A customer checks out at the counter in April 2015 at the new Good Chemistry pot shop in Aurora. (Brent Lewis, The Denver Post)

Retail pot is hot in Aurora, one of Colorado’s biggest cities

Six months into Aurora’s venture of recreational marijuana sales, city officials say after a slow start everything is going about as well as could be expected.

In January, the city collected about $103,000 in tax revenue and another $109,000 in February. In the last three months of 2014, as a few stores opened, Aurora earned a little over $100,000 total.

By the end of 2015, the city expects to have between $1.5 million to $2 million in revenue from legal pot sales.

And those who waded through the process and claimed one of the city’s 24 licenses are starting to see big dividends.

With no previous pot sales, Aurora used a point system to rank and issue 24 recreational marijuana business licenses — four in each City Council ward or district — and so far 23 licenses have been awarded. The point system led some to criticize the city, saying it was squeezing out the mom-and-pop pot shops.

Maybe they were right.

“There’s always room for improvement if you look back, but overall I am very proud of the way we implemented our ordinance,” said City Councilman Bob Roth, chairman of a committee that created rules for recreational marijuana. “I think we did get some heat from some people saying ‘Why are you micro-managing it?’ But I don’t think we wanted the mom-and-pop shops, at least initially.”

Recreational marijuana stores were allowed to open in Aurora on Oct. 1, but it took a few weeks before the first store, Euflora, opened near Southlands mall.

Since then, 11 recreational pot shops have opened in the city, and there are two grow operations currently in business, including one that is 20,000 square feet.

It’s not known whether Aurora has seen an increase in criminal activity, including public consumption, because of recreational sales.

Sgt. Scott Pendleton of the Aurora Police Department said that one or two retail pot stores have had attempted break-ins. Police responded to one shop that reported a disorderly person inside.

“Those places do a pretty good job of policing themselves,” Pendleton said. “They don’t want any trouble.”

Police are seeing more illegal home-grow operations, but that’s been happening for about four years, he said. Last year, police responded to 144 home-grow calls, and the majority of them were illegal, Pendleton said.

The Aurora City Council has moved to ban all types of hash-oil production in homes. The city has seen at least six explosions or fires due to hash oil production since October 2013, injuring three people and damaging several buildings.

The most recent opening of a recreational store, Good Chemistry on East Iliff Avenue, is certainly no mom and pop; think more Apple store. It is modern, spacious and has four kiosks with iPads so customers can research pot.

Meg Collins, vice president of business development for Good Chemistry, said Aurora was a natural fit for the company, which also has a store in Denver.

The Aurora shop has been open since April 9, so sales numbers are still coming in. But Collins, former executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance, said expectations are high for the company’s new location.

“So far, the store is doing very well,” she said.

At Starbuds on Del Mar Parkway, owner Brian Ruden said it was a slow process getting approval for a license but it is paying in a big way.

He wasn’t able to open by the Oct. 1 start date, but he said the business is in a good location in Original Aurora and is setting sales records each month. In March, Ruden said, sales totaled roughly $200,000.

“It’s a really exciting trend now that people are finding us,” Ruden said. “All the headache and strife and nightmare to get open … now looking back I’m so glad we did it.”

Carlos Illescas: 303-954-1175, cillescas@denverpost.com or twitter.com/cillescasdp

This story was first published on DenverPost.com