Budding businesses: Owners prepare for recreational marijuana sales in Weld County | MyWindsorNow.com

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Budding businesses: Owners prepare for recreational marijuana sales in Weld County

Questions and answers about recreational marijuana

Wait. So beginning Wednesday, I can go to a pot shop and buy weed?

Kind of. Wednesday is the first day retail sales of recreational pot are legal in Colorado. More than a hundred shops have gotten state licenses, including a couple in Garden City. But shops still have to get the marijuana and related products and comply with local and state regulations. Some in Denver have said they plan to open up then, and more will likely open as the winter and spring move on.

Isn’t pot already legal?

Limited possession and growing your own have been legal all year. This latest development marks the first time people 21 or older can actually walk into a shop and buy it legally.

But the cops will be waiting outside and looking to bust me in my house, right?

Wrong. Sort of. Police will write you a ticket if they see you toking on a park bench or smoking while driving. But if you’re consuming pot in your home or on your private property, it is 100 percent legal under the law so long as you don’t break any other laws in the process.

Sweet. My 18th birthday is in February, and my coworkers want to get me some. Is that OK?

No. The law applies to adults who are 21 years of age and older. It treats pot like alcohol, and shops will be under strict supervision to ensure they aren’t selling to minors. If you’re caught possessing it and you’re underage, you could face a ticket as well.

Can my employer fire me if I smoke pot?

Yes. Workplaces have discretion on whether they want to do drug tests and whether you will be punished for failing a test.

Where and when can recreational marijuana be bought?

While possession of up to 1 ounce of weed and the option to grow six of your own plants has existed all year, Wednesday marks the first day Coloradans 21 year of age or older can legally purchase marijuana from a licensed distributor. Licenses from the state are being issued to already-existing medical marijuana dispensaries — for now.

Garden City is the only community in Weld County that will allow sales of recreational marijuana. At the time of publication, two of the community’s four medical marijuana dispensaries had been issued recreational licenses from the state and were working on final preparations ahead of opening.

Both Nature’s Herbs and Wellness Center as well as C-Nine Caregivers plan to begin selling recreational products, though not for at least a few weeks pending final local approvals and compliance with required store upgrades including a separation of medical products from recreational products.

Plus, they need to make sure they have enough product available so as not to create a scarcity that would affect their medical patients.

In the meantime, Denver on Friday issued finalized local licenses, and several of the city’s 102 state-approved centers are planning on Wednesday openings, though nobody is certain what the crowds will be like.

Regulation overview

Retailers participating in Colorado’s new world of legalized cannabis sales will have to comply with a lengthy list of requirements in order to get dual licenses from local and state officials.

For shops like the ones in Garden City that plan to cater to both medical and recreational crowds, that means having two separate entrances and keep the two completely separate.

Businesses that will continue to grow their own products must also comply with the state’s regulatory system that tracks pot production from seed to sale. The Marijuana Inventory Tracking Solution is a tool that the Marijuana Enforcement Division will use to ensure the industry abides by strict regulatory rules. MITS is an automated inventory tracking system that keeps tabs on pot production and transport from seed to sale. By using radio frequency identification tags, the system will give industry members and law enforcement a standardized process to track plants and products all the way to the point of sale. Personal consumer information will not be collected.

It will be used in conjunction with surveillance video and compliance checks to ensure businesses are not taking short cuts or straying from the strict regulatory regime.

Like most business owners, John Rotherham is no stranger to working 60-hour weeks doing paperwork, planning for future expansion and managing nearly 50 employees.

Unlike most business owners, you’ll often find him talking to customers about strains of marijuana named Cherry Skunk, Pineapple Express or Super Silver Haze in between stints of tending to hundreds — soon to be thousands — of marijuana plants.

Like more than 100 other business owners in Colorado, Rotherham finds himself standing on the edge of a new frontier in the world of recreational cannabis.

Possession of up to an ounce and the ability to grow up to six plants for personal use has been legal all year for Coloradans 21 and older, but Wednesday marks the first day in the nation’s history when you will be able to legally buy pot from a smattering of retail stores.

Though he won’t be one of the few that opens up to the masses this week, the four-year owner of Nature’s Herbs and Wellness Center in Garden City is actively preparing for recreational sales, likely to begin sometime in March.

Like many shop owners across the state, Rotherham doesn’t want the demand for recreational pot to prevent him from meeting his existing medical patients’ needs.

He serves approximately 3,000 patients monthly.

So that means even more long days at work.

“You can’t even imagine,” the 49-year-old laughs, referring of the workload he splits between his local shop and one he owns in Denver.

When he’s not working, he’s constantly plugged in — monitoring security cameras and worrying about how he can better serve his patients.

It’s a position almost all marijuana shop owners are finding themselves in this week ahead of a New Year’s Day unlike any other.

The past year has been a whirlwind of regulation talks, marijuana discussion and policy planning among local, state and federal officials.

After Coloradans approved Amendment 64 in 2012 and legalized recreational pot possession and use for adults 21 or older, the focus shifted to addressing the monumental task of paving the way for legal recreational pot sales.

Policy makers had to create something from nothing while everyone from curious residents to local authorities watched with eager anticipation.

Results trickled in all year while Rotherham and others looked on, anxiously awaiting orders for the next hoop they’d have to jump through to get required licenses and further grow their budding businesses.

What happens next year is anyone’s guess — that’s something all sides can agree on.

In Rotherham’s mind, it may take several years before every issue is ironed out — that’s what happens with anything new, he says.

