Aspen pot shops joyful over feds’ decision

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

Aspen marijuana providers were delighted Thursday following the federal government’s announcement that it will not block pot legalization in Colorado and Washington state.

Jesse Miller, who owns Leaf in Aspen, said his lawyer called to congratulate him. In terms of potential investors and landlords, the announcement makes his product a lot less unattractive. He currently has a medical growing license, with a plant allowance directly linked to the number of patients he serves. With a recreational growing license, which he will apply for in October, he said that plant allowance could be much larger, depending on state legislation, which will take effect Jan. 1.

The federal government, in a memo by U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole, stated that it will not be a priority to block the landmark legislation or close down recreational marijuana stores. But there are some stipulations in the memo: The two states must keep the drug out of reach of children. They also must prevent interstate trafficking and eliminate gang involvement. If Colorado and Washington can’t follow those guidelines, among others listed in the memo, the federal government is likely to intervene.

“If you do it right, there’s not going to be any federal backlash,” said Miller, who has a 14-year-old daughter he says is “fully aware of what I do.”

“When the state regulation kicks in, that’s when you’re going to see significant change in business.”
Allie Booth
Alternative Medical Solutions

For him, she’s part of a new generation of kids that sees marijuana as a “passe” thing. All the talk about recreational marijuana getting into the hands of kids, he said, is a “fear tactic.”

Pitkin County Undersheriff Ron Ryan said kids are his biggest concern.

“Exposure to the growing brain from any chemical is dangerous,” he said.

Ryan didn’t seem worried about marijuana trafficking between states. He said if Colorado follows the model for alcohol and tobacco, which are regulated by state line, things will be “relatively easy.”

Whether the federal government’s new stance will encourage more prospective dispensers to apply for licenses, and increase competition, remains to be seen. Allie Booth, manager at Alternative Medical Solutions, another Aspen dispensery, said that will depend on how stringent state legislation is.

“When the state regulation kicks in, that’s when you’re going to see significant change in business,” she said.

Barbara Serrano, owner of One Love Aspen, which sells smoking accessories, said she will be applying for a retail license. But a seller’s license, she said, is useless if she can’t find a way to grow or buy from a legal grower. Medical dispensaries, such as Alternative Medical Solutions, grow their own product.

Booth said overall use of the product could increase. Some patients, she said, are hesitant to use medical marijuana for fear of federal repercussions. If patients are averse to painkillers, they look for alternatives. But uncertainty about the federal government’s stance on marijuana has made many shy away.

“They’re so skeptical to trying marijuana just because it’s illegal,” she said. “In that sense, it will make people more comfortable about using it as actual medicine.”