Capitalism and marijuana meet in Telluride

Local dispensaries see high volume sales, lines out the door

By Collin McRann
Staff reporter
Published: Thursday, January 2, 2014 6:06 AM CST
The lines were long outside of Telluride dispensaries on Wednesday as hundreds queued up in the cold to buy legal marijuana for the first time.

Thousands of dollars changed hands, smoke filled private rooms and history was made. Buyers included everyone from a San Miguel County politician to visitors and Telluride locals, and many expressed elation on the landmark day.

Though there were some regulatory issues, customers were able to buy marijuana in limited quantities from each dispensary. All three of Telluride’s retail marijuana dealers were open by 10 a.m., but by late morning an official from the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division had discovered issues with containers from at least one dispensary, which closed for about two hours.

The Green Room on South Fir Street was the first to open at 9 a.m., and it stayed open all day. First to make a purchase from the Green Room was Lucas DaSilva of Washington, D.C.

“We’re on a road trip from D.C. on the way to California, but we had to stop here to make history, man,” DaSilva said. “I’m now going to be able to tell my kids that I was one of the first people to legally purchase marijuana in Telluride, Colorado. This is amazing and an experience for me — I’m very happy about this.”

Second to open was the Telluride Bud Company at around 9:30 a.m., followed by Telluride Alpine Wellness at around 10 a.m. The lines were out the door and they stayed consistent throughout the day as customers waited an hour plus to get their hands on the long banned drug.

Telluride Alpine Wellness on Colorado Avenue was open in the morning, but by the afternoon was closed. Representatives were unavailable for comment at press time.

According to Adam Raleigh, owner of the Bud Company, the state enforcement officer notified him that his marijuana containers needed to be completely opaque with warning labels displayed on them. As such, the Bud Company was forced to shut down briefly to modify its containers. But the shop was back in action by early afternoon.

“The first day is hectic and crazy, but other than the one hiccup we’re doing fine,” Raleigh said. “We had a lot of people help out and put labels on — it was awesome. They sat out there and literally knocked out hundreds of those things.”

Those lining up to buy pot included people from all walks of life. Many had traveled from Montrose while others had crossed the county to not only enjoy Telluride but to take advantage of the historic moment.

One of the first customers at Alpine Wellness was San Miguel County Commissioner Art Goodtimes. Goodtimes is a Green Party member and a longtime supporter of the legalization of cannabis. He said he thinks reasonable regulation of marijuana in Colorado will be a good thing, as long as it’s not abused.

“I was one of the few state officials at the county commissioner level who supported Amendment 64 when it came through,” Goodtimes said. “One of the things [the Green Party] is concerned with is these unscientific laws that are on the books that don’t make any scientific sense such as making marijuana illegal. But yes, I’m happy. I’m a paleo hippie — twice the age of anyone you should trust.”

The passage of Amendment 64 in November of 2012 made it legal for adults 21 and older who are residents of Colorado to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana. Non-residents can possess up to a quarter-ounce.

The implementation of retail pot shops has been delayed as the state and local municipalities drafted rules for exactly how recreational pot should be grown and sold. Existing medical marijuana dispensaries were allowed to transition to retail sales first — Telluride’s three shops all fit that category.

Though the first day of sales was busy, Telluride’s dispensary owners expect things to calm down from here on out. On Wednesday, each dispensary was selling limited quantities. Buying a full ounce at one time likely won’t be available until demand dies down.

Greg Viditz-Ward, owner of the Green Room, said he is excited about the demand and has been stocking his supply for months. He said he has no idea what the market will do from here on out. However, he did note that Wednesday was his biggest day of sales ever.

“We were saving up for quiet a few months — A lot of our harvest.” Viditz-Ward said. “We’ve been saving up, kind of getting ready for this day. We have a very limited selection to start off with, a few edibles and of course [marijuana by the ounce]. Who knows what to expect? I see this like the end of prohibition, which is huge.”

Telluride is one of only a handful of towns in Western Colorado to allow retail marijuana sales. The town drafted its own ordinance this summer to set up a licensing structure and regulate the sale of retail marijuana. It was approved in September. San Miguel County also passed regulations allowing the sale of retail marijuana.