Are Dispensaries Legal Now? Sort of…

The on-again, off-again nature of marijuana dispensaries in states with mixed legal status continues to be a confusing landscape for cannabis users.

While states like Colorado have legalized the use of Cannabis, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically sold everywhere like diet soda. A good amount of local authority and regulation exists also.

What many folks don’t know is that businesses are regulated at the local level first, as local as the city and municipal code. As a result, some cities allow dispensaries and others do not. It’s also important to remember that the federal government to date still has not authorized the use of marijuana for any purpose.

However, unlike the early days of deregulation, when the feds literally shut down dispensaries with force despite state laws allowing them, recent behavior tends to work in the background instead. For example, federal laws on banking have made it exceptionally hard for dispensaries and cities that support them to handle financing through national banks.

Is it Legal Now?

Any financial institutions with a federal charter are subject to federal laws and handling dispensary finances would be a violation banks are not willing to cross. So, it’s a complicated mess still in many jurisdictions.

That said, dispensaries are still operating. Where there is a clear path under state law and local state regulation only apply, some cities have been accepting of dispensaries and their operations. Real-time examples can include a Cannabis dispensary near Montrose CO (but not in Montrose, CO as we are making a point here) and other similar locations.

Again, these businesses and operations work under the local city and county jurisdiction under the umbrella of Colorado state law. But there is always the risk of federal law being applied regardless of how liberalized things have become over the years.

What has helped has been a tremendous ground shift in the social view of marijuana. The use of Cannabis for medical patients and/or personal recreation has gone a long way towards pushing the acceptance of the product and separating it from other street drugs with a much more notorious reputation associated with outright crime (think cocaine, heroin, hash, crack, etc.).


So, to answer the question of whether a Cannabis dispensary is an authorized operation in a given location, the response is more of “it depends” than a definitive yes or no. And that’s creating a lot of variation from town to town in Colorado and similar states. This also creates a new way for businesses like marijuana dispensaries to compete with their cannabis competitors.