Texans travel to Colorado to enjoy legal marijuana

By Jace Larson - Investigative Reporter

TELLURIDE, Colo - An increasing number of Texas residents are traveling to Colorado to enjoy winter sports and get high now that the state has legalized recreational marijuana.

"Seventy percent of my clientele were from Texas," said Adam Raleigh, Telluride Bud Company owner, of the first week after recreational marijuana became legal Jan. 1. "We expected it to wear off in the first two weeks, but it hasn't."

Local 2 Investigates traveled to the wealthy mountain-resort community this week to ask Texans if legal cannabis draws them to Colorado. Winter mountain sports draw most out-of-state visitors, but many said legal marijuana is part of their vacation.

"I'd say it's a huge pull for Texans to come up here," Patrick Dyar said.

Dyar is from Carlton, Texas, 90 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

"If they are over 21, (a dispensary) is the first place they go," Dyar said. "I see them stockpiling Pringles and Visine at the market."

"Because of the closeness of Colorado to Texas, Texas is big business for us," Raleigh told Local 2 Investigative reporter Jace Larson.

Raleigh sells buds, marijuana candy and THC lemonade.

"They basically get off the plane, get the taxi up here and check into their hotel room. Before they even get their skis or rental gear, they come straight to us to get their cannabis and then go back on the town," Raleigh said.

Customers at Raleigh's store span all age groups.

"You've got the gray haired lady, moms, 21-year-olds, all the way to the Texans that look just like a highway patrol cop," he said. "They are like, ‘Here is my ID. I want to buy.'"

"I have really bad back problems. I tried a little bit of a candy bar the other night and I felt great in no time," said Barb, a well-dressed woman from Dallas who appeared older than 50, but declined to give any more personal information.

Colorado state law allows residents to buy up to an ounce of marijuana in a single purchase. Out-of-state residents can buy a quarter of an ounce at a time.

There is nothing in the state law that stops a person from buying from one dispensary and then going to another and purchasing the maximum amount of pot there, too.

Colorado charges 25 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana.

Raleigh sold a quarter-ounce of pot for $90 this week. On that sale, the state made $22.50 in sales tax.

Taking pot back to Texas is illegal.

"They will be prosecuted as the law allows," Joseph Allard, Harris County assistant district attorney over major narcotics, said.

First-time offenders caught with a small amount of pot don't generally serve jail time, he said.

"It would probably be a deferred probation with drug education and random (urine analysis) to see how much drugs are in the system," Allard said of defendants who might choose to plead guilty.

Raleigh says he discourages his out-of-state customers from buying more than they can use on a vacation.

"We're trying an experiment here in Colorado, the same as Washington State. We don't need someone rocking the boat, being a bad apple, ruining the bunch," he said.

Marijuana use or possession is illegal under federal law everywhere in the United States, but the Justice Department says its priorities are large-scale marijuana growers usually connected to criminal enterprises.

The Justice Department does not generally go after people growing or using a small amount of marijuana. He thinks regulations will relax elsewhere if the stigma against legal marijuana continues to disappear.

"I'm thinking this industry will probably rival the ski industry in the next couple of years," Raleigh said.

Join the discussion about marijuana legalization and taxation on investigative reporter Jace Larson's Facebook page.

Have a tip for investigative reporter Jace Larson? Email him at jlarson@kprc.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Copyright 2014 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.