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More dispensaries than Starbucks stores in Denver? So what?

Back in the fall of 2009, trying to get a handle on the growing medical marijuana business, Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown visited Los Angeles, where he discovered that there were more dispensaries than Starbucks outlets. In January 2010, the Denver Post reported that there were now more dispensaries than Starbucks stores in Denver -- a statement that got a lot of international attention when William Breathes repeated it two weeks ago on NPR. But here's the real question: So what?

Wouldn't we rather have more dispensaries than Starbucks stores? After all, Starbucks outlets compete with all the mom-and-pop coffee shops that struggle in this city. Fewer Starbucks stores could simply mean more hometown java joints.

Under Colorado rules, dispensaries here are all essentially homegrown outfits -- and all compete with each other. They also took on spaces that landlords were desperate to lease after the economy went to hell and may have represented Denver's only real growth industry over the last three years.

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For the record, within Denver city limits, Starbucks reports that it has 44 of its own stores, along with a certain number of franchises that it declines to reveal. Meanwhile, there are close to 200 dispensaries -- the numbers are always shifting, but the trend shows the total heading down as competition shakes out the market.

And when a space opens up, maybe a local coffeehouse will move in.

Read Patricia Calhoun's "Colorado politicos have all gone to pot!," from our November 26, 2009 edition, here.

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