Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, medical marijuana sellers must decide whether to pursue a permit to serve recreational users, or remain medical dispensaries, says Stateline. If they do expand their operations, how might the new recreational market change their relationship with their medical patients? Will the federal government shut them down as soon as they begin serving recreational users? When it comes to regulating marijuana, Colorado is further along than the state of Washington, which also legalized recreational marijuana use in November’s election. Colorado medical marijuana dispensaries are for-profit businesses and all dispensaries and employees are registered and licensed, which has helped legitimize an industry that’s been forced underground in most of the world. You won’t see marijuana leaves emblazoned on dispensary doors or pictures of Bob Marley on the walls. Instead, they feel like small doctors’ offices with waiting rooms and helpful receptionists.
“We’re trying to rebrand the image of marijuana in general and get away from that pot stoner culture,” says Jason Katz of Local Product, a Denver dispensary located in view of the statehouse. “As long as we can continue to keep doing that with the recreational model [ ] we’ll be moving in the right direction.” For most medical marijuana sellers, the decision to serve recreational users is likely to come down to economics—there will simply be more customers, and more money, for businesses who serve recreational users alongside medical users. “If anyone over 21 can buy marijuana,” says Katz, “why would a patient go through a $100 state registration process to get a medical marijuana card when they can just buy it without doing any of that? I think it makes sense for our business to go recreational in that it will open up our customer base.” Analysts expect that customer base to be upwards of one million in-state consumers, which for a marijuana products manufacturing company like Denver-based Dixie Elixirs, spells big profits.