By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Gary Pax, 65, brought his lawn chair, newspaper, and coffee and pastry, arriving in near zero-degree temperatures at 7:01 a.m. on Jan. 15 to nail down the historic “first in line” honors at the Doctor’s Garden marijuana shop on the third floor at 580 Main Street.
A salt-and-pepper bearded Marc Horwitz, from Moab, Utah, dressed in blue overcoat, scarf, multi-color fleece hat and wire-frame glasses, got there a bit later. As the fourth or fifth buyer he might go down as Carbondale’s first “marijuana tourist” – depending on future definitions of the term.
And 25-30 others waited, shivered, joked around and waited some more before the Doctor’s Garden finally opened its doors about a half-hour after its 9 a.m. target time.
“Do you deliver?” Caroline Alberino asked on her cell phone at about 9:15 a.m. during a call to the front desk behind a locked door about 20 feet away. “We’re freezing out here and want to come in.”
After hanging up, Alberino reported, “It shouldn’t be too much longer.”
Between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.:
• Number-one-in-line told number-two-in-line that state law dictates that marijuana sales must be in cash, which prompted a somewhat panicked number-two to scurry down the three flights of stairs, hang a hard right at Mi Casita restaurant and score some cash from the ATM machine across from Bonfire Coffee;
• A police car circled the building a time or two before finally parking across the street at the forest service parking lot, where the officer had a clear view of the slowly growing line upstairs;
• Town trustee Frosty Merriott, on assignment for KDNK, pulled a U-turn and parked his SUV on Weant Street below the Doctor’s Garden, got out of his car and on his cell phone to the station, then headed up the cold stairs looking for folks to interview. He settled on Pax and handed him the phone; Pax reported to KDNK on-air station manger Steve Skinner “ … ya got any potato chips and munchies?”
• A gray-haired woman in her 80s, also possibly from Moab, told reporters that she’s now lived through two prohibitions “and neither one of them worked.”
• Average age for the first wave to legally buy recreational marijuana in Carbondale? About 40 years old, with a smattering of the 21-25 demographic. Male to female ratio? About four to one.
Finally, a security guy unlocked the door and said the first five people could come inside, at which point four local journalists charged through, got out of the way then waited for the first five buyers to enter the Doctor’s Garden warm lobby. After that, buyers were allowed through the door to the sales area one at a time, where they were greeted from the other side of the counter by friendly store co-owner James Leonard and grower Cale Mobley. Edibles and other product were displayed on shelves inside the 15-foot, glass-fronted counter. Glass jars of marble-sized marijuana buds stood ready for action in the tall glass cabinet in the center.
“We’re doing eighths (ounce) for $55 and quarters for $105,” Leonard told reporters after one inquired about prices. “ … and $20 for grams.”
In short order he added that prices for out-of-staters were $69 for eighths and $125 for quarters.
“I came 200 miles,” a surprised Horwitz responded.
“Supply is limited,” Leonard replied. “ … and these (locals) are going to be my customers … in Denver they are getting $80 … (someone) called and said we should be charging $100 but aren’t doing that.”
Horwitz quickly overcame any disappointment at being charged a premium due to his out-of-state status. When his turn at the counter came he asked Leonard “What (strain) do you recommend?” Turns out, some strains are better than others for “a morning buzz.”
Selling marijuana and related product was a two person job on Wednesday morning. After the first buyer was served, Mobley stepped up, took the orders and the cash, and wrote receipts, while Leonard used chopsticks to pluck buds from the glass jars, drop them into a plastic cup positioned on scales, then kept dropping until the desired weight was reached. Then Leonard handed the cup to Mobley, who poured the pot into a prescription medicine-style container (with child-proof cap), and then label it.
“Do you want a brown bag for that?” said Mobley.
While the early transactions continued at the sales counter, the lobby filled up with an upbeat crowd. One early buyer was greeted with high-fives and other salutations from the line as he headed back out the door and into the cold.
It turned out, buyer number one (Pax) did not get exactly what he came for on opening day. Leonard politely told him he didn’t have any marijuana seeds or an oil for cooking, so Pax left with a packaged edible called “Carmelito.”
Earlier in the day, while everyone was waiting outside, Pax (a lab technician in Glenwood Springs) explained that he hadn’t smoked pot for years. He just wanted to buy two or three things he could frame along with a newspaper article that announced the day’s event. “This is historic.”
He also said he was a medic in Vietnam in 1969-70. “This (buy) is for a lot of guys who couldn’t be here.”