Durango’s retail marijuana era had a false start Friday as the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division shut down sales at Durango Organics and Wellness Center only hours after they began.
Co-owner Jonny Radding blamed a “miscommunication” about potency testing for the marijuana flowers. He said he expects to be able to reopen the retail store next week, perhaps by Tuesday. Durango Organics’ medical marijuana operation remains open.
Marijuana shops are required to test the potency of their products. Tests measure the amount of THC, marijuana’s active ingredient.
Radding said he mistakenly thought potency testing would not be required for a one-time transfer of marijuana flowers on the first day of retail sales. Inspectors, he said, “were pretty nice about it and understood our predicament.”
A Marijuana Enforcement Division spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Customers streamed into Durango Organics in the morning as the retail marijuana shop became the city’s first to open to users without a medical marijuana card.
Peter Berriman, a friend of Durango Organics owners Radding and Aaron Miles, was brought in by Radding to be the first customer. He purchased a package of Cheeba Chews, a popular edible product.
“There are so many great things in Colorado,” Berriman said. “This is another great thing.”
Ann Perkins-Parrott was the first person waiting outside the shop to purchase. Perkins-Parrott, 63, of Durango, said she doesn’t smoke marijuana. Rather, she saw purchasing marijuana as in line with her history of political activism, from protesting war to helping register African-American voters and backing abortion rights.
She called Friday’s opening a “historic moment.”
Radding opened the door to a short line of waiting customers. “All right, here we go,” he said. “It’s opening day.”
The city of Durango began accepting applications for retail marijuana July 1. Durango Organics’ application was approved Tuesday by the Local Licensing Authority, and a city inspector gave the location his OK on Wednesday.
Animas Herbal Wellness Center also was licensed, but the store won’t open for retail sales until mid-October, when construction on its building is expected to be finished.
The opening of Durango Organics, Durango’s first retail pot shop, came nearly nine months after sales began in Denver, Telluride and other Colorado cities. State rules allowed for retail marijuana sales beginning Jan. 1.
Durango Organics, 72 Suttle St., also operates a medical marijuana dispensary that opened in 2010. The two businesses are side by side. A sign with arrows points customers to the appropriate door.
Prices for retail marijuana tend to exceed those for medical marijuana because of an additional 10 percent state sales tax on retail pot. But the opening of retail outlets could draw visitors to Durango because customers don’t need a Colorado medical marijuana card to get in the door.
David Gardino of Harrisonville, Missouri, said he was passing through Durango on a long vacation. He bought a couple hundred dollars worth of marijuana products.
“I can get it cheaper (in Missouri), but it’s not as good,” he said.
In July, a state report estimated that out-of-state visitors were responsible for about 44 percent of Denver-area retail sales and about 90 percent of retail sales in heavily visited mountain communities.
Radding said it’s too early to know how strong a draw retail marijuana will prove to be for out-of-state visitors. Visitors can buy up to a quarter-ounce, while Colorado residents may buy up to an ounce.
Durango Organics was charging Colorado residents $20 per gram, $55 for an eighth of an ounce, $100 for a quarter ounce, $190 for a half ounce and $360 for an ounce. Out-of-state customers paid prices that were 25 to 40 percent higher.
Edibles seemed to be popular among customers Friday. One 62-year-old woman, Nikki, who would not provide her last name, was looking for candies.
A young man, who also declined to be identified, purchased two THC-laced sodas for $20 each. The sodas contain 100 mg of THC, or 10 times the recommended dose.
“You want to sip it,” he said.