Medical Marijuana Dispensaries: How Big a Growth Industry?

Is the medical marijuana dispensary business really booming? John Suthers, the Attorney General in Colorado says it is. He's looking for ways to regulate it. Some municipalities are putting "freezes" on new applications while they try to develop standards and rules. [More...]

For the past several months, I've been getting an average of two calls a day from people who want advice on how to open a dispensary. Some days I get five. Since I'm a criminal defense attorney, not a business attorney, I don't have any advice to give them. There are lawyers with expertise in the field, and I don't doubt that their phones are ringing off the hook. Whether the amount of time they spend on the phone with those merely seeking free information is balanced by the fees they make from those who actually follow through, is anyone's guess. (I also suspect a number of the callers are law enforcement checking on the advice being given.)

I've experimented with several ways of courteously explaining I don't provide advice to people looking to open a business. None seemed to end the conversation, since my name is on a list in some print (not online) publication I've never heard of. I would just get more questions about why my name is on the list.

Finally, I started telling callers, "I don't handle matters related to opening medical marijuana dispensaries. I defend people charged with large-scale drug trafficking crimes and I'm guessing that's not you." They laugh nervously and say, "That's not me." I laugh back and respond, "I'm glad." There are never more questions after that. So, the calls now last less than 60 seconds and instead of feeling frustrated, both the caller and I enjoy the little exchange.

Given the increased willingness of the feds to allow dispensaries to operate if they are in compliance with state laws, it's only natural that large numbers of people are going to be curious and want to learn more about opening a dispensary to see if it's right for them. While the media and some law enforcement officials are trumping this into a near-explosion in the number of dispensaries opening in Colorado and elsewhere, I really don't think 7 or 10 new dispensaries in any given area qualifies as an explosion, or as our Mr. Suthers said, "an opening of the floodgates. "

It takes as much time and commitment to open and maintain a medical marijuana business as any other kind of business. I think the market for dispensaries will sort itself out without the need for moratoriums on granting licenses or new rules and regulations, particularly ones not authorized by voters or included in the authorizing legislation.

It will be interesting to see if given the Obama Administration's new federal prosecution policy, there is an increase in state criminal prosecutions of dispensary owners and operators. (More on that here.)

< DOJ to Issue New Guidelines on Medical Marijuana Busts | Target and Others Halts Sales of "Illegal Immigrant" Halloween Costumes >
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    I don't understand (none / 0) (#1)
    by Coral on Mon Oct 19, 2009 at 02:35:36 PM EST
    why there is so much eagerness to prosecute marijuana offenses. Legalization with taxation and regulation of sales, similar to alcohol, would really help state revenues. And reduce costs for law enforcement, so that other crimes could be investigated more rigorously.

    I just don't buy the idea that this is a dangerous drug.