Part 8: What happens in a Pueblo dispensary, anyway?
From the outside, the shop where he works is a boxy, warehouse-looking structure with a modern storefront in the shadow of billboards in a sparse industrial zone in between I-25 and the river. But inside — it’s a different story. (Noah Weeks for PULP)
By Miriam Brown and Ana Mashek
High Hopes is a collaboration between PULP and Colorado College’s Journalism Institute.
On a recent Monday afternoon, Walter Clark, a former corrections officer who now works as an armed security officer for NuVue Pharma in Pueblo, was flipping through a thick, official-looking book showing all valid state and federal driver licenses.
He was looking to see if he could accept a Global Entry card, the first time he recalled someone trying to use one in the store. There was a reason for his meticulousness: the state marijuana board can fine him $1,500 per person he lets in with a false ID should any slip through, he said. Clark gestured toward a nearby wall covered with more than a dozen required regulatory paper licenses that make NuVue legal and illustrate the bureaucracy of the business.
He’s also committed to greeting customers from the reception desk and sometimes even handing out paychecks. Clark works eight hours a day, five days a week. He doesn’t get a break, he said, so he eats his lunch when he can.
From the outside, the shop where he works is a boxy, warehouse-looking structure with a modern storefront in the shadow of billboards in a sparse industrial zone between I-25 and Fountain Creek. But inside, it’s a clean, well-lit loungewith heart-shaped armchairs, magazine racks, flat-screen TVs mounted on the walls, and macro-photography of cannabis buds dispersed throughout the space.
When a new customer comes in, Clark reminds them to use one of the store’s two ATMs if they don’t have cash, as most dispensaries don’t accept debit or credit cards because of the industry’s still federally illegal status and a wariness of some big banks. He asks customers to keep their ID out and sends them into a back room not visible from the lobby, where a “budtender” is waiting.
Across town, Mark Valdez, assistant manager at the 404 Dispensary, says he is responsible for inventory and the “cash flow going to the bank on a day-to-day basis.” (The cannabis industry is mostly an all-cash business, as many banks don’t want to get in the crosshairs of federal regulators by getting involved with a business that is still federally illegal. But the Colorado Bankers Association has told media more than two dozen banks and credit unions allow deposits from cannabis businesses.)
While Valdez has enjoyed his two years of work in the industry, he’s clear that it’s “just like any other business.” It’s not “glamorous,” like some people might think, he says. “It’s fun, but it’s a job.”
His other duties include making sure products stay on the shelf, checking their dates, and being prepared to answer customer questions about the product.
Who are these customers?
“I mean, it’s everybody,” Valdez said. “From brothers, sisters, to grandmas and grandpas.”
About the Authors
Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Miriam is a student journalist at Colorado College’s Journalism Institute. She worked for CC’s independent student newspaper, The Catalyst, for two years in a variety of roles, including reporter, section editor, copy editor, and co-editor-in-chief.
Junior, studying race, ethnicity, and migration studies and journalism at Colorado College. From Bethesda, MD, with journalism experience in the Journalism Institute at CC as well as running The Sideline Observer, a student-run online media organization. @SidelineOMike
Noah grew up in St. Louis, MO, and is a senior Film and Media Studies major at Colorado College. His interests include public policy, political journalism, and sustainable international development, and his documentary “Guns for Everyone” was featured on Rocky Mountain PBS’s series “In-Short.” Noah can be found on @WeeksNoah.
Ana is from Swarthmore, PA. She’s currently a sophomore at Colorado College, where she is pursuing a degree within their Journalism Institute. She works for the school’s independently run newspaper, The Catalyst, as both a writer and layout editor. @ana_mashek