Buyers line up as Washington opens legal pot shops

People wait in the heat to enter Cannabis City during the first day of legal retail marijuana sales in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Reuters
People wait in the heat to enter Cannabis City during the first day of legal retail marijuana sales in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Reuters
Eager customers lined up before dawn as Washington became the second US state to allow the sale of marijuana for recreational use, although shortages and high prices were likely to accompany any euphoria.

Store employees clapped and cheered at Top Shelf Cannabis in the northern city of Bellingham as its first buds were sold to a 29-year-old from Kansas, Cale Holdsworth.

"I'm happy to be a part of history," said Holdsworth, who was on vacation visiting family and took his place at the front of the line at about 4 a.m.

Shops started to open a day after 25 outlets were issued licenses under a heavily regulated and taxed system approved by voters in November 2012.

The nation, and the federal government, will be watching Washington's rollout as a broader trend of liberalization and pro-pot activism takes hold in the United States.

While Colorado has been raking in millions of dollars a month in tax since rolling out regulated retail sales in January, Washington has charted a glacial path to market. State regulators are still processing more than 300 license applications.

More than 100 people were outside Top Shelf Cannabis, in an industrial office park, when doors opened at 8am.

After Holdsworth's ID was checked to ensure he was 21 or older, he picked out two grams (0.07 ounce) of "OG Pearl Kush" for $26.50, which included about $6 in taxes.

His marijuana was placed in black plastic packaging labeled with its name and strength.

"This is exactly what we need: proper education and information," Holdsworth said. "It's a great step forward."

PROMOTIONAL PRICING

A couple of miles away, Bellingham's second licensed marijuana store, 2020 Solutions, remained closed as staff said a technical issue with the state's tracking system had prohibited their producer from shipping their pot.

Top Shelf owner Tom Beckley has offered his first 50 to 100 customers promotional pricing of $10 per gram, with prices rising to $12-$25 per gram depending on quality and type.

Cannabis City, the only licensed retailer in Seattle, a city of some 630,000 residents, planned to open with a "high noon" ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Customers are legally allowed up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of marijuana before buying more. They also can buy up to 16 ounces (454 grams) of marijuana-infused product in solid form or up to 72 ounces (2 kg) of marijuana-infused product in liquid form.

Shortages may mean prices of $25 to $30 a gram on Tuesday, roughly twice the price at the state's weakly regulated medical marijuana dispensaries.

However, some retailers said limiting early shoppers to buying a few grams will help deal with shortages, due in part to limited harvests by licensed growers, regulatory hurdles, and an applicant backlog.

And popular "edibles," such as hash brownies, are not expected to be available as no processor has been cleared to operate a cannabis kitchen.

Alice's B Toklas Restaurant

Good the hash brownies are off. Freely available marijuana confections transcend age restrictions, like RTDs.

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