Look at marijuana dispensaries in Colorado

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by Jay Crandall

azfamily.com

Posted on February 8, 2011 at 9:48 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 8 at 9:54 PM

PHOENIX - As Arizona gets ready to release rules for medical marijuana , there seems to be almost as much interest in selling it as using it.

Lots of people have inquired about how to open a dispensary, but as we found out it is not as simple as setting up shop and planting a few seeds.

Lori Cookston knows that first hand. She and her husband Andy opened Cannabis Medical in Denver, Colorado nearly 5 years ago.

"The first in the state and the first in the city of Denver," she said. "People would come in our door day after day, how do I open a dispensary, how do I open a dispensary, and our answer was always start with about $100,000 in legal fees."

She said she can tell you, they are not getting rich.

"You need to know this is not a business where you make a lot of money," she said. "It is not. You have overhead and there are all kinds of things that take up that money you are bringing in, just like any other business. "

Cookston said those things include licensing fees, costs to build out their shop and security cameras among others.

"You need to set yourself up like a real business," she said. "Not, 'I've grown pot for 16 years I think I can do this.' No you can't."

Ean Seeb told a similar story.

"Know what you are doing from the get go, don't think you are just going to open up a medical marijuana center or dispensary and because you are selling medical marijuana you are going to make a lot of money," Seeb said.

Seeb and his partners at Denver Relief started out as a delivery service and poured their money into building out their dispensary and wellness center.

"We have invested every penny," he said. I am a new business owner and just like any new business owner I am spending everything I have, my heart."

And Seeb said he has not just given his heart; more than owners of nearly any other business, he's letting the state into his business.

"I had to include all my financial statements, bank statements, credit card statements, my college transcripts, personal references and taxes."

"There is so much detail that they want," he said. "The staff is going to be fingerprinted as well. All of the staff will be licensed. They want to know everything."

While it is still not clear how Arizona's rules will shake out, owners must be residents.

Colorado has a similar rule, and there, Cookston said no outside money can be invested.

"Very detailed, if you have money from something not legal or a source out of state, which is now one of the rules, no out of state money , then you are going to have some explaining to do," Cookston said.

So if they are not getting rich, why do they do it? 

Cookston said that answer is simple.

"This is a mission, we believe in this we believe in cannabis as a plant and believe it can do so much more," she said.

"Watching someone come in in a wheelchair who hasn't slept in 35 years that takes a candy we created that helps him get through the night and he doesn't have muscle spasms anymore, there's the business side, making money and there is helping people," Seeb said.

There will be approximately 125 licensed dispensaries in Arizona. The DHS is still working on rules and trying to determine how licenses will be awarded.

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