An employee brings out a display of drug-infused candies at
the Botana Care marijuana store in Northglenn, Colorado.
The world's first state-licensed marijuana retailers
legally permitted to sell pot for recreational use to the
general public have opened for business in Colorado with long
lines of customers, marking a new chapter in America's drug
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 customers as early
as 8am (local time).
The highly-anticipated New Year's Day opening launched an
unprecedented commercial cannabis market that Colorado
officials expect will ultimately gross $578 million in annual
revenues, including $67 million in tax receipts for the
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 Wednesday, cannabis was being legally produced,
sold and taxed in a system modeled after a regime many states
have in place for alcohol sales - but which exists for
marijuana nowhere in the world outside of Colorado.
Scores of customers lined up in the cold and snow outside at
least two Denver-area stores on Wednesday morning 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.m.
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 - labeled with
names such as "King Tut Kush" and "Gypsy Girl" - that sold
for $45 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 arise.
Hackett said she has 50 lbs (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 candies.
TURNING POINT IN DRUG CULTURE
Like other stores, Botana Care also stocked related wares,
including pipes, rolling papers, bongs, and reusable, locking
Voters in Washington state voted to legalize marijuana at the
same time Colorado did, in November 2012, but Washington is
not slated to open its first retail establishments until
later in 2014.
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
"By legalizing 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
Nearly 20 states, including Colorado and Washington, had
already put themselves at odds with the U.S. government by
approving marijuana for medical purposes.
Opponents warned that legalizing 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 U.S. 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 stature.
"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 commercialized market that
promotes alcohol use to young people," he said.
Under Colorado law, however, state residents can buy as much
as an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana at a time, while
out-of-state visitors are restricted to quarter-ounce
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 remains