When Capitalism Meets Cannabis - New York Times - June 25, 2010

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sun, 06/27/2010 - 21:59.

Benjamin Rasmussen for The New York Times
At the Farmacy in Boulder, Colo., medical marijuana is sold in a boutiquelike atmosphere.
State law lets sellers profit as much as they can, as long as they stay within a labyrinth of rules.

When Capitalism Meets Cannabis

By DAVID SEGAL - Published: June 25, 2010 

BOULDER, Colo.

ANYONE who thinks it would be easy to get rich selling marijuana in a state where it’s legal should spend an hour with Ravi Respeto, manager of the Farmacy, an upscale dispensary here that offers Strawberry Haze, Hawaiian Skunk and other strains of Cannabis sativa at up to $16 a gram.

She will harsh your mellow.

“No M.B.A. program could have prepared me for this experience,” she says, wearing a cream-colored smock made of hemp. “People have this misconception that you just jump into it and start making money hand over fist, and that is not the case.”

Since this place opened in January, it’s been one nerve-fraying problem after another. Pot growers, used to cash-only transactions, are shocked to be paid with checks and asked for receipts. And there are a lot of unhappy surprises, like one not long ago when the Farmacy learned that its line of pot-infused beverages could not be sold nearby in Denver. Officials there had decided that any marijuana-tinged consumables had to be produced in a kitchen in the city.

“You’d never see a law that says, ‘If you want to sell Nike shoes in San Francisco, the shoes have to be made in San Francisco,’ ” says Ms. Respeto, sitting in a tiny office on the second floor of the Farmacy. “But in this industry you get stuff like that all the time.”

One of the odder experiments in the recent history of American capitalism is unfolding here in the Rockies: the country’s first attempt at fully regulating, licensing and taxing a for-profit marijuana trade. In California, medical marijuana dispensary owners work in nonprofit collectives, but the cannabis pioneers of Colorado are free to pocket as much as they can — as long as they stay within the rules.

The catch is that there are a ton of rules, and more are coming in the next few months. The authorities here were initially caught off guard when dispensary mania began last year, after President Obama announced that federal law enforcement officials wouldn’t trouble users and suppliers as long as they complied with state law. In Colorado, where a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana was passed in 2000, hundreds of dispensaries popped up and a startling number of residents turned out to be in “severe pain,” the most popular of eight conditions that can be treated legally with the once-demonized weed.

More than 80,000 people here now have medical marijuana certificates, which are essentially prescriptions, and for months new enrollees have signed up at a rate of roughly 1,000 a day.

Read more at NYTimes.com here

AttachmentSize
27pot-chameleon600-custom5.jpg47.42 KB