Ryan Griego: An update from Colorado

A few weeks ago the folks at Cannasseur, a recreational dispensary in Pueblo, Colorado, contacted me and asked if I was interested in writing about them.

It’s a bit out of our area (we cover Clark County, Washington for the most part), but since Pueblo isn’t that far from Colorado’s New Mexico border I thought it would be interesting to see how their state border tourism situation compared with ours.

Below is the guest post they sent me. Hope you enjoy! It’s interesting to see how their area parallels ours.

-SueVo (sue.vorenberg@columbian.com)

Marijuana Tourism in Colorado and the State of Legalization
By Ryan Griego

Upon opening the doors for recreational sales at Cannasseur in May of 2014, we noticed that the majority of our business wasn’t coming from locals but rather from a drastic influx of out-of-state visitors.

(inside Cannasseur)
(inside Cannasseur)

In fact, we estimate that upwards of 80 percent of Cannasseur’s revenue comes from bordering states that have not yet legalized recreational marijuana.

Located in Pueblo West, Colorado, the dispensary is a mere hour and a half drive from the state border.

Many of our customers hail from Colorado’s neighboring states to the south, west and east, including Oklahoma, Kansas and Utah.

The largest factions of Cannasseur’s out-of-state clientele come from Northwest Texas, Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Tourists traveling to Colorado often come right up I-25 through Pueblo, and on their journey it seems many are taking the time to visit our dispensary for an experience they can’t get at home.

Many of our out-of-state customers purchase the maximum amount of marijuana they are allowed (although they wish they could buy more). According to Colorado state law, nonresidents are limited to buying seven grams, or a quarter of an ounce, per day.

As it is illegal for people to cross state lines with marijuana, we refer our customers to marijuana-friendly hotels in the areas so they can enjoy their products. Other than that, we don’t get involved in what our customers do after they leave the dispensary.

We do tell customers it is illegal for them to return to their home state with marijuana products. We want them to be informed about the state regulations for marijuana use.

Interestingly, we’ve found that our typical customer is 45 years of age and older, and usually middle- to upper-class.

They are certainly not what many would consider the average stoner, but rather are established adults who are interested in either trying marijuana for the first time or getting back into the practice they had given up after college.

Their children have grown up and are out of the house; they may be retired and looking for something new. Others are true aficionados who are looking for top-of-the-line products and are willing to pay a little extra for quality.

Marijuana tourism is definitely flourishing. One of our main questions when we opened Cannasseur was ‘are people really going to drive to Colorado to visit our dispensary?’

(outside Cannasseur)
(outside Cannasseur)

We’ve found that, yes, they are. Dispensaries have become a destination experience for many people who are willing to drive up to 12 and 14 hours just to be able to legally purchase and enjoy recreational marijuana.

Moreover, the recreational marijuana business in Colorado is growing and the state is no worse off for it. Despite some concern about how legalized marijuana would affect Colorado’s culture, evidence shows the state’s tax revenue is up by millions, crime is down by 10 percent and marijuana sales have totaled hundreds of millions of dollars.

The marijuana industry is flourishing, and so far the positives vastly outshine any negatives.

In the wake of Colorado’s success with legalized marijuana, more states are considering similar legislation. Recent polls show that the majority of Americans are in favor of marijuana legalization. A 2013 Gallup poll revealed that 58 percent of the country believe that legal marijuana should be the norm and that dispensaries are legitimate businesses.

States are beginning to recognize the benefits of recreational marijuana, especially in terms of revenue kept in state from cannabis sales. The next few elections will be crucial for states’ policies on marijuana use.

Oregon, California and Alaska will have measures on their ballots that will, if passed, legalize possession of pot for recreational consumption.

It has been predicted that many states will eventually decide to legalize recreational marijuana use, based solely on the revenue potential as well as evidenced from states like Colorado and Washington that have experienced marked success and few drawbacks from legalization.

We are proud to be operating in a state at the forefront of this movement. And while we welcome our out-of-state customers, we look forward to the spread of legalization both on a state-by-state basis as well as federally.