Educating visitors and residents about responsible marijuana consumption will play a significant role in the success of the recreational pot industry, the owner of an Aspen medical marijuana dispensary said Wednesday.
Speaking during an Aspen Chamber Resort Association forum on marijuana legalization, Jordan Lewis said his business will spend $40,000 on educational materials — pamphlets, fliers and videos — to help get the recreational market off to a good start.
“I think the big issue for us in Aspen as a resort community is going to be the consumption of the product,” he said, “and how we can do this in a safe manner. … There is going to be a trial-and-error period for a lot of people coming to Aspen and a lot of people who live in Aspen. What we feel a responsibility to do is educate them about the bad experiences and overconsumption.”
Lewis, owner of Silverpeak Apothecary on East Cooper Avenue, has applied to the city of Aspen for a license to sell recreational marijuana products to complement his existing medical operation. He hopes to start the new business early next year.
Amendment 64 to the Colorado Constitution, which passed in November 2012, legalizes marijuana sales to recreational users beginning in 2014. The campaign behind the amendment sought to have marijuana regulated in a manner similar to how alcohol is controlled.
However, medical marijuana shops and others who want to get into the recreational-sales game have to pass through various local and state regulatory hurdles before they will be allowed to open.
The city of Aspen passed its own rules regarding recreational marijuana sales earlier this year. Because applications from potential sellers must first clear a review from the Local Licensing Authority — which also deals with liquor-license requests — it’s not clear when the first shops will be open for business.
Lewis talked generally with the audience about the burgeoning marijuana industry. He said an estimated $1.4 billion worth of legal pot will be sold in 2013 in the United States. With recreational sales approved in states such as Colorado and Washington and more and more states giving their OK to medical marijuana stores and reforming marijuana laws, he said he expects the figure to hit the $9 billion mark by 2016.
“It’s not unfeasible that this could (eventually) become a $100 billion industry,” he said.
Visitors to Aspen already are curious about cannabis, he said. They drop into his store and ask a lot of questions.
“They’re going to want to try it,” he said. “I don’t think the demographics are much different from the demographics of people who want to come to Aspen.”
The folks asking about the new marijuana rules tend to be from fairly conservative states, like Florida and Texas, he said.
“I can’t tell you how often I hear from women in their mid-60s asking, ‘Can I buy marijuana? I’m really curious. I want to try it.’ So there are going to be a lot of people who are really new to this, who don’t have a lot of experience with it.”
At the same time that sales open up to recreational users who are Colorado and non-Colorado residents, it will be important for employers to educate their workers about their policies regarding marijuana use, Lewis said. Lewis said he doesn’t allow his employees at Silverpeak Apothecary to work their shifts if they are impaired by the product.
Getting caught by federal authorities using or possessing marijuana on federal lands probably will result in a hefty fine, Lewis pointed out. It will still be illegal to drive while feeling the effects of the drug, he noted.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, who attended the forum, said, “We don’t care what you’re on — we just don’t want you behind the wheel.”