By Jim Spellman, CNN
Driving down Broadway, it's easy to forget you are in the United States. Amid the antique stores, bars and fast-food joints occupying nearly every block are some of Denver's newest businesses: medical marijuana dispensaries. The locals call this thoroughfare "Broadsterdam." As in Amsterdam, Netherlands, these businesses openly advertise their wares, often with signs depicting large green marijuana leaves. "The American capitalist system is working," said attorney and medical marijuana advocate Rob Corry. It's a matter of supply and demand.
"The demand has always been there," he said, "and the demand is growing daily because more doctors are willing to do this, and now businesses, entrepreneurs, mom-and-pop shops are cropping up to create a supply." Colorado voters legalized medical marijuana in 2000. For years, patients could get small amounts from "caregivers," the term for growers and dispensers who could each supply only five patients. In 2007, a court lifted that limit and business boomed. Between 2000 and 2008, the state issued about 2,000 medical marijuana cards to patients. That number has grown to more than 60,000 in the last year. State Sen. Chris Romer, a Democrat whose south Denver district includes Broadsterdam, said the state receives more than 900 applications a day. "It's growing so fast, it's like the old Wild West," Romer said. "This reminds me of 1899 in Cripple Creek, Colorado, when somebody struck gold. Every 49er in the country is making it for Denver to open a medical marijuana dispensary." They're calling it the Green Rush.
Corry, who has represented defendants in medical marijuana cases for years, is taking a different role: He has formed the Colorado Wellness Association, a trade group representing medical marijuana growers and providers. "We want to be the Better Business Bureau of marijuana," he said. On the 28th floor of a downtown building with a great view of the Rocky...