DENVER - Only one week into Colorado's history-making recreational marijuana industry, one shop has already sold out of pot, others fear they may soon join it and perhaps as many as 100,000 people have legally purchased marijuana at Colorado stores.
Industry advocates estimate Colorado stores have already done more than $5 million in sales - including $1 million on New Year's Day - though National Cannabis Industry Association executive director Aaron Smith acknowledges those are "back-of-the-envelope" figures. The owner of one store said she expects to make as much in sales in the first 10 days of January as she did all of last year selling medical marijuana.
"I had a dream once that I opened my store and didn't have any competition," said Robin Hackett, a co-owner of BotanaCare in Northglenn. "I had no idea it was a nightmare."
Fears of marijuana shortages pervade the young industry. On Wednesday, a sign hung in the door to The Clinic location near Colorado Boulevard and Interstate 25 in Denver: "We are currently out of recreational cannabis. Please check back tomorrow. Sorry for the inconvenience."
Many shops have imposed caps on maximum purchase amounts well below the caps required under state law. Numerous store owners say they have sold out of marijuana-infused edible products. Toni Fox, the owner of 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, said she closed her store down on Monday and Tuesday this week, just to restock and give her staff a rest.
Even for stores that reported robust inventory, like High Country Healing in Silverthorne, owners said marijuana could become scarce across the industry if more stores don't get their licenses approved and open to absorb the flood of interest.
"None of us could really prepare for what was going to hit us," High Country Healing's owner, Nick Brown, said on Tuesday. "I think we all thought we would see huge demand and lines. But I don't think any of us expected what was happened over the last six days."
More than 10,000 people bought marijuana at Colorado's recreational pot shops on Jan. 1, according to industry estimates and tallies provided by the stores. And, while that initial surge was expected, the sustained interest was not. Brown and several other store owners said they saw only a slight drop-off in sales in the days after Jan. 1.
"It's been staying very, very steady," said Lauren Hoover, the manager of the Breckenridge Cannabis Club.
Hoover said the store served 1,500 customers on Jan. 1. A typical day for medical-marijuana sales last year was 20 to 40 customers, she said.
In Denver, where 18 stores were licensed to be open for recreational sales on Jan. 1, four more stores have received licenses in the last week. Still, industry advocates expected supply crunches to last for awhile.
"It's going to be an issue in at least these first few months," Smith said.