The world's first state-licensed marijuana retailers legally
permitted to sell pot for recreational use to the general public opened for
business in Colorado on Wednesday with long lines of customers, marking a new
chapter in America's drug culture.
Roughly three dozen former medical marijuana dispensaries
newly cleared by state regulators to sell pot to consumers who are interested
in nothing more than its mind- and mood-altering properties began welcoming
could double dope use
The highly-anticipated New Year's Day opening launched an
unprecedented commercial cannabis market that Colorado officials expect will gross millions in annual revenues, including a hefty sum
in tax receipts for the state.
Getting high legally
Possession, cultivation and private personal consumption of
marijuana by adults for the sake of just getting high has already been legal in
Colorado for more than a year under a state constitutional amendment approved
by voters. But as of a few days ago, cannabis was being legally produced, sold and
taxed in a system modelled after a regime many states have in place for alcohol
sales – but which exists for marijuana nowhere in the world outside of
– the definition
Scores of customers lined up in the cold and snow outside at
least two Denver-area stores waiting for doors to
open."I wanted to be one of the first to buy pot and no longer be
prosecuted for it. This end of prohibition is long overdue," said Jesse
Phillips, 32, an assembly-line worker who was the day's first patron at Botana
Care in the Denver suburb of Northglenn. He had camped outside the shop since 1
A cheer from about 100 fellow customers waiting in line to
buy went up as Phillips made his purchase, an eighth-ounce sampler pack
containing four strains of weed – labelled with names such as "King Tut
Kush" and "Gypsy Girl" – that sold for $40 including tax.
He also bought a child-proof carry pouch required by state
regulations to transport his purchase out of the store.
Robin Hackett, 51, co-owner of Botana Care, said before the
opening that she expected between 800 to 1 000 first-day customers, and hired a
private security firm to help with any traffic and parking issues that might
Hackett said she has 23 kg of product on hand, and to avoid
a supply shortage the shop will limit purchases to quarter-ounces on Wednesday,
including joints, raw buds or cannabis-infused edibles such as pastries or
Turning point in drug
Like other stores,
Botana Care also stocked related wares, including pipes, rolling papers, bongs,
and reusable, locking child-proof pouches. Voters in Washington state voted to
legalise marijuana at the same time Colorado did, in November 2012, but
Washington is not slated to open its first retail establishments until later in
Still, supporters and detractors alike see the two Western
states as embarking on an experiment that could mark the beginning of the end
for marijuana prohibition at the national level."By legalising marijuana,
Colorado has stopped the needless and racially biased enforcement of marijuana
prohibition laws," said Ezekiel Edwards, director of the American Civil
Liberties Union's Criminal Law Reform Project.
Cannabis remains classified as an illegal narcotic under
federal law, though the Obama administration has said it will give individual
states leeway to carry out their own recreational-use statutes.
Nearly 20 states, including Colorado and Washington, had
already put themselves at odds with the US government by approving marijuana
for medical purposes. Opponents warned that legalising recreational use could
help create an industry intent on attracting underage users and getting more
people dependent on the drug.
Comparing the nascent pot market to the alcohol industry,
former US Representative Patrick Kennedy, co-founder of Project Smart
Approaches to Marijuana, said his group aims to curtail marijuana advertising
and to help push local bans on the drug while the industry is still modest in
"This is a battle that if we catch it early enough we
can prevent some of the most egregious adverse impacts that have happened as a
result of the commercialised market that promotes alcohol use to young
people," he said.
Under Colorado law, however, state residents can buy as much
as 28 grams of marijuana at a time, while out-of-state visitors are restricted
to quarter-ounce purchases.
Restraint was certainly the message being propagated on New
Year's Eve by Colorado authorities, who posted signs at Denver International
Airport and elsewhere around the capital warning that pot shops can only
operate during approved hours, and that open, public consumption of marijuana