Marijuana: Buying recreational pot in Denver

Westword has a team of writers and photographers around Colorado today covering the start of legalized cannabis sales to adults 21 and up. Though the rest of the Westword blogs are sleeping today, we'll be updating The Latest Word through the day with dispatches from the field.

Read on for William Breathes' account of The Clinic on Colorado's last-minute opening.

As of 4:45 New Years Eve, The Clinic wasn't going to open for recreational sales today. But some last-minute scrambling, pleading and begging got them through the process enough to legally open their doors this morning at 8 a.m.

See also: Recreational marijuana sales begin in Denver

The crowd was minimal at that point, with a lone would-be customer who drove all night from Montana outnumbered by a few reporters sensible enough to avoid the media circus at other dispensaries (we got reports that cameramen were openly cursing each other well before 8 a.m. at Denver's 3-D).

Over some softly-playing Bob Marley, general manager Ryan Cook said that he was in line at the state Department of Revenue at 8 a.m. yesterday morning asking for his inspection card. After that, he said it was a mad dash to get the various city inspections made before 5 p.m. when he had to have everything over to the state Marijuana Enforcement Division for final approval - after 5 p.m. he said.

"They waited for me," he said, almost apologetically. "They were being helpful, but I know they were irritated in the same sense. But what do you want me to do?"

(Full disclosure: I met Cook in person several years ago after reviewing their medical marijuana center on Colfax, so this wasn't exactly my usual secret shopper routine)

The shop has what is called "virtual separation", meaning medical patients and recreational patients can shop in the same room. Check-in is the same as it has always been, with a small window in the waiting room near the locked security door leading back to the bud bar. But unlike medical marijuana purchases, all I had to do was hand over my Colorado ID for a quick visual check, and I was through the doors into the bud bar for my selections - of which the Clinic was limited due to such short notice.

The shop didn't have much to offer, only five strains - but that should grow considerably over the next few months (along with every other recreational shop's supply). The shop had five strains on deck, including a funky Chemdawg-cross called Shakedown, Grape Skunk, and a rich, OG-funky Grunk. It's not a ton of product and Cook said he had to buy some product from another dispensary so they could transfer it over to retail and also offer some lower-priced strains. And lower-priced is a relative term. On the menu: $50 eighths of anybody else's product, $60 eighths of Clinic herb, $70 for their top shelf - all plus tax. Currently, top-shelf medical cannabis for non-members at The Clinic is around $55.

I tried hard not to laugh out loud when I heard the prices, but failed. From what we are hearing, jacked-up costs are part of the game right now. There were reports of a shop in Breckenridge charging as much as $25 a gram before taxes across the board. No deals on eighths, nothing.

But Cook said prices would "definitely" come down to more reasonable levels once they've paid off licensing fees and all of the initial costs. He also said that they have to get their inventory up to production, which might take a while since they were only able to transfer over 15 percent of their living plants last night.

"We don't have a grow for this right now," Cook explained. " So I'm taking this product away [from our medical marijuana patients]. So, lets say I do sell $50 eighths, well if I have three or four pounds to sell and I spent almost $200,000 in licensing fees, how do you make this make sense? Everyone I've talked to, they are going to be up there with, if not 100 percent increases, it will be around that."

With that in mind (and the fact that there's other places to visit today), I left with only an eighth of some insanely Bubba Kush-funky Velvet Sea - a new cross from the Clinic's genticists. On top of the rubbery, new-Nike's smell of the buds was a grapey fruitiness that came through perfectly in the first few hits out of our official Westword press vape. And for once, I didn't care about what it did for my stomach pains or nausea. I just wanted something fresh and awesome that smells like Otto's jacket and would get me nice and New Year's Day baked. It's probably the highest-priced bag I've purchased in years - but the legality of the whole thing (and the fact that I was probably one of the first to make such a purchase) helps ease that, at least for today.

By ten after eight, the shop had a line full of a Texan, two Coloradans and a recent transplant who might still have been drunk from partying on New Years Eve judging by the flammability of his breath.

Manny, the Texan, said he didn't come into town specifically for the legal pot sales but said it was a nice perk. "Yeah man, this is really exciting. I can't wait to see all these jars of weed."

One of the Coloradans who didn't give his name said he tried to stop by "a place on Broadway" but saw a line wrapping around the block and a zoo of media trucks and decided to keep heading south.

Check back in with The Latest Word throughout the day for more marijuana updates.

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William Breathes
Contact: William Breathes