By Marc Ramirez
The Dallas Morning News.
DENVER – Here in America’s Amsterdam, even locals are still getting used to the idea that they can be open about purchases once made in secret.
But with Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana use and regulated retail operations, cannabis business is smoking: Dispensaries statewide have seen sales explode, Huffington Post reported first-week sales of $5 million, dwarfing the medical transactions legal since 2009.
Much of that interest has come from Texas, and North Texans in particular, who’ve long invaded the Centennial State for skiing, snowboarding and, in the days before it became widely available, even Coors beer.
The law that took effect Jan. 1 has given Lone Star leisure-seekers another reason to visit, and unleashed a booming new economy enticing out-of-state entrepreneurs looking to cash in on the green rush.
They’re tracing the footsteps of those who already have moved, or plan to move, to Colorado for medical reasons.
“This is the new cash crop,” said Lindsey Bartlett, a “bud-tender” at downtown Denver dispensary MMJ America, one of more than
100 medical marijuana dispensaries in Denver that applied to add retail sales operations, according to the Denver Business Journal. “It’s, like, the new tourism.”
Retail purchases are taxed at 25 percent, including a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax.
And with state officials predicting almost $600 million in annual sales, travel companies have arisen to offer excursions to plant-growing facilities and arrange lodging at “smoker-friendly” hotels.
“We’ve had quite a few Texans come to Colorado to check out our new freedoms,” said Peter Johnson of Colorado Green Tours, a travel outfit “serving cannabis enthusiasts from around the world.”
Not that they necessarily want it known. At dispensary DANK Colorado, a customer who’d driven in that day from Texas refused to give her name, saying she’d called in sick to her job in Coppell.