced out of the market, just a day earlier paid as little as $25 for the same amount.


Authorities are watching whether consumers take marijuana to other states where the drug remains illegal. It’s too soon to tell if that’s happened yet but some law enforcement officials say it’s inevitable. Neighboring Kansas, for example, plans to continue its use of bogus road signs such as “Drug Check Ahead” and “Drug Dogs in Use” along highways to make motorists think twice about bring drugs on the state’s highways.


Retail marijuana is being heavily taxed, with a 10 percent tax per sale and a 15 percent excise tax based on the average market rate of the drug. The state won’t have the first round of receipts until late February but it seems clear demand is strong. A trade group Thursday said three of its retail members reported between 600 and 800 customers during the first day. Colorado has projected $67 million in annual marijuana tax revenue.


The same 2012 ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado also permitted industrial hemp farming. The Colorado Department of Agriculture on Thursday released procedures for producers to register with the state and pay fees. Hemp is marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin. It can be used in foods, cosmetics and textiles. It remains illegal to grow under federal law.


Washington state voters also legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 and that state’s market is due to open in a few months. Activists in Oregon and Alaska say they have enough signatures to put legalization measures on the ballot this year. Ballot measures may well crop up in other states from California to Massachusetts over the next few election cycles.

Breckenridge’s retail marijuana shops open with plenty of green

January 1, 2014 — 

BRECKENRIDGE — The lines rivaled any seen on Black Friday, but this was no day after Thanksgiving discount deal. Rather, “Green Wednesday,” the first day of recreational marijuana sales in Colorado, brought out visitors and residents alike to legally purchase pot.

Breckenridge Cannabis Club, located downtown on Main Street, opened at 8 a.m. to an exuberant line. Customers high-fived each other as purchases were made, and those still waiting for their turn cheered as others made their way back down the stairs, brown paper bags in hand.

Co-owners Caitlin McGuire and Brian Rogers were up all night — not celebrating New Year’s Eve, but rather, pre-packaging marijuana with their staff to get ready for the anticipated crowd. A bleary-eyed McGuire said it was her first all-nighter, something she didn’t even pull off in college. But she also said it was well worth the effort, finishing a mere half-hour before doors opened.

“We’re one of the few shops in the state doing a straight conversion,” she said. “So there’s no medical product anymore — we wouldn’t have room to do both, it’s pretty tight quarters.”

Upstairs, two small attic rooms feature identical glass counters and five strains of marijuana on display, some sativa (more of an upper, better for daytime), some indica (used to treat pain, better for sleep). Four cashiers helped one person or group of two at a time as another employee worked on crowd control at the top of the stairs. As customers sniffed and prodded the product, eventually selecting a strain, the shop assistants pulled a black medicine bottle from drawers behind the counter — a pre-packaged gram, the most common amount people were purchasing at $25, before tax. The total price ended up at right around $31. Breckenridge Cannabis Club, is also offering a discount to Colorado customers.

While McGuire spent a portion of her morning checking IDs at the door, Rogers was trying to coordinate a flurry of media, computer problems and the giant crowd.

“It’s been crazy, but the good kind of crazy,” he said.

The inventory for retail stores had to be converted from old medical marijuana supply, since owners were not allowed to start growing for recreational marijuana until Jan. 1.

As the line slowly shuffled past her seat at the open door, a chilly McGuire said while they had more product available, it wasn’t ready and packaged, so she was unsure how the supply would hold up until closing at 10 p.m.

“I wasn’t worried, I thought we were well-stocked, but now I don’t know,” she said, checking an ID from Florida.

Most out-of-state license holders were already in the area for vacations or skiing, and McGuire said she saw more Coloradans than she expected. A pair from Boulder lamented in line over how they couldn’t yet get any legal retail product in Boulder of all places.

A crunchy white chocolate bar with blueberry was the recommendation of choice from assistant manager Lauren Hoover, ringing up at $18 before tax. Hoover said the store made more money in the first two hours of Jan. 1 sales than they had in the past three months of just selling medical marijuana.


While the line grew outside, in temperatures approaching the teens but feeling more like zero, many in the crowd said they didn’t mind the wait.

“I’ve been waiting in line about 20 minutes, but that’s nothing compared to waiting like 30 years for this to happen,” one woman from California said.

Besides the marijuana itself, customers could also purchase an array of marijuana edibles, such as truffles, mints, soda and fruit chews. A few had to be turned away as well: a man who had expired documents, another who only had a temporary license with no photo.

