Two years ago, voters in Fort Collins, CO opted to place an outright ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in their city. Now, at long last, the pot shops are back.

In recent weeks, at least six dispensaries, all of which predated the ban, have reopened. Another 14 are planned. Shutting down for a year and restarting was a painful, expensive process, according to the business owners who are returning.

“I have to build it up from scratch again,” said Donal Cruinkshank, 51, owner of A Kind Place.

Cruinkshank opened up shop on July 30. He had to scrape together several months’ rent while waiting for the city to approve his new license application, which cost several thousand dollars. He wasn’t greeted by many customers on opening day.

“No rush,” he said. “It’s been pretty slow.”

Starting again costs one dispensary operator at least $60,000, including rent, license costs and other expenses.

“Major strains not only on business, but on my personal financial situation,” said Ken Correia, who owns Solace Meds. “I don’t know how a lot of the guys got through it. It was definitely difficult.”

Revoking The Ban and Laying Down New Laws

Voters enacted the year-long ban in 2011 after Fort Collins became cluttered with medical dispensaries. At the time, there were about 9,000 registered patients in Larimer County.

But after a year without medical marijuana outlets, the same voters changed their minds and revoked the ban in November 2012. They put a cap on the number of shops allowed in the city and put the old shops first in line.fort-collin-CO

The cost for a new license went up, however. It now costs $3,700 to obtain a new license and $950 to renew it each year. It originally cost $500 to obtain a license and $700 to renew.

“It has increased quite a bit,” said Ginny Sawyer, neighborhood administrator for the city. “Part of that is because we have the previous experience, and we had underestimated the demands on city resources.”

Impact on Business

It’s unlikely the returning pot shops will find the same demand they left behind, however. The number of registered patients has dropped by half, to about 4,600. That should increase, but it may not make any difference.

That’s because the real incentive for these shops to return will take effect early next year. That’s when recreational pot becomes legal in Colorado and dispensaries like those in Fort Collins will have a head start to serving non-medical users. The state has set an October date when dispensaries can begin applying to serve adults weed, whereas other applicants must wait until July 2014.

Pot stores could open in Colorado as soon as Jan. 1. It will take longer in Fort Collins, where leaders have imposed a moratorium that will hold off new stores until at least March. But the city’s dispensaries will still have their foots in the door ahead of other contenders once recreational pot shops are allowed.


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