Reefer madness: good for business

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At a time when most industries are still struggling, businesses that supply goods and services to medical marijuana dispensaries are flourishing.

Landlords were among the first to benefit from the dispensaries. Now lawyers, accountants, nurseries, builders, security companies and others are all reporting a brisk business as a result of the rising tide of dispensaries.

Colorado voters approved medical marijuana in 2000, but the dispensaries have only been sprouting like weeds since last fall, after the U.S. Justice Department said it wouldn’t pursue providers.

Because they still face regulatory uncertainty, the dispensaries have created a steady supply of clients for the law firm Black & Graham in Colorado Springs.

About 25 percent of the firm’s business is from medical marijuana dispensaries and growers.

Staying current with federal, state and local rules and regulations, said Clifton Black, is keeping him busy.

Despite the lingering stigma surrounding the industry, he said all the growers and caregivers he’s worked

with have been very professional.

He’s not concerned about what other clients think of his niche.

“Overall, it’s better for people to see that we represent our clients no matter what the issue is, so (in the long run) it brings in more business than it takes away,” Black said.

“(Most of the dispensaries) are well-run, like other businesses,” he added. “Soon dispensaries will be like a liquor stores or drycleaners. People won’t stop and stare while they’re driving by.”

At Mayotte & Varner Accounting in Colorado Springs about 5 percent of business comes from growers or dispensary owners, said owner Greg Varner. He’d be happy to have more clients from the industry.

To prepare for his new clients, he researched various ordinances and checked with city sales tax officials.

“We bring them (the city) receipts for every little thing,” Varner said. “It’s just a good little source of income the city and state didn’t have before.”

The suit-and-tie professionals aren’t the only ones reaping business.

For those in the construction trade, dispensaries have meant contracts to build “clean rooms” where marijuana plants are grown.

Doing that work requires far more electrical and mechanical equipment than for a typical business.

Grow rooms need specialized HVAC systems that provide highly regulated temperature, air quality and humidity to protect plants and soil from contamination.

“You’re putting the painter, plumber, drywaller and Joe the plumber back to work,” said Steve Hammers, owner of Hammers Construction Inc.

Hammers said he receives five to 10 calls a day from growers, whereas one call in six months might be from other industries.

“It’s the only business going on,” he said. “The economy sucks. I’m a contractor and a developer. These are the only people who want to buy or lease space.”

Security companies also are profiting from medical marijuana.

Most of the dispensaries have alarm systems and video-surveillance cameras with off-site monitoring.

Business is off the charts at WatchPoint Surveillance and Security Systems, according to owner Scot Oliver.

“Just last week we had four new dispensaries to install cameras for grow sites,” he said.

Garden supply stores in Colorado Springs are thriving, as well. They’re stocking their shelves with all the horticultural supplies that growers need — items such as soil, hydroponic supplies and sprinkler systems.

The owners of these supply stores are reluctant to talk about their new source of business. Many of their distributors are out-of-state, in places where medical marijuana is not yet legal. That means they could be cut off from their suppliers if they acknowledge selling supplies to medical growers.

Horticulturalists are another player in the medical marijuana economy.

One local grower, who asked that her name not be used for safety reasons, said she buys planting supplies and cleaning products, but also hires an attorney, a CPA, a security firm, and during harvest time, additional hands.

“We are like a hospital environment — it’s sterile,” Nancy said of her growing operation.

Of primary concern is keeping mites or mold out of the clean room. To that end, she changes clothes each time before entering the room.

Also of concern is insurance. Nowadays, as dispensaries become more common, insurance is easier to get, although “mainstream” insurers still don’t cover them. She finally found a small company to insure her business — and said the premiums remain expensive.

Her policy covers equipment, her building, and the product — but only from theft or fire.

For some of these business owners, medical marijuana is more than just a way to make money.

Hammers, for one, has seen firsthand the effects of terminal cancer — and it changed his views on the legalization issue.

