Denver Pot Shop Open For Christmas With Physician Exams

Proposed Rules Would Limit Where Pot Prescribed

On Christmas day, business was smoking at 420 Wellness Dispensary, 2960 S. Federal Blvd., after a heavily-advertised promotion.

"We have a doctor here on Christmas, who can see people who have to work. There's a lot of sick people who can't get off work to get the medicine they need," said Richard Gaetano, the store's manager.

Customers can come to the dispensary and consult a doctor to see if they qualify for a medical marijuana prescription.

They can then fill out the registry paper work, get it notarized and in about 20 minutes legally buy pot without ever leaving the building.

"I think it's fantastic for them to be open today," said Thomas Esparza, who was sitting in the busy waiting room.

He uses medicinal marijuana to treat his glaucoma, and said he feels safe getting his medicine at this dispensary.

"This is a little treat for myself. This is a nice Christmas present," he said.

About 30,000 Coloradans have applied for the state's medical marijuana registry, but an exact count isn't available because of the high volume of applications being received by the health department every day.

Health officials have expressed concern about whether dispensary doctors have real relationships with patients and have asked the governor's office to help clarify.

Governor Bill Ritter has proposed new statutory language to crack down on alleged abuse, stating that "a physician may not conduct an examination… on any premises where medical marijuana is sold."

Medical Marijuana advocate Steven Giles said the industry expects and wants more regulation in the future.

"It's getting it out to the patients and taking away the stigma it once had that's important," said Giles.

For now, he said, the dispensaries hold food drives for the needy, have Christmas sales and help medicinal marijuana patients get the gift they really need -- a legal way to get marijuana. Health officials said they have no authority over dispensaries, but that legislators might take up the issue in January.

Until then, 420 Wellness will have a doctor in every Saturday for consultations.