News / USA

First State-licensed Marijuana Shops Open in Colorado

People wait in line to be among the first to legally buy recreational marijuana at the Botana Care store in Northglenn, Colorado, Jan. 1, 2014.
People wait in line to be among the first to legally buy recreational marijuana at the Botana Care store in Northglenn, Colorado, Jan. 1, 2014.
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 customers as early as 8 a.m. MST (1500 GMT).

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 state.

Watch related video by VOA's Mike Richman

US State Permits Sale of Recreational Marijuanai
January 02, 2014 8:58 PM
Twenty U.S. states and Washington, D.C., permit marijuana use for medical purposes. The western state of Colorado, however, has become the first state to allow the sale of recreational marijuana. Activists hope the experiment will set a trend around the U.S. and the world. VOA's Mike Richman reports.

Possession, cultivation and private personal consumption of marijuana by adults for the sake of just getting high already has been legal in Colorado for more than a year under a state constitutional amendment approved by voters. As of Wednesday, though, 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 she 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 child-proof pouches.

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 national level.

“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 recreational-use statutes.

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 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 remains illegal.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Chris Winchester from: Ft Worth
January 06, 2014 4:00 PM
These guys purchasing marijuana from the pot shops are no different from me buying a six pack after work. It just feels good to relax. Upetty house wive's who read about Colorado's legalization news upon returning home from four hours at the salon and spa may not understand this phenomenon to its full extent. Cursed be the day some self riteous politician breaks down my door and tries to pry a cold bottle of beer from my calloused hands!

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
January 06, 2014 1:06 AM
It is so sad for me these customers can not feel easy without the help of Marijuana. No matter how the causes makimg them use Marijuana, I am sure it is actually themselves who know most seriously that Marijuana is bad for their health. I hope they will become independent on Marijuana as soon as possible. Thank you.

by: Ada from: Nija
January 03, 2014 2:04 AM
America,wat a shame.

by: Max Ajida from: South Africa
January 02, 2014 1:06 PM
Legalising marijuana will help grow the economies of other countries like Malawi and Swaziland that believed to have the high quality. Let's hope they'll buy from these countries at a reasonable prices since its called their gold.

by: BossIlluminati
January 02, 2014 12:02 PM
the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING!!!13

from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%, almost there...all it took was my beautiful cali..


by: Joey from: Houston
January 02, 2014 11:28 AM
These comments are hilarous. Sorry to break it to you folks, but marijuana has basically been legal in Colorado for over a decade now, and none of the nonsense you are worried about has materialized. Crime is down, traffic fatalities are down, police are focused on real crimes, and tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue have rolled into town, along with thousands of jobs.
In Response

by: Natasha Brodsky
January 02, 2014 2:10 PM
LOVE THIS!! I just took a class on substance abuse and Joey is completely correct. Crime is down! I couldn't be happier with Colorado's choice.

by: Chukwuemeka. Ukor from: Lagos,Nigeria
January 02, 2014 3:52 AM
United States Govt has made the greatest mistake by legalising open selling marijuana, just like their sorry they will see more violent crimes by the feeble-minded citizens whom their can with-hold such an import as more youths must be bound to experiment.
In Response

by: Natasha Brodsky
January 02, 2014 2:11 PM
Crime is down significantly in Denver since marijuana was legalized. Those are statistical facts.
In Response

by: Robin Dickson from: Chicago
January 02, 2014 1:11 PM

how will legalizing pot lead to violence?

I see no connection

the opposite is true

legalizing marijuana will reduce violence
In Response

by: Kevin Hunt
January 02, 2014 12:04 PM
You make no sense. Learn English before posting again.

by: Anonymous
January 02, 2014 3:16 AM
The dude in the FBI hat looks like the worst person to toke up with ever.

by: darrell from: bc
January 01, 2014 11:09 PM
What has the war on drugs accomplished ?
It has tied up the courts , wasted millions of dollars and time and delayed some trials so much that violent criminals are walking free .
It has given millions a criminal record for nothing more than using a plant of God .
It has caused jail over-crowding .
It has corrupted some police personnel .
It has caused police forces to allocate money and people to cannabis crimes , rather than to violent crimes .
It has caused organized crime to make lots of un-taxed money .
Prohibition didn't work in the 1920s , and created similar problems .
If that is not reason enough to change the laws regarding the use of God's plant , then you must be profiting from keeping it from being legal .

by: Wendy Ferguson from: South Africa
January 01, 2014 10:52 PM
This is what it must have been like when cigarettes were first legalised and look where the human race is now with lung cancer being the highest killer at this time! Marijuana kills brain cells!
In Response

by: Robin Dickson from: Chicago
January 02, 2014 1:13 PM
marijuana does not kill brain cells or cause cancer

the smoke may be harmful but you can use a vaporizer

your country should consider doing the same thing to reduce
gang violence
In Response

by: Tommy Chong from: Denver
January 02, 2014 9:30 AM
So does football Wendy. Why do you care about MY brain cells anyway?
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