Doctor’s Garden in Roaring Fork Valley for recreational marijuana

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times
James Leonard, a co-owner of the Doctor's Garden marijuana dispensary in Carbondale, shows some medical marijuana to a customer. The shop was the first to sell retail marijuana in the Roaring Fork Valley beginning on Jan. 15, but they ran out of retail marijuana this past Tuesday after experiencing a high volume of sales. Leonard expects to have more retail marijuana in stock by Feb. 10.
Michael McLaughlin/The Aspen Times |

CARBONDALE — If the first two weeks of selling recreational marijuana are any indication of future business, James Leonard is going to be a happy man.

Leonard is a co-owner of Doctor’s Garden, a recreational and medical marijuana dispensary in Carbondale that became the first dispensary in the Roaring Fork Valley to sell recreational marijuana, beginning Jan. 15.

The shop ran out of recreational pot Tuesday after two weeks of banner sales, although the shop still s is elling marijuana-infused edibles. The shop’s ustomers also can buy medical marijuana at the shop, which is still in stock, if they have a medical marijuana card.

“We had retail customers lined up outside the shop every day,” Leonard said. “Even when the lines died down, the inside of the shop was still packed. The X Games crowd hit us pretty hard.”

Leonard said he had customers from all over the world stop in either to buy marijuana or just to check out the shop. He cited customers from Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, London, Russia, Australia, South Africa and throughout North America, including a heavy base of customers from Aspen.

“I think our shop has brought more people past the roundabout (in Aspen) downvalley than anything in recent memory,” he said, tongue-in-cheek.

On Thursday, despite signs outside the shop stating the recreational marijuana was sold out, customers continued to pour in. In the time between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, at least 30 customers came inside either to buy edibles or to inquire when the recreational marijuana would be available again.

Leonard told his customers to look for more recreational marijuana around Feb. 10.

Debbie Hartman, of New Castle, made the drive to Carbondale to buy some edibles. She said she was delighted to see Carbondale step forward and allow the Doctor’s Garden to obtain a recreational marijuana license.

“It’s about frickin’ time,” she said. “It’s understandable that the shop is out of retail marijuana for the time being. So many people have been coming here, which proves how much the public wanted this.”

The Doctor’s Garden started off selling as much as a quarter ounce of recreational marijuana to customers but quickly scaled the limit down to an eighth of an ounce to accommodate more people. Leonard set the prices in three tiers — the lowest prices were awarded to Roaring Fork Valley residents, then Colorado residents were charged more, and out-of-state customers were charged the most.

For example, a gram of standard marijuana cost $20 to a valley resident, with that price already including the 38 percent tax required to sell recreational pot. A Colorado resident paid $25 for the same amount, and out-of-state customers paid $30.

Premium strains cost a little more, with the highest price going at $95 for an eighth of an ounce to an out-of-state customer.

“Supply and demand dictated the prices,” Leonard said. “Nearly everyone was happy to pay what we charged. Medical marijuana customers can still buy for much cheaper as they avoid the extra 25 percent tax we have to charge for retail marijuana. Plus, our products are really good.”

In the past two weeks, Leonard said the shop made an average of between $10,000 and $15,000 a day until the recreational pot sold out. He said the shop went through about 15 pounds of recreational marijuana in 13 days. He said the shop easily could have sold three times that much in the same amount of time.

One thing Leonard made sure of was that everyone had an opportunity to enjoy their first visit to a recreational marijuana outlet, from the youngest of customers to an 81-year-old woman who wanted to try some pot.

Leonard could have streamlined the process by prepackaging the marijuana, but he wanted people to take their time and have an opportunity to take it all in.

“I wanted to allow people to really enjoy the excitement and ask as many questions as they wanted,” Leonard said. “We let them check out the different jars with different strains. Most everyone wanted a close look and to smell the product. It was like watching a bunch of kids in a candy store.”

As the marijuana ran low, Leonard said employees were scraping jars to come up with as much pot as possible to accommodate the customers.

Another aspect that caught Leonard by surprise was how the shop became an unofficial spokesman for the town of Carbondale.

“We talked to a lot of people who had never visited Carbondale,” he said. “Almost everyone was shocked how beautiful it was here, especially with the killer weather and Mount Sopris out in all her majesty. A lot of people were intrigued by this community and said they’d be back, and not just to buy marijuana.”

Leonard said he owes a lot to the Carbondale Board of Trustees for getting their marijuana regulations in order so quickly.

“The town of Carbondale has been awesome throughout this whole retail marijuana process,” he said. “They obviously respect the word of the people who voted so overwhelmingly to allow recreational marijuana. I believe they truly represented the people’s opinion.”