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PULP

January 2020

High Hopes: Seeds to Retail Shelves

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 lounge with 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

Miriam Brown


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.

Michael Gorman


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 Weeks


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 Mashek


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

This series was produced by Colorado College journalism students and PULP.

High Hopes

What has happened to Colorado’s ‘Napa Valley’ of weed?

Intro: In 2014, Pueblo was referred to as the “Napa Valley” of cannabis, but by whom?


Part 2: License and Registration, Please

What does it take to earn a license in a tightening Pueblo cannabis industry?

Part 2

Part 3: Rising Tide in the Desert 

How federal cannabis regulation trickles down to raise water prices for Pueblo businesses.

Part 3

Part 4: Bloom Doom, Seedless in Pueblo

How federal cannabis regulation trickles down to raise water prices for Pueblo businesses.

Part 4

Part 5: From the Ground Up

Fluctuating market prices have made hitting profit thresholds a veritable science for cannabis growers.

Part 5

Part 6: What happened to the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Testing? 

With only one functioning cannabis testing facility, how can retail owners and growers be sure of their product?

Part 6

Part 7: Driving the Business

The white vans army fuels gets the cannabis from grow to the store.

Part 7

Part 8: Seeds to Retail Shelves

What happens in a Pueblo dispensary, anyway?

Part 8

Part 9: Not One Typical consumer

The white vans army fuels gets the cannabis from grow to the store.

Part 9

Part 10: High Hopes: Profit, Taxes and the Budweiser of Cannabis

Which companies have found success or failure in the new and tumultuous landscape of cannabis in Pueblo County?

Part 10

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