The big seller of the day at Breckenridge Cannabis Club, was the Snow Cap sativa. Customers spent anywhere from $30 up to $300, with the average customer grabbing a gram or two of marijuana and an edible or two as well. All purchases were in cash, since it’s difficult for marijuana stores to get bank accounts because of federal regulations. The store wasn’t able to keep their bank account after it was found out they weren’t simply a gift shop, Hoover said.

“Oh man, it’s about to get so weird,” one customer from Austin told his friend as they left with two full paper bags. Hoover reminded people to take it slow, since the high altitude can also have an effect.

The phone rang nonstop, a shrill sound piercing over the winding line and the documentary film crew struggling for space. Most callers wanted to know what time the shop would be open until.


At Alpenglow Botanicals up on Airport Road north of town, there was less of a line, but still a steady stream of interested parties throughout the day. The shop, roomier and on the ground floor, offered many more pipes and varieties of strains for sale than Breckenridge Cannabis Club, and still offered medical marijuana as well — separate from the retail product. An ATM offered convenience for customers, since purchases needed to be in cash.

Owner Charlie Williams said he had no idea what to expect when he opened at 9 a.m. Alpenglow beat its best medical sales day in the first hour of retail sales.

“After the first day or two, we might lose some of the people who are just buying today because they can,” he said. “But we’re also a resort community, and we get people in from all around the country all the time.”

A group of students from the University of Illinois made the long road trip to ski over winter break, but timed their vacation in order to be here for Jan. 1.

“It’s crazy we can do this,” one friend said as he handed over his cash to make his purchase. “I can’t believe we’re here right now.”

By 3 p.m., the line at Breckenridge Cannabis Club had reached the end of the block, even outmatching the line across the street at Starbucks. Even tourists and locals not in line stopped to take pictures of the group filling up the Main Street sidewalk, some posing for pictures in front of the crowd or the store’s sign. Friends from Georgia waited to become part of the historical day, something they wouldn’t be able to experience deep in the Bible belt. Scott, who only wanted to be identified by his first name, said he was very excited about the possibilities that awaited him at the top of the staircase.

“This is something to tell your grandchildren about,” he said. “The wait, the weather, it’s whatever. This is a historic day.”

Legal marijuana: Summit County pot shops overrun with buyers on day one

January 6, 2014 — 

On Wednesday, recreational marijuana establishments opened all across Colorado, offering for the first time legal weed to residents and visitors. Shortly after the start of “Green Wednesday” reports began to surface of long lines of people waiting to get their first taste of legal marijuana. It was no different in Summit County.

Nick Brown, owner of High Country Healing in Silverthorne, opened his doors at 10 a.m. By 3:30 p.m. he estimated more than 300 people had been through his shop.

“I’m still pinching myself right now,” Brown said. “I knew it would be big, but I never thought it would be this big.”

Brown estimated about half of his customers Wednesday were from out of state and waited in line for upwards of 40 minutes for their turn to enter High Country Healing. Brown also was able to steal some of the Denver market. One Front Range couple, after learning lines at Denver marijuana shops were four to five hours long, opted to make the snowy drive to Silverthorne instead, Brown said.

“We’ve helped people from all over the country, all walks of life and all ages,” Brown said. “It’s good to see how marijuana has been desensitized across all age groups. Everyone is just really happy to be here and I think that speaks to the mentality of the cannabis culture.”

Although Brown was too busy to know how much marijuana he sold, it appeared three strains were particularly popular with shoppers, including Pineapple Express, Grape Ape and Summit Sweet Skunk, which is specific to Summit County and only available at High Country Healing.

In Frisco, Dawn Mlatecek, owner of Bioenergetic Healing Center, also features three strains unique to her store, which she said she markets as one of her primary selling points. By 4 p.m., she estimated more than 200 people had visited her store.

But Mlatecek said Wednesday’s rush really started much earlier than she expected. On Monday, potential customers started calling the shop to find out if she would be open for business Wednesday.

“I don’t think the phone has rung this much in a year, maybe two years,” Mlatecek said. “It’s been ringing off the hook for three days straight.”

Despite the excitement of finally embarking into a new industry and a booming first day of business, Brown said marijuana’s obvious widespread appeal is going to cause him some headaches in the very near future. With restrictions on the size of grow operations and limitations on expansion in place, Brown fears it won’t be long before he runs out of product to sell.

“The way things have gone today only confirms my suspicion that there is going to be a marijuana shortage in Colorado,” Brown said. “The demand is exponentially higher than the supply.”

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