TELLURIDE – San Miguel County Commissioner Art Goodtimes, a member of the Green Party, was the first elected official to purchase retail marijuana legally in Colorado.
“I think it’s criminal that we demonize and make illegal plant substances,” Goodtimes said Wednesday morning, at the Alpine Wellness dispensary, on Telluride’s west Main Street, before handing over his driver’s license and cash.
The town’s first day of retail marijuana sales went well, said law enforcement officers as well as pot shop owners who served long lines of eager customers, despite a marijuana-packaging hiccup that forced a brief closure of two of Telluride’s three retail suppliers on what’s being billed as The End of Prohibition, chapter two.
Because the state has legalized the recreational sale and use of the drug, Goodtimes said, cannabis commerce can now bring economic benefits to San Miguel County.
“We’re a tourist based economy here,” he said. “People come here for lots of reasons; our beautiful mountains, our skiing, our hiking, our fishing, our hunting. The opportunity to use a plant ally in a legal way – that’s another boon to our tourism industry.”
Shopowners agree that retail sales of the drug – and subsequent tax dollars funneled to the state and local governments – are a boon to the Telluride tourism industry.
Mike Grady, co-owner of Alpine Wellness, and Greg Viditz-Ward, owner of the Telluride Green Room, reported huge crowds on New Year’s Day (with Alpine Wellness processing two customers every three minutes), and the overwhelming majority of customers, they said, were visiting Telluride.
At one point, Grady said, the line to purchase retail cannabis at Alpine Wellness stretched out the door, with customers waiting for over an hour.
“We had a number of people drive from Texas and California just to be here purchasing from us,” he said.
“We’re seeing a lot more Telluride locals come through today," said Viditz-Ward. "Many of them chose to come through on New Year’s Day. You know how it goes with Telluride locals – we don’t like to wait in any line,” he said, whether it’s “a lift line or line to buy cannabis!”
For both pot purveyors, however, the first day of retail recreational cannabis sales brought tremendous sales – as well as some headaches.
“It was crazy,” Viditz-Ward said Thursday, day two of legal retail recreational cannabis sales. “It was nuts here. I anticipated a big crowd of customers, but never expected quite so many people out here. I had my full staff on deck to accommodate all the people. Things are nowhere near as crazy today as they were on New Year’s Day, but we’re still seeing a good amount of people move through. I’ve still got my full staff working to keep things moving along nicely.”
Telluride Green Room’s biggest Wednesday seller was Acapulco Gold, a sativa strain of cannabis, but that indica and hybrid strains sold well also.
At Alpine Wellness, Grady reported Ganjulas, an infused taffy candy, was the top draw.
“As for flower products, our best sellers were strains like Peacemaker, Grape God and Hammerhead,” he added.
On the first day of sales, Viditz-Ward and Grady said their shops and employees were being watched closely by the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, the division of Colorado law enforcement tasked with enforcing the state’s retail and medical marijuana laws. Indeed, MED staffers were in Telluride to make sure pot-shops were fully compliant with state laws, and that the transition was made from medical to retail commerce without incident.
“Colorado state law enforcement made their presence known. They showed that they were actively policing the situation,” said Grady.
On Wednesday afternoon, an MED agent notified Grady that store’s packaging for retail pot was not fully compliant with the state’s strict regulations on childproofing marijuana packaging.
“We were informed that the bags we give to customers were not up to par,” Grady said. “We closed the shop until we found a solution.” Once MED dubbed the new packaging “fully compliant, we reopened our doors around 6 p.m.”
Vidiz-Ward found himself in a similar situation at the Telluride Green Room.
“Our packaging for our edibles required making a few changes,” Vidiz-Ward said. “I thought the packaging we had was totally compliant, but apparently it was not up to the standards of MED. The agent worked with us to get us up to speed, and now we’re open for business.”
While state marijuana law enforcement officials monitored the Telluride cannabis shops, Town of Telluride Chief Marshal Jim Kolar said the first day of retail pot commerce in town went smoothly.
“A couple of on duty officers smelled marijuana smoke on a few of the streets, but they did not see anyone smoking or need to confront anyone,” Kolar said. There were reports of drivers arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana, or of people under the age of 21, the legal age limit in Colorado, possessing or ingesting the drug.
“I continue to suggest for people not to smoke in public, as this could possibly result in a seizure of their marijuana,” Kolar said. “I also caution people against driving under the influence of retail or medical marijuana, alcohol or other drugs.”