File this one under “It was bound to happen.”
A chain of medical marijuana dispensaries is set to open two gas station/convenience stores called Gas & Grass in Colorado Springs in October of this year. Native Roots currently runs a chain of eleven medical and recreational cannabis outlets throughout Colorado and the new hybrid stores seem like a natural fit.
“It's really just kind of pairing the convenience in one specific stop,” said Tia Mattson, spokesperson for Native Roots. “I believe we'll have lottery tickets, beverages, cigarettes and similar things that you would pick up in a convenience store,” as well as medicinal marijuana. While both 'gas' and 'grass' are right there in the name, shoppers at the new stores will not be able to purchase both items at the same time; the gas station and medicinal marijuana dispensary were designed to be two separate businesses housed at the same location. Gas & Grass stores will also sell shirts, hats and souvenirs with a marijuana theme, expanding on the Native Roots business model of selling more than just marijuana. “We definitely are leaders and we're visionaries,” Mattson said. “It's just one more thing for us to pair up the shopping and convenience of gas with a stop for somebody who is a patient, to knock off both errands at one time.”
If you cannot wait for the chance to fill up your tank and your bong in the same trip, you should know one thing. Thanks to a 5 to 4 vote by the city council last year, recreational marijuana cannot legally be grown or sold in Colorado Springs, so Gas & Grass will only sell medicinal marijuana. That means customers will need to show a state-issued medical marijuana card before buying weed. Gas & Grass will also offer a loyalty discount program that lets patients save a few cents a gallon on gas purchases, based on how much they spend on marijuana.
While it may seem to be inevitable, not everyone is thrilled with the idea of selling gas and marijuana in the same location. In a recent editorial in the Colorado Springs Gazette, “Gas & Grass, a sign of Big Tobacco 2.0”, the paper accused Native Roots of taking advantage of the fact there are, “No regulatory boundaries (that) prevent mixing pot sales with common consumer products.” The editorial also compared the people behind “pot-peddling” to those who sell cigarettes. “Marketing pot to consumers while they carry out everyday tasks is right out of the old Big Tobacco playbook,” the piece stated. “If this business model works for Gas & Grass, expect pot sales at most gas stations within the next few years. It will be a huge triumph for Big Tobacco 2.0.”
The editorial adds that, “Patients buy prescription drugs at pharmacies. State regulations segment controlled and intoxicating substances like zoning isolates houses from factories.” When Coloradans voted to legalize marijuana three years ago, they did not anticipate being able to purchase cannabis and gas together. “The public's 2012 decision anticipated a regulatory structure–like the control of alcohol sales–that would segregate drug retail from candy, soda, gasoline and such. This is common sense. Everyone operating a vehicle should be stone-cold clean and sober and not enticed to buy drugs each time they need fuel,” the editorial added.
Despite the Gazette’s objections, public opinion seems to be behind the Gas & Grass concept. “This is an opportunity to expand the market,” said Robert Chase, a cannabis advocate, adding, “We still need the owners to be responsible.” When asked if he could envision other combinations, such as selling donuts and marijuana or coffee and cannabis, he said, “Those are all likely combinations. There's nothing in regulations now that prevent that.”