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.”