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'People come here to feel good': First marijuana dispensary in Teller County describes opening

Owners of High Stakes Leafery say there is a large market in Cripple Creek for both locals and tourists who want to buy cannabis.
Posted at 9:07 AM, Jan 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-12 00:02:47-05

CRIPPLE CREEK, Colo. — The first marijuana dispensary in Teller County opened its doors this week.

High Stakes Leafery in Cripple Creek has made more than $12,000 in sales in their first two days of opening and had more than 150 customers, according to its owners.

Laura and Robert Smith have owned multiple businesses in Cripple Creek.

“So my husband and I owned and ran the automotive shop here in town for about eight years, and recently sold that at the beginning of the year. We had a day spa here, but we also heard that Bronco Billies was opening up a spa and so we didn't want to compete with them,” Laura said.

Unsure what their next business adventure would be, the Smiths thought about making the spa into an auto parts store. But Robert Smith had a more adventurous idea.

“All of a sudden, Robert came up to me one day,” Laura said. “He goes, ‘what do you think about putting a dispensary in here?’ I said 'um.' Then I thought about it and I said okay let's do it."

Around eight months ago, Laura and her husband began transforming what was once a spa into the first dispensary in Teller County.

“What I know now, I might have turned back on that idea, but we pushed through and the city was learning with us,” Laura said.

Opening the first medical and recreational dispensary in the county was a long and difficult process, Laura described.

“The city really worked hard with us within the legalities of what they had to do, but it was definitely a learning experience for all of us, which made it kind of a little bit of a roller coaster ride, but we got her done,” Laura said.

The one thing she has learned is running a marijuana business is expensive.

“Something as simple as a program to run your automotive shop, which normally costs about $200 a month, well, a program to run your cannabis business, because it is cannabis, is about $1,500 a month,” Laura said.

She said business expenses for a dispensary are double or triple what other business expenses are typically. However, Laura said it has been easier finding employees for the cannabis shop than it was for the spa.

"We actually have just an overflow of applications, so that's nice. We're not struggling to find employees. That's kind of a nice problem to have," Laura said.

One of those employees is Paul Richardson, who is the general manager High Stakes Leafery. Laura refers to him as an angel.

“Robert and I did not know a dang thing about cannabis. We knew how to run businesses successfully, but the whole cannabis piece, we didn't have a clue. So Paul came in with the cannabis expertise,” Laura said. “So we hired him on as the GM and he is responsible for this beautiful wide selection of products we have that are at very reasonable prices."

Richardson has nearly 15 years of experience in Colorado's marijuana industry.

“I started off as a commercial grower, from then I went to a retail side of the business both in medical Colorado Springs and retail in Manitou Springs,” Richardson said.

Richardson said being the general manager of High Stakes Leafer is his dream job.

“A lot of it is educating our customers. A lot of them will come in and say they have a headache and I offer solutions on how to take care of it,” Richardson said.

He said while working at a dispensary in Manitou Springs, many customers were from Teller County.

“I had a lot of guests coming down from Teller County, Florissant, Cripple Creek, and Woodland Park,” Richardson said

He believes having a dispensary in town will limit illegal use of cannabis.

“Our whole idea on this is to get the black market out of Cripple Creek and out of Teller County.

"There is a need in Teller County for medical marijuana and recreational as well,” Richardson said.

This will also give Cripple Creek more revenue with some of the sales tax dollars going back to the city. But, the city said they do not have enough information to indicate how marijuana sales will impact their economy.

Laura Smith said on their opening day, they generated over $1,600 in sales tax.

“It keeps our tax dollars here instead of benefiting Manitou or Pueblo,” Laura said.

She said there is a large market in Cripple Creek with both locals and tourists who want to buy cannabis.

“A lot of people in the casinos have told me, tourists ask where can I go to get cannabis, so they are up here in town gambling and they have to tell them they have to go an hour away to get cannabis and the casino are hoping people come back," Laura said.

She hopes having a dispensary in town will keep the tourists here.

One sergeant with the Cripple Creek Police Department said that because marijuana has been legal in the state, they do not foresee any issues with a marijuana dispensary opening up in town. They want to remind people to only use marijuana at private homes.

First marijuana dispensary opens in Teller County