Chris Walsh: How Will Dispensary Owners Fare if Weed is Legalized?

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The drumbeat tied to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado is growing in intensity and will only get louder as we head into 2012.

At the forefront of these efforts is Sensible Colorado, an organization hoping to get an initiative on the ballot next year asking voters to make the use and possession of pot legal, for medical use or otherwise. According to this recent story in the Denver Post, a total of eight versions of the initiative have been filed with the state. You can check out the story for more details of what the initiatives are calling for, but it’s safe to say that if any of them pass the average adult in Colorado could smoke a joint wherever they please (though it would still be barred by federal law).

The bigger question I have is what this would mean for dispensaries currently up and running. On one hand, it could benefit them, further opening up the market and breaking down a bunch of barriers in the industry. On the other hand, it could be a devastating blow, especially to the ones that have pumped a ton of money into making their stores resemble clinics. I can easily see pot shops sprouting up on every corner, becoming as common as liquor stores – though I’m quite sure they would still be heavily regulated. That would obviously change the dynamic of the dispensary scene in Colorado.

All of this is speculation, of course. Coloradans rejected a similar proposal five years ago, and there are plenty of reasons to believe they will do so again this time around. And even if such legislation does pass, it remains to be seen how the federal government would react. It could easily decide to crack down on the people selling for recreational use or attempt to shut down the entire industry here in Colorado.

Chris Walsh is the editor of Medical Marijuana Business Daily