Chris Cook, left, and Nicole Martinez trim marijuana plants at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver in preparation for New Year's Day 2014.

Colorado marijuana shops scramble to prepare for New Year’s sales

Pot shops around Colorado scrambled on Tuesday to prepare for the New Year’s Day rollout of the country’s first legal recreational marijuana marketplace.

Denver handed out a few last-minute licenses, and some shops said they would limit sales to ensure they could meet a rush of customers.

At Evergreen Apothecary, a clock on the store’s website ticked off the hours until recreational pot sales could be made legally. By state law, shops cannot open before 8 a.m.

Employees and managers of Evergreen and other shops said their phones rang steadily throughout the day as potential customers called from around the state, the country and elsewhere.

“I’ve seen area codes from all over,” said Adam Segalis, a bud tender at LoDo Wellness at 16th and Wazee, which was gearing up for a large crowd.

Bianca Lopez, manager of Kindman, said the shop at 4125 Elati St., had gotten at least one call from Europe.

“They said they were flying in and calling to see where they could head to,” Lopez said. “All kinds of people are saying they will be here. We’re pretty excited.”

Denver officials said Tuesday they have now issued licenses to 18 recreational marijuana shops, four more than they had previously announced.

In Breckenridge, the Breckenridge Cannabis Club, at 226 S. Main St., as many as 80 people had called the shop by 1:30 p.m. saying they wanted to be among the first in line for the 8 a.m. opening, said assistant manager Lauren Hoover.

Moe Atieh, manager of CitiMed, 1640 E. Evans Ave., said he expects a rush of business, but doubts that campers will line the sidewalk when he arrives for work on Wednesday. “I expect a line, I expect media. Do I expect camping and tents in Black Friday style? No, I don’t really see that happening.”

But if he does find some folks curled up on the sidewalk when he and other employees arrive at 7 a.m. for the shop’s 8 a.m. opening, he won’t chase them away, he added. “This is a historic event and we welcome anybody and everybody to be part of history.”

Joe Atencio, general manager of Altitude the Dispensary, at 6858 E. Evans Ave., said he would welcome campers. “I’m all for it, we will be ready at 9 o’clock for sales.”

Evergreen co-owner Tim Cullen said he will not stop anyone from camping in front of the business, but he is not sure if Denver police will be enforcing a no camping ordinance at stores.

“I’m not expecting people to camp out, but I certainly expect someone in Denver would like to be sale number one,” Cullen said. “I think people will be there early, but I don’t expect campers. Quite honestly, I expect that it will be busy and we’re prepared for that.”

Atieh said he expects sales to be at least three times greater than they would be if CitiMed were selling only medical marijuana. And he believes he has enough weed on hand to make it through the day.

Hoover, Breckenridge Cannabis’ manager, said there is little chance of a sell-out.

“I sure hope not,” she said, with a hopeful laugh. “We are very stocked up. I mean, we have 50 pounds, plus hash and edibles. That would really be something if we sold out on the first day.”

LoDo Wellness’ Segalis said his shop was preparing for large crowds, but the deluge of calls sparked concern that stock on hand could fall short of demand.

“We’re as prepared as possible here, but with all the phone calls we’re getting … we’re probably going to impose a limit if we see the numbers start to drop really fast,” Segalis said. The cap would be set at an eighth or a quarter of an ounce.

Tim Cullen, Evergreen Apothecary co-owner, said he is taking measures to assure no customers are turned away.

“I guess it’s a nice problem to have for a business,” Cullen said. “We’re going to really play it by ear. We’re going to start the morning limiting purchases to residents to a half-ounce. They are allowed to purchase one ounce, but we still need to keep our doors open for the rest of the week.”

Altitude’s Atencio said he has 10 pounds of weed on hand and believes that will get the shop through the day. Hopefully it’s enough to handle sales until Saturday when he can restock, he said.

“I hope it lasts but if it doesn’t that’s a good thing too,” Atencio said.

Getting ready for the transition has been a long-haul, said Justin Jones, owner of Dank Colorado, 3835 Elm St.

“We are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. I have received all of my tags for the tracking system and everything is in place. We are dialing it in,” he said.

Tom McGhee can be reached at (303)954-1671

Staff Writers Joey Bunch, Sadie Gurman and Zahira Torres contributed to this report

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