There could be more than 100 pot shops in Colorado when the state’s recreational marijuana industry opens its doors to the public New Year’s Day.
According to The Denver Post, Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division reports it received 136 applications last month for licenses to run retail weed stores. Another 28 applications were filed for businesses providing edibles and other marijuana-infused products, plus 174 applications for recreational grow facilities.
Decisions on the applications will come by the end of December, allowing successful applicants to start serving customers Jan. 1. That’s the date when legal sales of recreational pot are first allowed in the state.
Colorado was one of two states, along with Washington, that voted to legalize cannabis last year. Both states are processing applications for licenses and enacting regulatory frameworks before pot shops start doing business.
Colorado already has a thriving medical marijuana industry. During the first several months of the license program, only MMJ providers are allowed to apply for licenses. Only later will the process be opened to the public. But according to the Post, few medical providers applied.
The state has 517 medical cannabis dispensaries, 138 MMJ-infused products businesses and 736 medical grow facilities. Just a fraction of them filed applications.
“It’s expensive,” said Meg Collins, executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance. “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.”
Fees for application and licensing can run anywhere from $3,250 to $14,000 and more. The Marijuana Enforcement Division estimates it brought in nearly $180,000 in application fees alone. And for customers, the marijuana taxes in Colorado will be high.
Colorado law allows marijuana retailers to sell both recreational and medical marijuana out of the same shop. All but two businesses have turned in applications indicating they intend to offer both, which could mean building walls and installing separate entrances. The other applicants plan to convert entirely to recreational sales.
Compare Colorado to Washington and its 334 marijuana stores, and CO’s current total may not seem impressive. But more applicants are likely to seek licenses, and the number of shops is likely to climb.
Mike Elliott, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, said municipal bans on pot shops have held down the number of recreational applications. But license-seekers continue to apply, he said, and more businesses could open after Jan. 1.
“I think this is a sign of a very healthy program right now,” Elliott said.