Happy New Year!!! Well done Colorado!!!
Marijuana Milestone in Colorado
“Happy independence day”BY THE DENVER POST
Scenes from the historic first day of recreational marijuana sales in Colorado on Wednesday:
Media mob at the Medicine Man. At the Medicine Man retail pot shop in Denver’s Montbello neighborhood, the line stretched around the building, past a food truck selling breakfast burritos and into the employee parking lot.
Reporters from French television, CNN, High Times and local news stations crammed into the lobby. The store was ready at 8 a.m. with six cash registers and seven private, armed security guards — not because anyone anticipated trouble, but just to be safe.
“Good morning,” said owner Andy Williams, wearing a blue suit and an earpiece wired to other staff members. “Happy independence day.”
One thing was higher before the doors even opened: prices. Medicine Man surveyed competitors and raised prices for an eighth of an ounce of marijuana from $25 for medical patients to $45 for recreational buyers, in part to ward off a shortage. After taxes, an eighth-ounce ran $64.91. The store reported about half the customers were from out-of-state.
Kevin Schotz, 27, of Omaha, said he was vacationing in Arizona and took a detour to Colorado to be a part of history. “I can’t even express how much I truly find joy in that people are truly being progressive about this and thinking of it with an open mind,” he said. “This is a special time.”
Most stores run a tight ship. Tight organization reigned at some recreational marijuana stores. At others, not so much. In-store traffic was smooth, and outside lines moved along reasonably well at the Denver Kush Club in the Five Points neighborhood.
Doors opened precisely at 8 a.m. All 12 Kush Club employees were prepped and staffing their posts. Customer questions were cordially answered, but the prevailing attitude among clerks was this: “Tell us what you want, pay for it and let’s move on to the next customer.”
At The Health Center, 17th Avenue and Downing Street, pre-opening activities were chaotic. Staffers frantically stocked shelves in an effort to open by 10 a.m. They didn’t quite make it. About 30 customers waited outside in light snowfall until doors opened at 10:10 a.m. They were then let in three at a time by an armed security guard.
Tiffany Goldman, director of operations, said staffers had worked through the night until about 2 a.m. to prepare. She attributed the last-minute pandemonium to delays in permitting and glitches with the store’s product-tracking system.
Line just keeps growing. Linda Andrews, owner of LoDo Wellness at 16th and Wazee streets, arrived about 6 a.m. to just one person in line. By 7:30 a.m., there were about 15 customers. And by 11 a.m., a line of more than 600 had formed around the block, representing a three-hour wait.
“I expected there to be a morning rush, and I thought we’d quiet down,” Andrews said. “I had no idea.” The first customers could buy up to the legal limit of 1 ounce, but the business started imposing additional limits within the first two hours, concerned about short supply. By noon, customers could buy an eighth-ounce.
“With an (eighth-ounce) limit, I’m still worried,” said Andrews, whose daughter Haley manages the shop and whose husband, Don, owns the building. Prices held steady Wednesday, but that could change if the demand persists.
A new chapter in Telluride’s history. Lines a couple dozen deep stretched outside the doors of downtown Telluride’s Alpine Wellness and the Telluride Green Room all morning.
San Miguel County Commissioner Art Goodtimes was first in line at Alpine Wellness. A marijuana enforcement division officer wandered between Telluride’s two stores, doing little more than watching. Michael Grady woke up New Year’s Eve and read his full-page ad in the Telluride Watch. “Prohibition Ends At Last,” it read.
“It kind of brought a little tear to my eye,” said the owner of Alpine Wellness and Alpine Edibles, which ships “Ganjala” taffy candies to 40 medical dispensaries around Colorado,.
“We are at the forefront. We are pushing to do it and do it right and set a good standard,” said Grady, who expected hundreds of visitors to his recreational marijuana store, which was overflowing with an arsenal of cannabis-infused Ganjala candies, Rice Krispies bars, balsamic vinegars, “Peppermint Fatty” chocolates and cookies, as well as several strains of indica and sativa weed.
For framing, not smoking. Don Andrews purchased LoDo Wellness’ first joint at 8 a.m., to frame on his wall, he said, but Curtis Durham, 24, of Chandler, Texas, was not far behind. He was looking forward to “the experience of buying a legal bag” after several arrests and years of relying on drug dealers. He had been saving his money since August.
“I’ve been to jail two or three times just for simple marijuana possession of less than a gram. I went to jail once for having a pipe,” Durham said. “It’s covert and it’s secret, and that’s not the way I want to live my life. I’m going to go to as many stores as I can.” He entered the store at 8 a.m., and when he left some time later, he said the experience was everything he had hoped for. “It was as easy as buying a cup of coffee, I guess.”
All orders are to go. Clutching brown paper bags, customers emerged from LoDo Wellness to applause, cheers and high-fives. Casper residents Justin Achenbach and Elizabeth Mendoza, both 39, rushed outside, where Achenbach immediately unwrapped an edible. Others rushed to their cars or homes to light up, off the street and out of the watchful eye of a lone Denver police officer, who sat in his idling cruiser, which peeked out of an alleyway.
“It was a much better experience than buying weed off of somebody you don’t know,” Achenbach said, chewing the edible. “It was a much safer feeling.” Mendoza described it as “a dream come true.”
“We bought every kind of weed they had down there,” Achenbach said.
Coffee, cookies as a bonus. Evergreen Apothecary in Denver offered customers coffee, cookies and a warm place to wait next door until they could buy pot. They also handed out 250 certificates and green shirts to early shoppers to mark the day.
“It far exceeded my expectations,” said Tim Cullen, the shop’s co-owner. “We were ready for this crowd, but I had no idea if the crowd would be here or not.”
