Barely six months after Colorado residents voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use, the industry is poised on implementing as number of changes that could increase the legal marijuana outlets in the state by the hundreds. More significantly, the changes could result in a widespread reconfiguration of the Colorado pot market.
In the months following legalization, state laws mandated that only those who owned medical marijuana dispensaries would be allowed to sell marijuana to recreational users. All marijuana establishments were also required to grow their own supplies under the same laws that applied to marijuana dispensaries. With the recent changes to the state marijuana law however, even those with no prior experience in the business would be able to apply for licenses to sell marijuana to recreational users.
That’s not all the new laws changed. When the new outlets are green-lighted to open in October 2014, owners will have the option to specialize in a specific area of the industry. Unlike existing dispensaries that were previously required to grow the pot that they sell, the new businesses will be allowed to simply grow marijuana, simply sell it, or both if they prefer. However, only Colorado residents will be allowed to own such businesses.
News of the new changes has been met with anticipation–and just a bit of apprehension, in some cases–by those in the marijuana industry and by pro-legalization advocates. As University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin said, the changes would take the marijuana industry to “uncharted territory”. Kamin, who has closely followed the developments in the state’s marijuana industry since the beginning, also emphasized that these changes are unprecedented in both the medical and recreational marijuana industries.
At present, it is difficult to predict the implications of the new laws, and what impact they will have on the industry. What is certain is that a number of people in the marijuana industry have already expressed interest in applying for a recreational marijuana business license. Although the licenses were to be made available by July 2014, nearly 300 people had already served notice of their intention to apply by the middle of June. The notices do not specify whether the applicants are interested in licenses to sell or grow marijuana, only that they intended to be involved in the recreational marijuana business.
One other potential issue is where the businesses will be located, considering that some cities in Colorado still have restrictions on the operation of recreational marijuana businesses. This is the case in the second largest city in the state, Colorado Springs. Denver itself has a law in place that bars newcomers from applying for recreational marijuana licenses until 2016. Another city, Aurora, is set to allow recreational marijuana shops for the first time. However, it will impose a limit to the number of stores that can operate in the city to 24.
These are only a few of the issues expected to corporation up in the wake of expanded legalization. What is certain is that there are many more significant changes in store for the marijuana industry in Colorado over the next several months.