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Marijuana: MMJ dispensaries seeing flood of people looking for legal ganja

Although Amendment 64 passed last week, Governor John Hickenlooper has told us not to bring out the Cheetos and Goldfish just yet. But apparently people need a firmer reminder that there are more hurdles to be surmounted -- and we're not just talking about the feds -- before pot shops can open in Colorado.

Several dispensary owners have told us non-patients are showing up at their doors asking to buy pot. One told us he hated turning away all those smiling faces, but at least the potential customers seemed to understand once he explained the process.

Non-patients will have no access to this for more than a year.
Non-patients will have no access to this for more than a year.
Photo by Robert Fisher

I saw the confusion firsthand last week when visiting a dispensary for an upcoming review. While I was waiting in line, two people walked in off the street; with one asking if he could now buy cannabis and the other acting offended when the receptionist asked for his medical marijuana card. Other patients have told us they've spotted signs saying, essentially, "We can't sell you marijuana" on the front door of their regular dispensaries.

Nor will centers be able to sell you marijuana for at least a year -- not unless you have a medical marijuana card.

For starters, Amendment 64 isn't yet part of the Colorado constitution -- not officially. After the election results are certified on December 6, Hickenlooper has thirty days to sign it -- a move he has indicated he will make within that time frame. Once Amendment 64 is signed into law, people 21 years of age and older will be able to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in this state, and Coloradans will be allowed to grow as many as six plants here. The law will also allow patients to keep their entire harvest, even if it's over an ounce.

But pot shops will still be many months away.

Continue for more about non-patients and medical marijuana dispensaries.

According to the language in Amendment 64, the Colorado Legislature must draft rules and regulations for the state's new recreational marijuana industry. It has until early May to do so, and then the licensing process will begin in October, with January 2014 the absolute earliest that any store can open -- assuming any want to be the first to challenge federal laws regarding marijuana sales and distribution.

Hickenlooper reached out to U.S. Attorney Eric Holder last Friday for some clarification, but the governor's office is keeping mum about the contents of the conversation. Presumably, then, the Controlled Substances Act as the law that will continue to guide federal officials actions, at least for now.

And though they would clearly love your business, dispensaries aren't willing to risk their current licenses by helping anyone other than registered medical marijuana patients. According to Elliott Klug, owner of the Pink House chain of dispensaries, the day after the election, dozens of people showed up at their doors, eager to buy pot. The excitement is understandable, he says, but "the law is the law."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Rachel Maddow links Amendment 64 confusion to end of alcohol prohibition" and "Amendment 64-inspired petition says Florida pot law would benefit 'stoners and children.'"