In a historic swirl of commerce and cannabis, the world’s first stores licensed to sell marijuana legally to anyone 21 or older opened in Colorado on Wednesday.
From Telluride to Denver, thousands of people cheerfully stood in lines for hours to buy legal marijuana after presenting nothing more than identification. Marijuana activists hailed the day as a watershed in their effort to overturn anti-cannabis laws. Store owners — several of whom said the turnout exceeded even their own ambitious expectations — feared running out of supply.
Police reported no problems with the crowds, and government officials marveled at the calm.Overall, the day went as marijuana activists had hoped it would: In the most extraordinary way possible, it was ordinary.
“I’ve been waiting 34 years for this moment,” enthused Chrissy Robinson, who arrived at one store, Evergreen Apothecary in Denver, at 2 a.m. to be among the first in line. “I’ve been smoking since I was 14. No more sneaking around.”
At least 37 stores across the state were fully licensed and opened to sell marijuana to anyone 21 or over for any purpose, according to official lists and Denver Post research. Sales could commence at 8 a.m., and activists — who campaigned for the marijuana-legalization measure whose passage in November 2012 made the sales possible — arranged a ceremonial “first purchase” at the Denver store 3D Cannabis Center.
The store used to be called “Denver’s Discreet Dispensary,” so the name change speaks to the rapid evolution of Colorado’s marijuana industry, which began in earnest only about four years ago. 3D Cannabis Center owner Toni Fox watched the clock carefully as the hour approached and dozens of reporters and photographers crowded into one of her store’s tiny purchasing areas. “It’s 8 a.m.,” she said. “I’m going to do it.”
The first customer was 32-yearold Sean Azzariti, an Iraq war veteran who campaigned for marijuana legalization and said he uses cannabis to alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Under a canopy of cameras, Azzariti bought an eighth of an ounce of the marijuana strain Bubba Kush and a package of marijuana-infused candy truffles. “We did it!” a beaming Azzariti said at the end of the purchase. The cost was $59.74, including $10.46 in tax. At the bottom of the receipt was the message “Thank you for your purchase!”
“I’m confident these businesses will perform and be a good example of how states can regulate marijuana,” activist Mason Tvert said just prior to the store’s first purchase. “Today, there will be people around the country buying marijuana. But only in Colorado will they be buying it in stores like this one.”
Concerns of foes
Opponents of legalization bemoaned the day as the beginning of what will be a disastrous venture for Colorado. Drug-treatment professionals said recreational sales will lead to increases in marijuana addiction among adults and kids. They compared the nascent recreational marijuana industry to the tobacco and liquor industries and said they expected it to spawn similar harms.
Kevin Sabet, a former White House drug-policy adviser, said that Wednesday marks the dawn of “Big Marijuana.”
“In any addictive industry, such as this one, the only way to make money is off of addiction,” he said Tuesday.
While marijuana sales remain illegal under federal law, no place in the world — not even Amsterdam — has gone as far as Colorado to legalize and regulate sales of marijuana. The law allows state residents to buy up to an ounce of marijuana and out-of-state residents a quarter-ounce.
Later this year, Washington state will launch a marijuana industry similar to Colorado’s. The U.S. Department of Justice has decided not to block legalization in either state, so long as the states implement strict regulations on the stores.
In a statement Wednesday, Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh said federal authorities “will be monitoring Colorado’s efforts to regulate marijuana closely.”
“Colorado’s system is still very much a work in progress,” he said.
Investigators from the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division made compliance checks at stores throughout the day. In Denver, city officials kept an eye on things, too. Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the large, mellow crowd he encountered during a visit to Medicine Man dispensary in Denver, where lines wrapped around the building and into a parking lot.
“It’s kind of a relief, frankly,” he said. “This could have gone a lot of different ways. So far, so good.”
“What I love about it,” Denver Councilman Al-bus Brooks said, “is the peacefulness of the crowd... and the diversity.” Denver police said they issued two citations for public marijuana consumption, although a spokesman couldn’t say whether those tickets were connected to marijuana sales.
A night-long drive
In Telluride, Lucas DaSilva of Georgia drove through the night and slept in his car with his dog, Marley, before settling at the front door of the Telluride Green Room about dawn. A few hours later, he emerged from the store $180 lighter but holding 6 grams — about one-fifth of an ounce — of African Queen, Acapulco Gold and Bubble Gum strains of cannabis and several marijuana-infused edibles.
“I’m at a loss for words,” he said, then, with arms outstretched, yelled, “Happy New Year!” — prompting cheers from the line.
“This is history I just made,” he said. “I can’t believe it. Such a blessing.”
At 8 a.m., the lines of customers outside most stores were fairly short, but they lengthened as the day went on. By midafternoon, customers at BotanaCare in Northglenn said they waited as long as five hours to make their purchases. At LoDo Wellness, in Denver, the line stretched down the block, with a wait of about three hours. Building owner Donald Andrews gazed at the line and called out, “It is a thing of beauty!”
A jump in prices
Stores were charging $30 to $50 — and sometimes more — for an eighth of an ounce of marijuana, which is slightly to significantly higher than prices for medical marijuana. At least one store had increased its prices for opening day. For fear of running out on opening day, several stores, including 3D Cannabis, imposed added limits on how much customers could buy.
Standing in line outside 3D Cannabis, though, Brandon Harris, 24, didn’t much care about the price, the limits or the wait. He and friend Tyler Williams, also 24, said they had driven 20 hours straight from Cincinnati to be in Denver for the first day of sales. Now that they’re here, Harris said, they’re not going back home.
“We’re staying,” he said. “We’re going to become residents.”
Staff writers Sadie Gurman, Steve Raabe, Zahira Torres, Eric Gorski and Jason Blevins contributed to this report.