Business

Golden Lottery to Issue Recreational Dispensary Licenses

Golden's lone marijuana dispensary will offer recreational sales if its application is successful.
Golden's lone marijuana dispensary will offer recreational sales if its application is successful. Courtesy of Golden Alternative Medicine
Golden is set to issue up to four recreational dispensary licenses through a lottery system, but one of them could already be spoken for.

Recreational marijuana sales and taxes were approved by a slim margin of Golden voters in the November 2021 election, but the measures were brief and left most of the details up to the Golden City Council. Those regulations were adopted June 14, with applications set to be released today, July 1.

Golden City Council had instituted a moratorium on all recreational pot businesses in 2014, the same year that Colorado opened for retail marijuana sales. Although medical marijuana sales were approved before that, only one MMJ dispensary was operating in town. That store, Golden Alternative Medicine, won't be grandfathered into a recreational license, but it will get a spot in the front of the line.

According to Golden Alternative Medicine owner Ashley Close, her business still has to go through the application process for recreational sales, but will avoid the lottery if its application is approved. She was still waiting to receive the paperwork as of June 30, but says she expects to get started on the process before the end of the week.

"For us, specifically, I feel that it's fair. The city is definitely watching out for itself, and a lot of what we went back and forth on seems to stem from the city not wanting to be sued," Close says. "Overall, I am happy with it. Would I have liked to have been grandfathered in? Yes, because that seems pretty common [elsewhere], but it didn't seem like they wanted to do that."

Awarding dispensary licenses has been a contested process as opportunities become more scarce in Colorado. Broomfield was sued twice over its dispensary application process — the town subsequently altered its qualification process and has since moved forward with awarding licenses — while towns in other states with legal marijuana have faced similar lawsuits.

"We're not subject to the lottery, and as long as we meet all of the required qualifications, we should be in good shape," Close notes. "There's a heavy lift of requirements to meet, but we're an existing operator, and we don't foresee massive changes to our current space."

For Golden Alternative Medicine, which was largely responsible for pushing the recreational sales ordinance, the transition can't come soon enough. Close says that her dispensary couldn't survive for long if it were confined to medical marijuana sales only, which recently reached their lowest point in the past eight years.

Recreational sales have also dropped significantly over the last year. Even in the face of economic inflation and dropping wholesale marijuana prices, Close is ready for the opportunity to expand to recreational sales — and with a targeted opening date by the end of the year, she hopes the market will have shifted by then.

"If this didn't pass, we definitely would have had to close down. Staying open as a medical-only store when recreational marijuana is available and easy to get is not financially sound or feasible at all anymore," she says, "especially in Golden."

Golden Alternative Medicine is frequently visited by people looking for recreational marijuana. Located in an industrial area (a requirement for applicants) right off the intersection of I-70 and West Sixth Avenue, Close knows that her store is in a good spot for retail customers going to the mountains or Red Rocks. Still, she plans to keep Golden Alternative Medicine's medical sales license after the transition.

If Golden Alternative Medicine's application is approved, then three more recreational dispensary licenses will be up for grabs after the sixty-day application period ends. 
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell