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Marijuana Comeback: Wanda James, Scott Durrah Return with Highland Pot Shop

When Wanda James and Scott Durrah shut down their edibles company, Simply Pure, in 2012, the enterprising Denver couple knew that they weren't saying goodbye forever to the pot industry. And they weren't saying farewell to the Simply Pure brand, either: Their  dispensary of the same name opened for recreational sales last Monday at 2000 West  32nd Avenue, in the Highland neighborhood.

The couple, former owners of Denver dispensary Colorado Apothecary as well as  8 Rivers (the restaurant where Durrah taught medical marijuana cooking classes), also own Jezebel’s Southern Bistro at 3301 Tejon Street, just a block away from their new dispensary. Their political footprint is prominent in Denver as well, since they served on the National Campaign Finance Committee for now-President Barack Obama's campaign in 2008 (James recently criticized Obama  for his lack of protection for marijuana businesses). James was also Representative Jared Polis’s first campaign manager; she stays active in cannabis politics through her consulting firm, Cannabis Global Initiative.

“We were never getting out of this,” James says of the couple's interest and involvement in legal cannabis. “When the opportunity came to buy a dispensary in our neighborhood, right next to our restaurant and neighbors, we had to do it.”

That  opportunity took more than a year to cultivate, though.

The couple bought the location in 2014 but had to re-apply for a recreational license after the previous owner let it lapse, leading to a rushed opening as a medical-only dispensary in September simply to stay eligible for vertical integration – a Denver ordinance that allows only medical dispensaries in good standing with the city to apply for a recreational license. That ordinance was just extended until May 1, while the city studies the situation.

“We literally just needed one person to buy from us in order to remain in good standing with the city, but that’s harder than it sounds,” James says. “You need to have so many things set up: zoning regulations, point-of-sale systems. It’s been quite the process.” Both veterans, they offer 15 percent off to veterans at the new dispensary.

James says she and Durrah shut down Simply Pure in 2012 due to the rising popularity of potent edibles made with cheaper ingredients; she and Durrah refused to sell $3 edibles with inconsistent results, she notes. Now that Simply Pure can supply all consumption needs of patients and retail customers alike, James says they’re ready to offer a wide variety of ever-evolving pot products in Colorado.

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But she and her husband can’t escape their commitment to good food as well as quality cannabis, she notes:  “The focus will still be educating and providing our customers with high-quality edibles,” she says. “We just can’t say ‘Simply Pure,’ because we’ve been living this now for a long time.”

James and Durrah want to open a location for cannabis cooking classes within walking distance of Simply Pure, and also plan to get  an infused-product license so that they can make and sell their own edibles in the near future. But as with their impending recreational growing facility, James says, they’re “waiting to see how business-friendly Denver is going to be.”

In the meantime, though, Simply Pure is open for business.

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