The state of recreational marijuana sales in Manitou Springs remains both controversial and uncertain.
Although the city’s voters now have the final say as to whether the sale of recreational marijuana should be allowed, the mountain town’s only two ordained pot purveyors are plugging ahead as planned.
Before a small fraction of the town’s 5,100 citizens were able to successfully put the issue back on the ballot for November’s general election, Maggie’s Farm and Reserve1 had received the appropriate licensure and were working on different means of moving forward.
Maggie’s Farm owner Bill Conkling said his recreational marijuana store will be ready for business by the end of July, while rival Reserve1 has just been approved by City Council and is purportedly negotiating a real estate transaction.
Manitou Springs City Council gave Maggie’s Farm approval in May for its recreational marijuana store. Since then, the 1,581-square-foot former muffler shop at 141 Manitou Ave. — located just off U.S. Highway 24 and conveniently next to a Loaf ’N Jug — has been transformed from a shabby vacancy to a clean, modern retail space with ample parking.
Conkling said the buildout is wrapping up and awaiting “Manitou’s final blessing,” and it should be open for business by the end of the month.
The business will be similar to the company’s existing medical dispensaries in Colorado Springs, Cañon City and Pueblo, he said.
“All of my stores, all of my strains and all of my product — it’s all the same,” he said. “I grow it all and sell it all at the same prices.”
Conkling said it has become common in the industry to pass along the superior product to medical dispensaries, sending the lower-grade consumables to recreational shops to mark up in price, he explained. That is something he wants to avoid.
“That’s not happening with us,” he said. “I don’t plan on gouging our customers. I’m not trying to capitalize on what I have — I’m trying to build a brand.”
Conkling declined to comment on many details, including how many workers the new site will employ, but said that it will host a robust staff.
“I’m excited to get some recreational marijuana to Colorado Springs and to the whole region,” he said, adding that he hopes for more opportunity to expand his brand in the future. “I hope Colorado Springs comes to their senses. I’ve been a fan of retail all along … and I’d like to sell retail out of all of my stores.”
Manitou’s Council unanimously voted July 1 to approve a conditional use permit for Reserve1, now operating at 2 Manitou Ave., that will allow the medical dispensary to sell recreational THC products as well.
Khon Onexayvieng, who has owned Wild Ginger Thai restaurant at 27 Manitou Ave. since 2010 with her husband Elmer Jose, said they have been negotiating a sale of their building to Reserve1. However, she said a deal is not certain.
“We just don’t know yet,” Onexayvieng said. “We’ve been waiting, but we just don’t know if it is going to go through. We’re just focusing on running our restaurant right now.”
The owners told the Pikes Peak Bulletin that they have been looking for a new location after suffering a decline in business that began in the wake of the Waldo Canyon fire of 2012.
“If I could stay, I would,” Onexayvieng told the Bulletin, “but if we sell, we’ll be out of debt. We can pay off everybody and start something smaller.”
When the couple finally made the call to place a for-sale sign in the window, Reserve1 was the first to show interest. The owners of Reserve1 have hoped to occupy the much-larger space by late August, according to the Bulletin.
The business’ move from the 576-square-foot former barber shop it currently occupies to the 4,800-square-foot restaurant would mean more than enough space to expand into the retail arena, but Reserve 1 owners have declined to discuss plans to move forward with the transaction.
“I have no comment at this time,” said Jim Bent, co-owner of the small medical dispensary on the edge of town (formerly Absolute Manitou Wellness Center).
Reserve1 also has a location at 4182 E. Virginia Ave. in the Denver suburb of Glendale.
Meanwhile, Onexayvieng and Jose, who started the restaurant in 1998 at 3020 W. Colorado Ave., told the Bulletin that they plan to stay in business somewhere on the Westside of Colorado Springs.
“We’re thinking about moving to Old Colorado City,” Onexayvieng said. “We have a place in mind, but I don’t know how it’s going to work out.
“No matter what, we’re not going to close. This is all we know how to do. We’re not going out of business.”
Meanwhile, a group of Manitou residents opposed to the boutique pot movement successfully petitioned to put the issue of retail marijuana on the November ballot.
Manitou Springs City Council unanimously voted Tuesday against prohibiting retail marijuana, which means it will be on the Nov. 4 ballot for voters to decide whether to uphold the current ordinance or to prohibit the two establishments allowed by the city.
The ballot measure is a result of a campaign called No Retail Marijuana in Manitou Springs, which successfully petitioned City Council’s decision Jan. 21 to allow the retail sale of marijuana. According to a memo from City Clerk Donna Kast, 593 people signed the petition and 465 of those signatures were certified by her office as being registered Manitou Springs voters. The required number of verifiable signatures required was 275 — 15 percent of the number of voters in the last general election (1,833).
A recently published study by the state Department of Revenue shows that Colorado’s demand for weed far exceeds previous expectations.
According to the study — the first on Colorado’s retail market — this year’s demand for marijuana among adult residents of Colorado is 121.4 metric tons. The demand for visitors in the same time frame across the state is an estimated 8.9 metric tons.
That amounts to 260,600 pounds of weed.
The report goes on to state that the Department of Revenue sees potential demand as somewhere between 104.2 and 157.9 metric tons. An estimated 485,000 adults consume herb at least once each month, the study showed.
The estimates were approximately 31 percent higher than a previous Revenue Department study, 89 percent higher than a study by the Colorado Futures Center and 111 percent higher than an older study by the Colorado Center for Law and Policy.
The average market rate for marijuana in Colorado is $220 per ounce, according to the study, which amounts to $916.8 million annually (per the demand estimate).
Regardless of what happens in Manitou, marijuana has provided a positive financial impact for the state’s economy, the study suggests.