The day after New Year's, Ralph Morgan is watching crowds of people lining up outside the Evergreen Apothecary in Denver with what looks to be a mixture of pride, elation and apprehension.
Morgan, 40, is one of Evergreen's owners, and the excited horde of people at his shop have lined up to become some of the first adults in Colorado to legally purchase cannabis for recreational use under a new state law. And he admits he never expected the crush of people that have come to buy his product.
“In fact,” he said, “we printed 250 certificates so that people could use those as a memento to archive the event, and we were out of those by about 8:15 a.m.”
Morgan and his wife Heidi started Evergreen four years ago as a legal medical marijuana facility. Before that, he worked for several large companies in medical device sales and marketing. He says he was intrigued by the growing trend in legal medical marijuana and began researching the industry.
“I knew it was going to be a part of
history, started doing some due diligence on it and learned that,
wow, there is tremendous medical efficacy here,” he recalled.
The first year was a struggle. Morgan says for a while there were more people coming into their store trying to sell them marijuana than actual customers. But his company then began targeting older cannabis consumers. During the first first year, the average age of the Apothecary's customer base was 64.
“We didn't satisfy the [typical marijuana user's] stereotype, that's for certain,” he said. “We really enjoyed speaking with people who were finding tremendous success with their ailments with cannabis.”
They soon started a second company,
Organalabs, that extracts cannabis oil for tablets, use in portable
vaporizers and other applications. And a year later the Morgans
merged with another group, Colorado Harvest Colony.
Because marijuana remains a felony under federal law, most banks and financial institutions won't work with the cannabis industry, forcing dispensaries to deal largely in cash-only transactions.
“You're forced to grow organically,” Morgan said, referring to his business model and not his cannabis plants. “It's great to not have debt, which we don't. However, you're shackled to what you can afford. So you can steal equity from the home, you can ask friends and family. But the market's maturing. A lot of people now are interested in investing.”
Like other established companies in
Colorado's cannabis industry, Morgan and his group ramped-up
production after the 2012 elections, when the state's voters
approved the sale of recreational marijuana to adults. But even that
advance planning couldn't prepare him for the rabid consumer demand
unleashed on Jan. 1 when the new law went into effect.
Once the hoopla and pent-up demand for marijuana dies down, Morgan predicts this budding new business is going to see “tremendous stability” – and open the door for the legalization of cannabis in yet more states.