When advocates and cannabis users envision what legalization looks like, they see adults simply walking into a retail marijuana shop, purchasing what they want, and leaving. On January 1st - when recreational pot shops open for business in Colorado - the expectations of legalization will likely not be met; at least not at first.
In fact, those looking to purchase legal cannabis will most probably encounter very long lines, and many will not be able to purchase marijuana at all when supplies run out. There are several factors that will contribute to this bummer, but they all boil down to one thing: licenses.
Under Colorado's new marijuana legalization law, everyone involved in the retail sale of the plant and its related products must be licensed by the state. Employees of any legal retail shop must undergo background checks, plus get fingerprinted. There is a massive backlog at The Marijuana Enforcement Division in Denver, where would-be workers draw numbers to see if they get processed that day. State officials say they are working on the problem, but many shop owners are saying, 'Too little, too late.'
Wholesalers also have to be licensed by the state so that they can supply the shops with the products people are going to be looking for come Jan. 1. Many fear there will not be enough suppliers - and therefore not enough marijuana - to meet the demand that is coming.
Which brings us to the actual number of stores that will be open in Colorado in January. While more than 100 businesses await approval for their retail license in Denver alone, as little as five to ten could be open on the first of the year. They will meet a huge demand with fewer employees than they need and a supply of cannabis that could run out at any time. Eighth-ounces will start at $60, plus a 25 percent tax.
Some advocates place the blame for what is coming in Denver in January at the feet of Mayor Michael Hancock, who opposed Amendment 64 last year and is now dragging his feet when it comes to the implementation of the law. According to reports, Hancock hates the idea of legal marijuana; considering that he is responsible for implementing legalization in his city, "efficient" will not likely be a word used to describe the process.