Pubdate: Thu, 02 Jan 2014
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2014 Star Advertiser
Author: Jack Healy, New York Times


The Centennial State Legalized Marijuana in 2012, but Sales Began on

DENVER - They lined up before dawn and in the snow Wednesday, baby
boomers from Nebraska, local retirees, and a young man who had driven
all day from Ohio. Some were longtime marijuana users. Some had been
arrested for marijuana possession.

They were among the hundreds of tourists and residents across Colorado
who took part in the country's first-ever sales of state-regulated
recreational marijuana. They walked into 40 shops from downtown Denver
to snowy ski resorts, flashed their identification and, in a single
transaction, took part in what supporters hailed as a historic
departure from drug laws focused on punishment and

"It makes you giddy to say it: I went into a store and bought pot,"
Linda Walmsley said as she walked out of the Denver Kush Club, where a
line of shivering customers stretched down the block.

While about 20 states allow medical marijuana, voters in Colorado and
Washington state decided in 2012 to go one step further, becoming the
first in the nation to legalize small amounts of the plant for
recreational use and regulate it like alcohol. Colorado began promptly
on New Year's Day.

To supporters, it was a watershed moment in the country's tangled
relationship with the drug. They said it was akin to the end of
Prohibition, albeit with joints being passed instead of Champagne
being uncorked.

To skeptics, it represented a grand folly that they predicted would
tarnish the image of a state whose official song is John Denver's
"Rocky Mountain High" and lead to higher teenage drug use and more
impaired driving. The governor and Denver's mayor both opposed
legalization and stayed away from the celebrations and inaugural sales

Regulators said Colorado's first sales - on a day called Green
Wednesday by enthusiasts - had gone smoothly. Security guards were
stationed outside dispensaries, and police officers and state
officials watched closely.

Skeptical federal authorities are also paying attention. Although
marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the Justice Department
has given tentative approval for Colorado and Washington to move ahead
with regulating marijuana. But it warned that federal officials could
intervene if the state regulations fail to keep the drug away from
children, drug cartels or federal property, and out of other states.

On Wednesday, Colorado had eight investigators out checking retailers'
licenses, inspecting packaging and labeling, and ensuring that stores
reviewed customers' identification to see if they were 21 or older,
said Ron Kammerzell, director of enforcement for Colorado's Department
of Revenue. "So far, so good," he said. Ever since voters in Colorado
and Washington approved recreational marijuana last year, the states
have been racing to devise rules on how to grow it, sell it, tax it
and track it.

In both Colorado and Washington, recreational marijuana has been legal
for more than a year. But until Wednesday, marijuana dispensaries in
Colorado could sell only to customers with a doctor's recommendation
and a state-issued medical marijuana card.

Washington will open its pot industry later this year.

Many people who lined up Wednesday said they did not have medical
cards, and had relied on drug dealers or friends with medical
marijuana to satisfy their cravings. They were paying high prices for
new recreational marijuana - $50 to $60 for an eighth of an ounce,
nearly double the price of medical marijuana - but said it was
worthwhile to avoid the risk.

"People don't like breaking the law," said Andy Williams, who runs the
Medicine Man dispensary in an industrial park in Denver. "The burden
has been taken off them."  
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