But it’s only a matter of time before other communities and states see the benefits that a well-regulated system of marijuana consumption and production can have, Rotherham says.

In other words, he thinks the state’s framework is going to lead by example.


State regulators and local governments had to hit the ground running on the marijuana issue.

After voters statewide passed Amendment 64 by a 55-45 percent majority, a series of meetings in Denver and throughout the state commenced that were aimed at getting a completely new industry up and running.

No other state besides Washington was working on a similar effort.

Out of those seemingly-endless meetings came a regulatory framework that outlined exactly how the new industry would work, be taxed, be monitored, and how businesses would function.

From the thousands of pages of ordinances, definitions and applications emerged a 144-page document that explains everything there is to know about business licenses, grow operations, surveillance and even waste disposal.

That was just part of the discussion, though.

While lawmakers and people across the state worked to iron out the framework, communities across Colorado were busy making their own policies about the budding new industry.

In Weld County, the message municipalities and county commissioners sent was a resounding “no.”

One by one, towns and cities approved ordinances that banned retail sales of recreational pot, large-scale grow operations and even so-called marijuana clubs.

While communities like Greeley, Evans and Windsor opted for an all-out ban that will last for several years, other places like Kersey adopted code that made it virtually impossible for a marijuana business to establish itself.

In Kersey’s case, a pot shop could go in if it was 1,000 feet from schools and homes, leaving the only qualified spot in town on the eastern fringe where there isn’t infrastructure in place to accommodate a new business of any kind.

As was the case with medical marijuana, the wild west oasis of Garden City remains the only place in the county where recreational marijuana will be available for purchase.


While state regulators were busy hashing out a regulatory framework, Weld police forces were busy with their own marijuana topics, namely addressing a more relaxed attitude and a surge in uninformed consumers.

Greeley Police Chief Jerry Garner was adamantly opposed to the legalization of marijuana during the initial Amendment 64 discussions.

Since then, though, his focus has shifted to exploring exactly how the two worlds will coexist moving into next year and beyond.

Easier access to recreational cannabis through legal marijuana markets in the region won’t lead to armageddon, Garner says.

He even kind of laughs about that notion and acknowledges cannabis has always been in the community whether people want to talk about it or not.

It’s just concerning to him that it will be easier for people to acquire and potentially get careless with it.

“We’ll see just how much more marijuana we’re encountering out here as we move through time,” Garner says. “Maybe our fears will turn out to be unjustified, but we’re not going to know until we get into it.”

Greeley police won’t be creating marijuana enforcement groups. They won’t be breaking down doors to make sure you’re not in possession of more than your allotment of plants. And they won’t be putting officers through any special training — they already know how to spot drugged driving, he says.

But if you’re toking on a joint on a Greeley park bench and a cop notices, you’ll probably get a ticket.

Busting people smoking in a park won’t be the police department’s top priority, he says, likening it to littering in the sense that if you do it in front of an officer, you’ll almost certainly get a ticket.

“What I worry about a little bit is that relaxed attitude,” Garner says, referring to people who may not know it’s still illegal to get high in public or drive under the influence.

“What additional problems is that going to cause for us? If down the road we find out it doesn’t cause us any, I’ll be tickled,” Garner says. “I don’t think that’s going to be the case. We’ll see. We’re just going to have to see.”


For Coloradans who have seen headlines and fielded phone calls from relatives across the country poking fun at the mile “high” Front Range, the new system of marijuana laws may seem like old news.

But for the business owners whose livelihoods will be forever changed by the potential influx of customers, well, they are ecstatic.

Erica Pilch has owned C-Nine Caregivers in Garden City for three-and-a-half years. Like Rotherham, she’s been “at the mercy of the state” when it comes to getting all of the required documents submitted in line with the state mandates.

From store reorganization to an endless paper trail and business meetings to figure out how to accommodate the surge in demand, Pilch has been busy this year.

On Monday, it all paid off.

C-Nine was among the first batch of medical marijuana dispensaries to be granted recreational retail licenses from the state — a step that Pilch calls “historic” and part of a churning tide in support of decriminalizing marijuana. Denver shops got 102 licenses, one went to a Fort Collins listing, and several were sent to communities in the mountains. Throughout the day on Friday, many of those were granted licenses from local governments.

There are plenty of other things she has to get done before she can open her doors for a new crowd — likely sometime in January — but things are moving in the right direction, she says.

“I feel like life is all about progression,” she says, referring to the changing attitudes in people’s minds about the drug. “As it (opening day) gets closer and closer, the reality of it all is beginning to set in.”

Meanwhile, at Nature’s Herbs and Wellness Center, Rotherham finds himself at an interesting crossroads as he prepares to double his greenhouse in size to keep up with the influx in marijuana users from both Colorado and potential “marijuana tourists” from other states.

As one of only a smattering of shops across all of northern Colorado, he wants to be ready for whatever comes when he starts selling recreational products.

Like Pilch, his was among the first batch of licenses issued on Monday.

That’s why his business is eating up surrounding properties, paving the way for increased operations. Within two months, he plans to expand the grow area to 10,000 square feet, he says. Right now, he grows about 1,500 plants, but he’s licensed for up to 4,000.

That’s a lot of potential. As recreational sales prepare to begin, he — like everyone else on both sides of the spectrum — has no idea what to expect when it comes to demand, challenges or successes.

Like everyone else, he just wants to be ready for whatever comes.

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