DENVER, Colo. -- When Michigan opens its doors to recreational marijuana, who will sell it?
In Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational use, marijuana was a $1.6 billion industry in 2017, and Denver made $43 million in taxes. But the people who sell it and the people who regulate it there are dealing with a tangled web of rules, and Michigan has a lot to learn from what they've already been through.
Kim Casey, communications director for Native Roots dispensaries, says safety is the name of the dispensary game.
"There's a tremendous amount of focus on safety, on following protocol, on following rules and regulations," Casey said.
After checking in and showing ID at one of Native Roots' 20 Colorado stores, customers are led into a locked sales room behind key coded doors. Only staff can buzz people in.
"We have so many people who are exploring this for the first time, and don't really understand what they're looking for," Casey said.
Although there's no mandated employee training in Colorado, Casey says reputable shops will extensively train their workers.
"We believe not only that's important for them to understand their products, understand the rules and regulations, but also be well versed in general cannabis knowledge," she said.
'Bud-tenders.' as they're aptly called in Colorado, say you don't need to be an expert to shop in their stores.
"I'm gonna kind of see what their knowledge of cannabis is first and see if they're more interested in something to smoke, something to eat, or something to vape," said Joshua Walker, a bud-tender at Native Roots.
The job doesn't end when the store closes down.
"Materials are removed from the floor every single night, without a break in that routine, ever," Casey said.
The products are placed in a safe between two other locked doors that only Native Roots employees have access to.
Dispensaries didn't pop up overnight in Colorado, and they won't in Michigan either.
"We've worked hard to get this right and take a good government approach to it," said Ashley Kilroy, communictions director for the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, which is in charge of marijuana policy in the city.
For Denver, their law mandated sales within a year of passage. Michigan has no such law, so Dr. Kilroy recommends getting a jump on research.
"Really is important for Michigan to start collecting data now," she said. "Are more people driving high before or after legalization? Are more people consuming publicly before or after legalization? Are more kids being suspended for marijuana use at schools before or after legalization?"
She says to expect to see some new hands on deck at the city level.
"Our licensing department had obviously a lot of issues and new people to license. We had new inspectors that had to go out. We had a lot of new construction going on," she said.