The calls and e-mails keep coming, sometimes several an hour. And they all want to know the same thing: On January 1, where will they be able to buy pot?
Good question. The state just released its first list of 136 completed applications for recreational marijuana stores on Monday, but all of those applicants still need to jump through the hoops in their various municipalities before they can sell marijuana. By mid-December, Denver — which has over 200 medical marijuana dispensaries, the only businesses that can apply to sell recreational marijuana — had received more than 100 applications to open retail stores. Current estimates have just a dozen stores fully licensed to legally sell pot in Denver on January 1...but some won't know until the last minute. Anyone who's ever tried to open a restaurant in this city can tell you how nail-biting the wait can be — but, hey, wasn't Amendment 64 designed to treat marijuana like alcohol, anyway?
While other towns have removed any suspense by putting a moratorium on retail marijuana or banning it outright, Glendale, Edgewater and Wheat Ridge should all have shops up and running in the new year. So will Central City, where the first Rush to the Rockies began in 1859: Annie's Emporium, a combo convenience store/liquor store, was the first spot in the state to get a local sales license for recreational marijuana. Annie's was also the first place to get a limited-stakes gaming license in the state, but it didn't last long as a casino. From boom to bust...or is that buds?
Still, for now green is the new gold, and the rush is on — both to open stores and to find them. Count tourists, especially skiers, among those rushing to Colorado (Washington's stores won't be open until at least spring) to take advantage of the new laws allowing the purchase of pot. But where, exactly?
Colorado may be one of the first two states in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana — and the only state to have an official song that documents the joys of smoking pot, "Rocky Mountain High" — but officials here have been remarkably prudish about satisfying the curiosity of consumers. Last week, the Colorado Tourism Office finally issued an official statement on marijuana for its constituents: "With Amendment 64 being fully implemented on January 1, 2014, it is impossible to forecast how the law may impact tourism. However, it is important to note that the law specifically bans public consumption of the drug, and smoking marijuana in public remains illegal. The Colorado Tourism Office has positioned Colorado as a premier four-season destination, and the organization has no plans to use the legalization of the drug to promote the state."
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Or even acknowledge it publicly: If you enter the word "marijuana" on colorado.com, the state's official tourism site, nothing comes up. Ditto for "Amendment 64." Conduct the same search at coloradoskicountry.com, and the screen is as white as a backcountry slope at dawn. If you enter those words at denver.org, the official site for Visit Denver, you just find an out-of-date listing for a discussion of legal marijuana: "Join Active Minds as we delve into the background of this unfolding story." But none of that story unfolds on denver.org. Nor will you find it at downtowndenver.com, where entering the word "marijuana" sends you to a page that announces, "Denver Launches Website to Address the Public's Questions about Retail Marijuana," and a link that...doesn't exist. "Uh Oh! This is somewhat embarrassing!" chirps downtowndenver.com. No kidding.
If you go to the official Colorado website, colorado.gov, you'll find a number of links: to the Department of Revenue's Marijuana Enforcement Division for retail licensing information, to the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, even to marijuanainfodenver.com, the site the City of Denver unveiled on December 9 (which is where Downtown Denver tries to send you). Hyped prominently on the home page of denvergov.org, the site reads as if it had been written by Carrie Nation, the teetotaler who once wielded her hatchet in this city. But at least it has some answers, even if they're delivered in finger-wagging fashion: "This site is intended to be an informational overview of marijuana laws in Denver, but it is up to each individual to understand and follow the law. This site is not providing medical advice about the health and safety risks of marijuana consumption or legal advice on compliance with all applicable laws."
Nor will it tell you where you can buy recreational marijuana on January 1. For that, you'll have to use a time-honored technique: finding a connection through word of mouth — or word of web. (Westword.com will be a good place to start.)
And how many shops will be open that day? Good question. All we know right now is that they will probably be outnumbered by the number of national reporters here to document how Colorado goes to pot.