Fearing they will sell out, marijuana shops are rationing the amount of pot customers can purchase

Pot shops: Struggling to meet marijuana demand

DENVER - Just six days after they opened for business, many Colorado marijuana shops say the demand for recreational pot is so high they have to ration the amount they sell customers to avoid selling out.

At a downtown Denver dispensary, the Lodo Wellness Center on Wazee Street, the owner is limiting customers to an eighth of an ounce, even though it's legal for each customer to purchase a full ounce.

Some retail marijuana shops and their suppliers are finding they can't keep up with demand. The long lines many have died down, but demand is still brisk.

"I expected to have some business," said Linda Andrews, owner of Lodo Wellness Center. "I didn't expect it to be that big."

Because of that, Andrews says there are a host of new complications.

"Well, we are still limiting our purchases," she said. "If we stopped imposing those limits, we could definitely sellout."

Lodo Wellness Center's edibles supplier, Elixirs and Edibles, is also having trouble keeping up.

"We thought we had enough supply to get us through January," said a spokesman for Elixirs and Edibles. "We ran out in three days."

Elixirs and Edibles is scrambling to produce more.

"This is the last [product] in their whole factory -- everything they had," said a pot shop employee. "So, we have to make it last."

From chocolate truffles to marijuana infused soda -- many shops are also limiting customers to one of each type of edible.

"We have to work on expansion right now," said Andrews. "And limiting at the same time in order to make it work."

Andrews showed 7NEWS the grow operation in the basement. While it looks well-stocked, she said supplies are already falling behind demand.

Especially with so-called "snow birds," customers coming from all over the country, like Irene Yukash and Tyler Smith from Boston.

"We're sleeping out of the car," said Smith.

"And we figured, well, this is something we've never experienced -- so let's do it," said Yukash.

Yukash and Smith say they were also shooting a documentary of their nine-stop cross-country roundtrip on a $1,000 budget. 

They made stopping in Denver a priority.

"We had to do it for this," said Smith. "I smoked as a teen and I was always running from it, looking over my shoulder. Now, I don't have to."

Another problem for the booming marijuana businesses is that many banks will not do business with them because marijuana use and sales are still illegal under federal law.

At Lodo Wellness Center, Andrews said all the cash coming in is also an issue for retail shops, although a good problem to have.

"It would be nice if the banks would work with us," said Andrews. "We're figuring out some systems. We've got safes. We don't keep (cash) here."

The Denver City council voted unanimously Monday night to approve a proclamation asking for marijuana businesses to have access to federal banking institutions.

The request was made as the National Cannabis Industry Association released a statement that Colorado recreational marijuana businesses rang up "well over $5 million in sales in the first five days of operation."

Yet, because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, processing money from marijuana sales could put federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges.

Colorado became the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational use after state voters passed a ballot measure, Amendment 64, in 2012. Under the law, people 21 and older to can  possess up to 1 ounce of pot and grow up to six marijuana plants.

State licensed stores selling marijuana for recreational use opened on New Year's Day. People have been been able to use marijuana for medical reasons with a doctor's recommendation in Colorado since state voters passed Amendment 20 in 2000.


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