About 200 people packed into the Westin Tabor Center Auditorium Saturday to learn all about opening their own medical marijuana dispensary.
Despite fierce competition, with more medical marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks coffee shops in Denver, people still see a budding opportunity.
"Estimates are anywhere from 500 to 900 new patients a day in Colorado acquiring their registry cards. So, the demand is really picking up," said Gus Escamia, the founder and CEO of Greenway University, a medical marijuana business school, of sorts, based out of California.
The demand is up, and the supply is following. Escamia's weekend long class in Denver was sold out. The two-day class cost $294. Students learn everything from how to open a dispensary, to starting a delivery service, to setting up a cultivation operation.
"And students come away learning everything it's going to take to become compliant. That's really what we're about. We really want students to understand that this is a valid, legitimate industry that you can really do well in. But, you have to position yourself properly and do everything right to the letter of the law and don't deviate one bit," said Escamia.
Escamia said his team of attorneys and accountants has dissected Amendment 20. Then, he said, "We've taken experience from California, ground zero, and applied it to Colorado."
Student Heidi Morgan said it was learning the legal matters that attracted her to the class.
"There are a lot of grey areas in this industry, a lot of unanswered questions and it's hard to find the information," she said.
Morgan took a Greenway University class earlier this year, and already she and her husband have opened their own dispensary, called Evergreen Apothecary, on South Broadway.
"The class was amazing. It really tied everything together for us. What we learned from speaking with different attorneys, speaking with different dispensary owners and speaking with different people in the industry already, Greenway University did a great job of tying all that information together. Their presentation was fabulous," said Morgan.
7NEWS asked critics of the industry what they thought of such a class.
"I think it's great. I hope they can learn everything from business accounting to business ethics," said Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown. "This is a new form of commerce and a lot of these people have never been in business before and they need some help."
Brown said education is one key to making the medical marijuana industry successful.
He also said there needs to be regulation, which is why Brown has spearheaded an effort to make a medical marijuana ordinance for Denver. The proposed ordinance would ban dispensaries near schools, would limit certain felons from operating them, and bar on site consumption.
Public comment on the ordinance is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 11, at 5:30 p.m.
Those in the industry agree regulations are necessary.
"We need rules to play by. Once we have rules, we can teach people to adhere to them to be successful," said Escamia.
January 9, 2010
The Denver Channel