Legalization of marijuana in Colorado has led to commercial success that surprised even the most optimistic supporters. Since the state expanded regulation of medical marijuana in 2014 to include its recreational use, businesses, sales and tax receipts from the newly sanctioned pot industry have blossomed, reaching nearly $700 million last year.
Bob Eschino has been in the pot industry since 2010, when Colorado legalized medical marijuana. He and his brother founded Medically Correct, which produces "Incredibles," marijuana-infused edibles that include several flavors of chocolate bars and candies. At their warehouse in Denver, they extract THC and test it before baking and packaging their edibles, which are sold at dispensaries around the state.
With the addition of recreational pot users over the past year, they’ve seen their sales mushroom.
“I don’t think it will ever be done like Colorado did it,” Eschino said. “I don’t think we will ever have that opportunity again where two guys and $10,000 can go out and get a license and build a multimillion-dollar company.”
Lots of budding entrepreneurs hope to cash in on that opportunity.
“We have seen a huge growth of retail license applications,” said Ron Kammerzell, with Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division. “We started the year with 81 licensed businesses and we ended the year with 833 licensed businesses for retail.”
Those businesses include bakeries offering pot-infused pastries and flower shops that incorporate marijuana buds in floral arrangements.
While the purchase of recreational and medical marijuana is legal, it may not be smoked in public.
Joel Schneider, smelling opportunity in that specific prohibition, founded the lodging facility, Bud and Breakfast, last year.
Based in a Victorian home close to Denver’s downtown, the B&B offers guests the freedom to smoke, ingest and do all things marijuana, beginning with its “Wake and Bake” breakfast to a "420 happy hour" in the late afternoon (“420” is a code word for cannabis consumption). Schneider, a former New Jersey attorney, relocated to the Mile High City soon after recreational marijuana use was legalized.
Just down the road from the Bud and Breakfast, LoDo Massage and Private Yoga Studio is cashing in on the crop and extracting new business opportunities. The spa is hashing out its traditional ways and giving a new meaning to "taking the high road": Its most popular specialties are therapeutic massage services incorporating marijuana-infused oils and lotions.
Manager Alexi Atkins says their use allows clients to get the medicinal benefits of marijuana without the psychoactive property.
“For our first year, we expected to do a lot slower than what we did. We exploded with business!” she said. “Instead of having to work little by little, working so hard to get every client, suddenly everyone knew about us and wanted to try it.”
That includes tourists who come to Colorado from around the country, and the world, to experience marijuana legally.