Since Colorado legalized recreational cannabis in 2014, Lakewood has only permitted medical dispensaries, but that changed in November, when voters approved recreational dispensaries within city limits through a citizen-initiated ordinance.
Dispensary chains Ascend Cannabis, Golden Meds, Kaya Cannabis, Levels and the Clinic have all been approved for retail marijuana sales, with licenses and modification permits slowly rolling out, according to Claussen.
Although only five stores have been approved so far, the remaining dispensaries are making sure they don't lag behind. Lakewood only allows existing medical dispensaries in good standing to apply for retail marijuana licenses, and building modification permits are required to separate recreational and medical marijuana sales for businesses that choose to serve both.
Recreational cultivation is also permitted under the ordinance, and Lakewood Public Information Officer Stacie Oulton anticipates heavy interest among business operators.
Ascend Cannabis, a medical dispensary in Lakewood since 2010, recently opened one of Littleton’s first retail marijuana dispensaries but is still waiting on approval from Lakewood to modify its current medical dispensaries for recreational sales, according to owner Scott Embree.
"It could be a long process due to COVID, since the city doesn't have many people overlooking [permits] at the moment," he explains. "It's about time."
The Clinic has been serving medical marijuana patients in Lakewood since 2014, and has plans to add additional 200 square feet for recreational sales to its existing facility, according to marketing representative Lauren Carter.
"We’ve always prided ourselves on being a great medical cannabis provider, and are excited to serve new recreational consumers in the neighborhood, as well," Carter says.
Of Lakewood's five other medical dispensaries that weren't on the first list of approved licenses, three have already applied or are still in the process. Cross Genetics is close to finishing an application for a retail sales license, according to the company, and plans to buy the building next door to expand the cultivation for a recreational permit.
Ajoya plans to apply for a retail license, as well, but is still designing plans for an entirely new Lakewood property that will include retail sales. According to Ajoya business consultant Kate Heckman, modifications to the new space will take a few more months, and the dispensary hopes to reveal its new location to the public soon. Features like a community garden, exterior artwork and murals and a potential drive-thru option are being discussed. "We're really looking at a forward-thinking way of approaching the expansion," she says.
Nate Gentry, general manager at Leiffa, says the dispensary plans to continue serving medical marijuana to eighteen-and-older medical patients, but adds that Leiffa is moving forward with recreational applications, too, which would require building modification. Leiffa hopes to continue operating at its current facility, with a new floor plan and other minor modifications being discussed, he explains.
"We've seen what recreational cannabis has done for Colorado, and we hope it will do the same for Lakewood," Gentry says. "We're very excited to see what the market will look like here."