Pot-shop biz still potent, but limited potential for growth in Aurora

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AURORA | Just a few years into legal marijuana in Colorado, metro area pot shops are finding less and less room to grow.

In Denver, city officials are considering a cap on the number of marijuana retailers selling legal pot in the Mile High City.

And in Aurora — which has limited the number of pot shops to 24 — the city’s 18th recreational pot shop opened this week, and 23 of the 24 licenses have already been issued.

The newest shop is Green Dragon, which opened Wednesday at East Quincy Avenue and Reservoir Road.

While they are new to Aurora, Green Dragon isn’t new to Colorado’s recreational marijuana scene.

The company, which launched in 2009, had six stores around the state already: in Aspen, Breckenridge, Denver, Edgewater and two in Glenwood Springs.

It also has grow facilities in Denver and Glenwood Springs that supply its shops.

Just four months into the year, the new Aurora shop is Green Dragon’s second new one of the year. They also purchased Breckenridge Cannabis Club earlier this year, a shop featured on “High Profits,” the CNN series about the state’s marijuana industry.

In a statement announcing their opening, Green Dragon President Ryan Milligan said the company will take the same approach at the Aurora shop that they have at their other locations.

“At our new Aurora location, customers can expect the best prices and quality that we’ve been known for since 2009. With our state-of-the-art grow facility, we are thrilled to be able to pass these savings on to the consumer,” the statement said. 

With about 350,000 people and just 24 retail marijuana licenses available, opening a shop in Aurora has been seen as a prime opportunity for marijuana retailers. That excitement was clear in Green Dragon’s announcement when the company said they were “awarded one of 24 coveted recreational licenses in the city of Aurora.”

The new shop is located in the Highpoint Commons Shopping Center at 19151 E. Quincy Ave. Unlike many pot shops around the state and in Aurora, Green Dragon opted to build this one from the ground up.

The store will also include a head shop with a larger selection of glass and accessories than their other shops, the company said the statement.

For Aurora, just one more license remains for a retail marijuana store.

The city’s rules call for not just a citywide limit, but a limit on the number of shops in each city council ward. Julie Patterson, a spokeswoman for the city, said that 24th will be located in Ward VI, the same southeast Aurora ward where Green Dragon is located.

Patterson said the city doesn’t yet have a timeline for when that final license will be issued.

Several shops received licenses in 2014 — the same year Green Dragon received its license — but have yet to open. When those other six open their doors, the city’s retail marijuana scene will have reached it’s limit, unless council opts to allow more stores.

If an Aurora store closes, Patterson said the city will re-issue that license, but it’s not clear how long that process could take.

“We have not determined what the timeline would be since we have not experienced that yet,” she said.

While Aurora’s limits on the number of retail marijuana shops allowed — a lengthy set of rules that also bars medical marijuana retailers from operating in the city — have been in place since 2014, Denver is now grappling with how to limit the number of pot retailers there. City council there has been considering a proposed set of rules that cap the number of shops there but allow some marijuana businesses still in development to open. Compared to Aurora’s 19 operating pot shops, Denver already has close to 150, according to city of Denver statistics.