“When your loved one is dying and you’re watching them suffer,” he said, “you think maybe this isn’t so bad.”

6 Responses to Reefer madness: good for business

  1. Yet our Chamber of Commerce was close to supporting a measure to put this segment of the economy out of business. Thank goodness they came to their senses.

    June 19, 2010 at 8:17 am

  2. Wayne Williams- Munger-Mays-Sillie Sallie and CONO reading this?

    Rick Wehner
    June 19, 2010 at 8:51 am

  3. Interesting title, but is it “madness” to relieve the pain and suffering of the chronically ill?

    June 20, 2010 at 7:46 am

  4. Stu:

    What is driving the passionate fervor to ban dispensaries is composed of two parts:

    A) A select few who have based their objection on either their moral or religious views they feel should be applied to all residents within the area.

    B) Those who are in office supporting this ban feel there is a sufficiently large number of voters in their districts who will re-elect them if they support the ban compared to those who are in favor or allowing regulated dispensaries.

    Not at all afraid to reference: Wayne Williams, Dan May, Dave Munger and all of the CONO group along with Darryl Glenn and Sallie Clark.

    There being a reasonable way to develop guidelines where the chronically ill might reduce pain and suffering through use of this plant is entirely none of their concern. The primary goal is an attempt to try and win as many votes as possible and they feel this is the best route to re-election.

    With several attempts, I have failed to obtain from Mr. Williams any verifiable statistics or data that he has run indicating his actions to date have been based upon the majority of the 70,000-80,000 residents in his district or only upon 1) those he has selected to contact or 2) only those who have contacted him in opposition.

    Similarly, before city council, Mr. May was unable, when pressed on his initiated discussion of “emergency room visits to local hospitals” how many of those were related to medical dispensary provided product used to point of overdose. In fact, he was unable to come up with any numbers at all related to the local use of the plant.

    With this in mind, it would appear that this small cabal of Northenders, CONO headed by mayoral candidate Dave Munger, the Williams – Clark alliance are, with out any data provided, basing their action in the face of all the local polling which indicates there is support for dispensaries around 60/65 to 35/40.

    The net impact appears to be forcing a vote (again) of the people and/or protracted legal battles.

    I would encourage all those mentioned above to come out with the data supporting their mission to ban dispensaries completely, the data, surveys, dates and time and methodology.

    This is part of the ‘transparency’ so often talked about.

    Thank you

    Rick Wehner
    June 20, 2010 at 2:39 pm

  5. Ed, the Gazette misquoted the Chamber. The Chamber’s position is pretty simple. It is a business and they are allowed to be a business. Heck, the Chamber allowed one dispensary to have a booth at the Chamber Expo a few weeks back. If the Chamber was so against it they would not have allowed them in. Stephanie Finlay was, in my understanding misquoted.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:23 pm

  6. Rob:

    Below are the quotes attributed by the Gazette to Mr.House who made a very weak presentation to the city council:

    “The vote ran counter to requests from some neighborhood groups and the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, which want voters to decide on a dispensary ban.”

    “But allowing marijuana businesses to operate legally in the city, even temporarily, isn’t without critics.
    The chamber’s Ernest House said businesses want voters to determine if the city needs a ban.”

    “This issue should be brought before voters,” House said.

    I catch each of these meetings online and observed the brief presentation made by Mr. House who indicated he was representing the desires of the Chamber membership in this matter. This presentation came following those of others, including the county district attorney who were questioned extensively by council members on the matter of being able to substantiate the numbers being thrown out by Mr. May – – – who could come up with no data to support his views that dispensaries should be banned ougtright in El Paso County.

    Mr. House did not expressly state the Chamber was in favor of a ban. However, his placement in the proceedings, directly following those asking for an outright ban — might lead one to believe that was his purpose. But — Mr. House’s presentation was truly a “Diane Sawyer look at us” moment.

    Rick Wehner
    June 21, 2010 at 3:24 pm