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How Legal Marijuana Is Affecting Denver’s Restaurant Industry

Although there’s an increase in tourism, the restaurant business might be losing potential employees to dispensaries

Recreational marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2012, attracting tourism from all over the country. With more and more states legalizing recreational marijuana, the edibles industry has grown and continues to rise. Although warnings about the industry’s potential effect on the alcohol business have been widespread, Bloomberg recently reported that it may also be impacting Denver’s restaurants.

“Our work force is being drained by the pot industry,” Bryan Dayton, co-owner of the Denver-area restaurants Oak at Fourteenth, Acorn, and Brider, told Bloomberg. “There’s a very small work pool as it is. Enter the weed business, which pays $22 an hour with full benefits. You can come work in a kitchen for us for eight hours a day, in a hot kitchen. It’s a stressful life. Or you can go sort weed in a climate-controlled greenhouse. It’s a pretty obvious choice.”

In addition to the pay, companies specializing in cannabis edibles are also on the hunt for pastry chefs to create more quality products.

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“Laced candies and gummy bears are sought-after treats when they are made well, so pastry chefs and cooks can make them for three to four times the money a restaurant can pay,” Jennifer Jasinski, James Beard Foundation award-winner for Best Chef Southwest in 2013 and founder of Rioja in Denver, said.