El Paso County's First Recreational Pot Shop Open Doors

At 4:20 p.m. Thursday, Maggie's Farm in Manitou Springs officially became the first recreational pot shop in El Paso County.

The first person to buy legal weed? Manitou Springs City Councilman Kevin MacDonald, who said he expected the shop to a boom for the Manitou Springs economy.

"It's going to help us first and foremost with our mitigation for fire and flood. We are still working on that."

That was the general feeling among people in Manitou Springs. It's the only community in the county were recreational pot is allowed to be sold, and residents have mixed feelings about that. But one thing most can agree on is that it should bring much-needed revenue to the town.

"I think that it's out here anyway, you might as well...cash in on the benefits it could provide," Maggie Nydam said.

One of those benefits, MacDonald said, is jobs.

"If you came here before this facility was built, you saw a run-down building that wasn't doing much for us as a city. These gentlemen [at Maggie's Farm] came in, put a lot of people to work and got jobs because of this."

It won't be clear for several weeks whether the crowd Thursday was generated by the novelty of it all, or is an indication of future business. But the store's first day was certainly a success; hundreds waited in line to get their hands on legalized pot. It was a success for the city too: each purchase had a 40 percent tax attached to it. The tax money generated from the sales goes right back into the community.

Visitors to Manitou Springs told 11 News they've seen the benefits of legalized pot in their own communities.

"It might not be the best way to bring funding to the city, but it's done a lot...for places in Denver," Rochelle Reis said.

Several local business operators said they are looking forward to the influx of customers the pot shop will bring.

"I really think that it will boom Manitou's business. Manitou is a very tourist-based town and we need something that pulls people here all season long," Jordan Shinkle said.

"Historic" was the word thrown around by customers 11 News spoke with.

"History is being made and I think it's a long time coming," one woman told reporter Kristin Haubrich.

"I find this is historic. I never thought I'd see this and that pot would be legal and now retail in El Paso," Lawrence Basco said.

It was smooth sailing Thursday, but down the road some of the logistics are still proving to be tricky. The shop sits at the busy intersection of Manitou Avenue and Highway 24, and people can only access it from the eastbound lanes--potentially adding congestion and confusion to an already troubled spot.

Maggie's Farm has said they will have Department of Transportation-approved traffic controllers out in case things are messy at first. The Manitou Springs Police Department says they are on standby if the situation gets out of control.

Once customers get to the shop, only two dozen parking spots are available in front of the store. Customers are not allowed to park in the nearby Loaf 'n Jug parking lot. People have already been towed from the gas station lot.

For now, the Car Museum half a block away is offering overflow parking. If that fills up, customers' best bet would be to take the free shuttle that has a drop-off area near the shop.

Community leaders are also trying to formally determine what is considered public use of marijuana, since by law it can only be used in private. They spoke to the Manitou Springs police chief Tuesday night.

"What they want is for people to do it discretely, and if they're doing it in their own home, that's discreet. What they don't want is to have people walking down the sidewalk or in the city parks using it," Chief Joe Ribeiro said.

In a City Council session Tuesday, councilors worked out that places like porches and patios, even if they're visible to the public, will be considered private under the pot law. That still has to be written up and voted on by the council before it comes official. Tuesday's session was a work session, so no formal decision could be made. The next City Council meeting is Aug. 5.

A second former medical pot shop has also been given permission to open up for recreational sales in Manitou Springs at a future date. That date has not been released.

For those who are unhappy about the newest business in Manitou Springs, residents will have a chance to vote against it on the November ballot, thanks to a petition to approved in July that puts the question back to the voters. The original decision to open recreational pot shops in Manitou was voted on by city council.