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Medical marijuana experience no longer required for state retail license

Expect to see more bud bars in Colorado this October.
Expect to see more bud bars in Colorado this October.

While Washington has yet to open a single retail marijuana store, Colorado marked its its six-month anniversary with recreational cannabis last week. And as with many committed relationships, there's more trust going forward.

See also: See the 88 recreational shops that have opened in Denver since January 1

Starting July 1, Colorado applications for retail marijuana business licenses no longer require current ownership of an operational medical marijuana business. The state is currently accepting new applications, with approved companies able to open as early as October 1. But even though the MMJ requirement has been removed, an applicant must still qualify as a resident of the state -- for at least two years.

The move could bring hundreds of new businesses and jobs to the state and change the landscape of the retail pot industry.

On October 1, the change will also allow retail stores and growing operations to concentrate on more specific services. Previously, retail marijuana businesses had to abide by the same requirements as the medicinal industry -- meaning dispensaries were required to grow at least 70 percent of the pot they sold.

"This doesn't change anything in the application process," says Natriece Bryant, spokeswoman at the Colorado Department of Revenue. "Every dispensary still needs to pass the same inspection and regulation as before."

As of last month, the Colorado Department of Revenue had received 292 Notice of Intent forms, which declared an applicant's plans for a retail business license. How many of those applicants were for retail dispensaries and how many for cultivation centers is unknown.

Also still hazy is the effect that lifting the MMJ requirement will have on Colorado's recreational market. Denver, already home to 88 retail shops, had previously placed a moratorium on any applications from non-MMJ license holders until 2016. Colorado Springs also has a moratorium. Aurora has no retail dispensaries, but started accepting retail applications on July 1 and has a citywide limit of 24 shops.

The state's tax revenue from retail sales was a little less than $11 million through April -- solid but unspectacular, and Westword's William Breathes recently reported on Colorado's rising number of medical patients despite recreational legalization.

Toni Savage Fox, owner of 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, thinks the new changes could hellp the industry -- but there's also the potential for hurt. "Anytime the prices drop, that's a good thing for the consumer, and we're absolutely fine with that," Fox says. "Our concern as an industry is at the cultivation level. The state already has a surplus, so where will all of this cannabis go?"

Well-aware of the predicted pot shortage in Washington once those stores finally do open, Fox says she thinks Colorado is preparing for some interstate commerce up north. "All they're waiting on is federal approval," she says. "And then they'll start selling to Washington."


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