NEW YORK (MainStreet) — High prices have not diminished demand for recreational marijuana in Colorado, with some shops already sold out of their initial inventory. Grass rationing has begun, as retailers begin imposing additional restrictions on sales, well below the caps required by state law.

The Denver Post reports as many as 100,000 people purchased pot in the first week of legal sales in Colorado, totaling an estimated $5 million in revenues.

"None of us could really prepare for what was going to hit us," Nick Brown, owner of High Country Healing in Silverthorne told the Post. "I think we all thought we would see huge demand and lines. But I don't think any of us expected what was happened over the last six days."

Prices for an eighth of an ounce have reportedly topped $45, nearly double the $25 medicinal customers have been paying.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is preparing to issue new guidelines to financial institutions regarding the flow of funds from marijuana sales. Federal law current forbids banks from accepting deposits from known drug dealers as a violation of money-laundering regulations. The revised DOJ guidance is expected to clarify the responsibilities of Colorado financial institutions.

In a memorandum issued in August, the DOJ emphasized its commitment to enforce the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in spite of growing state legalization for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The Department listed enforcement priorities that included:

  • Distribution to minors
  • Revenue flowing to known criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels
  • Transport of the substance to states where the sale of marijuana remains illegal
  • Preventing the legal sale of pot from being used as a cover for illegal drug trafficking
  • Preventing violence in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
  • Preventing drugged driving
  • Preventing the growth of marijuana on public lands
  • Preventing possession or use on federal property.

"Outside of these enforcement priorities, however, the federal government has traditionally relied on state and local authorities to address marijuana activity through enforcement of their own narcotics laws," the DOJ statement noted. "This guidance continues that policy."

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet