Pubdate: Mon, 28 Dec 2009
Source: Vail Daily (CO)
Copyright: 2009 Vail Daily
Author: Janet Urquhart
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - United States)


Resort's Four Fledgling Marijuana Dispensaries Are Plugging Away in a 
Competitive Environment

ASPEN, Colorado -- Selling medical marijuana in Aspen is like 
starting up any other business. It can mean hard work and little pay.

The resort's four fledgling marijuana dispensaries -- the oldest has 
been in business all of four months -- are plugging away in a 
competitive environment, where the customer base appears to be 
increasing steadily, but not necessarily explosively.

"We've been in operation for four months now. We have yet to turn a 
profit," said Quinn Whitten, a partner in Aspen L.E.A.F. (Local's 
Emporium of Alternative Farms), the town's first dispensary. It opened Aug. 20.

There were 42 registered medical marijuana users in Pitkin County by 
the end of June, 61 by the end of July and 85 at the close of August 
- -- the most recent numbers available from the Colorado Department of 
Health and Environment, which is apparently swamped with applications.

What had been a 30-day turn-around for patient registry cards has 
become a three-month wait, local dispensaries report.

Still, Aspen's dispensary operators expect that the total number of 
patients in Pitkin County far exceeds 85 as the year winds toward a close.

"I think we probably saw 85 patients within the first week," Whitten said.

"I would expect to see a slight jump in September, and for October to 
have a substantial increase," said Brett Nelson, a partner in Ute 
City Medicinals, which opened in mid-September.

Whether there is room for four dispensaries in Aspen in the long term 
remains to be seen. But so far, Nelson is pleased.

"I can't speak for the other guys. As far as I'm concerned, as an 
offseason startup, we're paying the bills," he said.

Alternative Medical Solutions has seen a slow, gradual increase in 
business since it opened in early October, said co-owner Damien Horgan.

"We have kind of an established patient list, and we see those 
patients regularly," he said.

"I haven't gone out and bought a new car or new house or anything 
like that," he added, summing up business so far.

Rounding out the quartet of dispensaries that set up shop in Aspen as 
the medical marijuana industry in Colorado exploded this year was 
Silverpeak Apothecary, which has been closed in recent days to 
remodel its space.

L.E.A.F., which now operates a dispensary in Carbondale, as well, is 
working to establish itself as a wellness clinic that offers more 
than just the dispensing of marijuana. The venture's partners 
anticipated it would take time to become established as a successful 
enterprise, Whitten said; he's working 50 to 60 hours a week.

Daily sales have declined somewhat since the dispensary opened, he 
said, citing competition from the growing number of dispensaries in 
the Roaring Fork Valley.

Only time will tell how many of the businesses have staying power 
within a burgeoning industry that is facing close scrutiny and, 
potentially, stricter regulation, as state legislators scramble to 
get a handle on the unexpected boom.

"Those people who thought they'd jump on board, I think few of them 
will stand the test of time," Whitten predicted. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake