BOULDER, Colo. — Few medical-marijuana dispensaries advertise their existence, and almost all of them require customers to make appointments to legally obtain the herbal remedy.
But on Wednesday, Boulder’s first walk-in dispensary — which sells the drug to any medical-marijuana cardholder with or without an appointment — publicly celebrated its grand opening. Situated on the second story of the University Hill Plaza, between K’s China and the Hookah House at 1325 Broadway, Boulder Alternative Medicine is open from 11 a.m. to 4:19 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Despite a robbery at a Boulder medical-marijuana dispensary last week, owners of the new “open” marijuana distributor said they’re not afraid to advertise and invite anyone who can use marijuana legally to browse their array of pot options.
“I’ve met so many people who’ve had a tough time finding quality medicine,” said Jay Epstein, co-owner of the alternative medicine center. “They’re buying something random from somebody random, and we would like to provide a place for legal medical patients to come in and get affordable meds.”
Inside a glass case under a cash register in the small store Wednesday sat jelly jars filled with marijuana varieties, labeled by aroma and taste. Blueberry, Hong Kong, Skunk No. 1 and Sweet Tooth are a few of the available house blends that cost $15 a gram.
Next to the weed-filled jars sat plates packed with individually wrapped chocolate cakes and muffins baked with marijuana oils. The dispensary sells different types of marijuana for smoking, baking, elixirs and oils, Epstein said.
The dispensary began selling marijuana unofficially at the start of June, and Epstein said it has served about 150 people so far. Now that the business is in full swing — with a Web site and advertising — Epstein said he expects the clientele to grow more.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “Everyday we have eight to 10 new customers come in.”
Epstein and his partner J.P. Stoermer said they jumped through the hoops to open a public medical-marijuana dispensary because they didn’t want to let law-enforcement concerns and robbery threats keep them from helping people.
Both Epstein and Stoermer are passionate about medical marijuana from personal experience. Epstein broke his back snowboarding in 2003, and Stoermer broke his back snowboarding in 2006, and both found their best treatment in marijuana. Epstein said he used illegally until, “I realized, ‘Why should I live in fear and shame?’”
“This is my right to medicate,” he said.
Epstein and Stoermer said they’ve met with law enforcement to make sure they’re operating according to the law and to make patrol officers aware of their business. They’ve taken measures to keep their staff and business safe, including installing security cameras, an alarm system, a panic button and magnetic-lock doors. Epstein said the business also is in an optimum locale.
“We’re a block down from the police annex, and we’re located on a second story in a building where it would be difficult to escape out of Boulder,” he said. “If you get downstairs and in your car, you’re going to sit in a parking lot called Broadway.”
Boulder County Drug Task Force Sgt. Barry Hartkopp said his team has no qualms with the dispensary, “as long as it’s operating within the law.” But, Hartkopp said, he does have concerns about potential robberies.
“Dispensaries like to operate with cash only, which makes them a pretty good target for criminals,” he said.
On June 16, four men are suspected of stealing two 20-gallon containers of marijuana from the New Options Wellness Clinic, 2885 E. Aurora Ave. They were charged Friday with a total of 27 felonies in the robbery.
Since then, Hartkopp said, his office has received several calls from people planning to open medical-marijuana dispensaries in Boulder County.
“They just want to make sure they’re within the parameters of the law and to find out about the security aspect of it,” he said.
Backers of the medical-marijuana push — including caregivers, cardholders and medical professionals who support marijuana treatment — visited Boulder Alternative Medicine on Wednesday during the shop’s grand opening.
Darren Flagg — who owns the Boulder-based Grassroots Medical Clinic, which helps patients become legal cardholders — stopped by to support his industry and applaud Epstein’s and Stoermer’s effort to make medical-marijuana accessible.
“This allows patients safe access,” Flagg said. “When it was all on the black market, there was danger.”
By Vanessa Miller