Colorado vape and smoke shops ignore orders to close amid COVID-19 pandemic

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LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Contact7 Investigates found vape and smoke shops across the state staying open despite the stay-at-home order telling them to close amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Licensed medical and retail dispensaries are classified as critical businesses, according the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), but smoke shops and vape shops are not considered essential.

Contact7 Investigates sent a producer undercover at smoke shops and vape shops and found at least six in violation of the order from Lakewood to Brighton.

Puffs Smoke and Vape in Westminster said it’s essential because the shop sells CBD.

“We sell CBD products, we have a couple customers who actually count on it as medical,” said an employee at the store.

High Roller Smoke in Lakewood said the same thing.

“So, are you guys considered a dispensary?” asked Contact7 Investigates’ producer.

“No. We are essential because we do carry CBD,” said an employee at High Roller Smoke.

However, the state said that’s not true.

A store “can only claim critical status if the sale of CBD or other medical marijuana products is their primary business. Merely stocking and selling CBD is not enough,” CDPHE said in a statement.

Colorado’s COVID-19 website clearly lists tobacco and vape shops under the “no” category, meaning they must close as they are not deemed essential under the stay-at-home order.

Tri-County Health recently had to shut down Mile High Pipe and Tobacco III. The Douglas County shop now has a warning letter threatening legal action posted outside.

Smoker Friendly in Brighton told Contact7 Investigates it received its own letter from the health department and the shop has now moved to curbside.

“They were trying to shut us down,” said a clerk at Smoker Friendly. “So, we’re trying to do curbside to keep us going.”

Which is also still against the rules.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis called out business not following his stay-at-home order during a news conference Friday.

“The more folks violating that the more it causes delays for the rest of us,” said Polis.

A local smoke shop owner who asked to remain anonymous because she fears retaliation said she is playing by the rules while watching her competitors break them.

“My store is an accessory, it’s not an essential business right now,” she said. “I’m not above the rules, I was told to close and so that’s what I did.”

She would like to see more done to enforce the rules.

“It’s very upsetting. I mean, I’m all for free enterprise, I’m all for fair competition … this is not what this is,” the smoke shop owner said.

The shop owner had a strong message for vape and smoke shop owners skirting the order to close.

“Step up and take responsibility and stop being about yourself. There’s more at stake than that,” she said.

The Contact7 Investigates Team