Retail marijuana sales can begin next week in Colorado, but few shops have all necessary licenses

Shop owners say they can't be ready for Jan. 1

DENVER - In six days, retail marijuana sales to the general public will be legal in Colorado. However, very few shops will be ready to open by then.

Despite the fact that the state of Colorado mailed out 348 retail licenses this past Monday, shops like MMJ America with three locations, including one in LoDo, must still get a license from the city of Denver.

Other shops in other cities are dealing with the same issue. MMJ America is also awaiting a hearing for its location along Pearl Street in Boulder.

"Life and history are in the making," said Eisa Khoury, co-owner and chief financial officer of MMJ America.

Khoury and chief operating officer Marques Moore have sky-high expectations for retail marijuana sales.

"And we'll capitalize on the opportunity," said Moore. "The state of Colorado had 60 million visitors in 2012. Some estimate another 10 million will come just because marijuana is legal."

"I wish I had a crystal ball," said Khoury. "Some days we think that it's going to be a nut house and other days we think it may not be."

Whatever the case, MMJ America's three shops will not be ready for retail sales by next Wednesday.

"We are not going to participate January 1," he said.

Khoury says they have a hearing with the City of Denver on January 2, and estimates it will take another week after that to get a city license.

"And hopefully two weeks after that, we'll open the doors to the public," said Moore.

Medical marijuana shops currently in existence, must build a separate entrance in order to maintain medical marijuana sales to those ages 18 to 21.

"Two separate sides, with separate entrances," said Khoury. "This way we can continue serving the underage - or under 21."

"Nothing comes easy," said Moore. "Anything worth having is worth working for."

"My gut feeling, this is just my personal feeling, I think it's going to be crazy because you can actually walk into a legitimate store that is licensed by the state and be able to buy your choice of what you want, and walk out with it not feeling that you did something illegal," said Khoury.

"We know it's going to be a success," said Moore. "The American way."

"We expect non-smokers to buy just once for the sake of buying as well. The thrill of being able to walk through a store and calling your friends who live in other states and saying, 'Look what I just did,'" said Khoury.

The City of Denver reports it has received applications for 317 total retail marijuana-related businesses. Of those, 42 --or 13 percent -- have completed the licensing process. Of those businesses, eight are retail shops, 30 are growers and four are infused product manufacturers.

The Denver Department of Excise and Licenses will issue the first licenses beginning at 8 a.m. Friday.

When the state mailed licenses to businesses earlier this week, 77 percent were addressed to locations in Denver.

When retail marijuana businesses do start work, their products will be sold with a 15 percent excise tax and 10 percent marijuana sales tax in addition to the usual 2.9 percent state sales tax and any local taxes.

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