TELLURIDE – On New Year’s Day, the first day to sell recreational marijuana legally in Colorado, Adam Raleigh said he was glad he ignored his father’s advice against becoming a ganjapreneur.
“Business is good,” Raleigh said Wednesday as his customers waited in line for more than an hour.
An honors graduate of Oaksterdam University in Oakland, Calif., which touts its “quality training for the cannabis industry,” Raleigh opened Telluride Bud Co. in 2010 as a licensed purveyor of medical marijuana. On Wednesday, he gained new recreational customers from across Southwest Colorado, including Mary, a grandmother from Montrose. She specifically made the hour-and-a-half drive to Telluride on Wednesday to buy marijuana.
“It’s nice to be in the company of like-minded people,” she said, waiting in line with about two-dozen others.
After a long wait, customers filed into a small room where Raleigh showcased a dozen strains of marijuana. Able to see and smell each strain, customers placed their orders, and Raleigh then used steel tongs to remove the buds from the requested container before weighing the product on a digital scale. The recreational marijuana finally was enclosed in green prescription bottles and delivered to the customer.
“I can’t believe this day is finally here,” said Greg of Durango, who also made the drive to Telluride to buy marijuana.
The day, however, wasn’t completely joyous. It started with a low for Raleigh and his customers. Shortly after opening the doors at 9:30 a.m., a Colorado Marijuana Enforcement official closed the shop and demanded that the opaque prescription bottles be covered with labels to prevent anyone from seeing inside.
“We were bad guys,” said Gary, an employee. “They didn’t want us open.”
Directly across South Spruce Street from the Telluride Marshal’s Department, waiting customers immediately pitched in to help store employees affix the sticker labels. About an hour-and-a-half later, the store reopened.
“Improper labeling,” Raleigh lamented. “That was my biggest hiccup of the day.”
Chunky Cherry Malawi, a Telluride Bud Co. sativa indica hybrid blend of marijuana, was the company’s top-selling product Wednesday. The marijuana ranged from $10 for a single joint to $300 per ounce.
“It’s our house strain,” Raleigh said.
A dozen strains of marijuana were available. Displayed in glass jars with handwritten labels, the strains included Man Down, L.A. Confidential, N.Y. City Diesel, White Widow, BHS No. 3, Dupper Silver Haze, Blue Dream, Manga Rosa, Chem Dawg, Durban Poison and Train Wreck. Raleigh also sold Cheeba Chews, a marijuana-infused edible.
Justin, a contractor from Phoenix, just happened to be visiting his sister in Telluride the day the marijuana shops opened. He said he wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to purchase marijuana legally.
“This is a historic day,” he said. “This is cool.”
Longtime Telluride resident Suzanne Cheavens agreed.
“I’m really stoked,” she said over lunch at Smuggler’s Brewhouse.
An overwhelming majority of Telluride voters approved Amendment 64, including Cheavens, who said it makes sense to decriminalize marijuana. She said she hopes the legal industry will help shut down the drug’s black market, improving public safety.
“We have to break up the cartels and end the violence,” Cheavens said.
With an abundant array of recreational opportunities at her front and back doors, Cheavens doubted that recreational marijuana would generate a significant increase in pot tourism for Telluride.
“We might get a little, but I don’t think it’s going to be a game-changer,” she said.
Colorado residents now can legally purchase up to an ounce of marijuana for personal consumption. Out-of-state residents are limited to a quarter-ounce.