Medical marijuana dispensary applications: 700-plus, earning Colorado $7 million

Every Colorado dispensary and associated business had to apply for a state license by August 1 -- which means we finally have a total number of Colorado pot shops willing to navigate the state's new rules and fees. The tally: 717 dispensaries, 271 marijuana-infused product manufacturers and 1,071 grow facilities -- in total earning the state $7.34 million in fees.

Considering that there are roughly 105,000 medical marijuana patients in Colorado, that breaks down to about 150 patients for every dispensary in the state.

When the dust settles, the number of dispensaries may actually be slightly higher, says Department of Revenue spokesman Mark Couch, since there are roughly a hundred mail-in applications that have yet to be processed. In total, the department received slightly more applications than it expected, since it had figured about half of the 1,100 or so dispensaries that officials had guessed had opened shop in the state would actually go through with the application process.

The numbers also shed light on the size of most Colorado dispensaries. All but 35 of the 717 dispensaries applied for a "Type 1" medical marijuana center license, meaning they serve 300 or fewer patients. Only fifteen applied for a Type 2 license, meaning they work with 301 to 500 patients, and twenty applied for Type 3, reserved for behemoths with 501 or more customers.

What's interesting is that there are more grow-facility license applications than the total number of dispensary and product-manufacturer applications, even though only dispensary owners or product manufacturers can own a grow facility. That's because several business owners appear to own more than one grow facility, according to Couch. "It protects them," he says. "If they have blight on a grow at one facility, they will still have another source for their crops."

Still, other questions remain. For example, how many businesses will make it through the application process and actually be granted the all-important state license?

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner