Marijuana: Will recreational shops run out of weed shortly after January 1?

Legal cannabis sales start January 1, and a handful of dispensaries will be opening their doors at 8 a.m. to help kick off a green new year. But will there be enough to keep up with demand?

Denver City Council mulled that question on Monday night, with Councilman Charlie Brown pondering if people will camp out for hours at what will only be a handful of stores, just to be there when the doors open.

Dispensaries are allowed to transfer 15 percent of their inventory over to the recreational side, and that means 15 percent of everything: mother plants, flowering plants, bud inventory, hash, edibles and anything else with THC involved. But several dispensary owners say that just won't be enough.

An employee of one dispensary that has applied for a dual-use license said the business already sells 100 percent of everything it grows each month on the medical side. Based on that -- and until the store can get its recreational grow up to production -- the employee (who asked not to be named) figures the center will be able to keep the recreational side open for a week, at best, even if the demand is a quarter of what it is for medical cannabis.

Managers at The Health Center told us they were facing similar issues, adding that they will probably raise prices on recreational cannabis, hoping to spread it out among more buyers and get their name out that way.

But the shortage of recreational cannabis for sale might also be hampered by the lack of open shops. There are more than 100 applications in Denver. While just who is applying is protected information, dispensaries around town with scheduled hearings are required to post a large white sign in front of their shop -- and plenty have begun popping up in recent weeks.

Still, according to Denver licensing officials, no more than a dozen shops will be ready by January 1. Part of the lag is due to a delay in starting the hearing process for the medical marijuana dispensaries wanting to convert to recreational shops or dual-use shops. Each shop has to go through a public hearing, much like a liquor store or a restaurant that serves booze, and currently there are only two hearings per day. After the hearings, the shops have to be inspected five time by various state and local building and fire officials.

Toni Fox, owner of Denver's 3D Dispensary, says her application has been ready to go with "t's crossed and i's dotted," but was still waiting on inspections as part of the licensing procedures. Fox told the Huffington Post this week that there's a growing sense among applicants that city officials, including Mayor Michael Hancock, are purposefully dragging their feet on a program they don't want to implement.

"He's never been a supporter of the industry from day one," Fox told HuffPo. "I feel like we're fighting against a city government that doesn't want us even though the constituents have voted us in. It's very frustrating."

*An earlier version of this story was incorrect. 3D MMC representatives say they expect to open Jan. 1.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: California advocates consider best ways to follow Colorado's legalization lead."

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William Breathes
Contact: William Breathes