UPDATE 1/1 #2: The Denver Post's John Ingold:
Colorado's ambitious experiment in cannabis policy hit a historic milestone Wednesday, when licensed stores began making the first legal sales of recreational marijuana anywhere in the world.
A few people queued up outside pot shops early Wednesday to celebrate and claim bragging rights, but longer lines began forming later in the morning — growing from a couple of dozen to hundreds at some stores. Police reported no problems.
— Albus Brooks (@AlbusBrooksD8) January 1, 2014
UPDATE 1/1: Denver pot line Vine courtesy 7NEWS:
Colorado will begin allowing recreational marijuana sales on January 1 to anyone age 21 or over.
Residents will be able to buy marijuana like alcohol — except the cannabis purchase is limited to an ounce, which is substantial enough to cost about $200 or more.
It's a big moment: Colorado will become the first state in the nation to open recreational pot stores and become the first place in the world where marijuana will be regulated from seed to sale. Pot, by the way, is the third most popular recreational drug in America, after alcohol and tobacco, according to the marijuana reform group NORML…
The top source of information about the first legal retail marijuana sales in Colorado is Westword, or "Westweed" as it's come to be known during the medical marijuana dispensary boom and run-up to full legalization. They report today on what marijuana buyers can expect to pay for their legal over-the-counter product as of tomorrow:
Since the 2009 "green rush" boom of medical dispensaries, Denver pot smokers have enjoyed a steady decline in the price of their cannabis in both the medical and black-market economies, dropping from $50 or $60 an eighth to as low as $25. With the heavily regulated industry of legal recreational marijuana, though, it's looking like prices are climbing back up. This may be temporary, or it may be the new standard. We caught up with a few soon-to-be-open recreational shops to get the details on what shoppers can expect after the first of the year.
"We want to do something that's comparable and fair to markets outside of Colorado," says Toni Fox, owner of 3D Cannabis Center, which will be one of the first dispensaries to begin selling recreationally on January 1. "We're looking at what an eighth costs on the street in Iowa. We don't want to do any drastic increases and overprice the product with that excruciating 36 percent tax. We're going to start our pricing structure at $35 to $40 and $50 an eighth — and that's pre-tax. It's close to what we're charging medicinally, but our medicinal prices always included tax. We're still deciding if we're going to have that 15 percent excise tax on the wholesale side as a line item on the receipt, or if we're going to just absorb that into our base price."
The passage of Proposition AA this fall by an overwhelming margin was a key step in fully legitimizing the commercial sale of marijuana, even though sellers complain mightily about the tax regimen as you can read above. By comparison, according to Phillip Morris, almost 57% of tobacco's end retail price is tax revenue–by that yardstick, marijuana is getting off pretty light. Assuming the legal retail supply is unconstricted, experts tell us there's every reason to expect the tax rate for legal marijuana will be happily paid by consumers. The appeal of a legitimate transaction instead of black-market dealing is worth something, just like it was for legal booze over moonshine after Prohibition.
Here's the list of marijuana stores that have received their licenses to open tomorrow. We'd suggest calling first if you plan to indulge, as some of them may not actually be ready to sell just yet. We'll be at home watching bowl games, but we'd love to hear your reports about how the first day of marijuana sales in Colorado plays out. Will there be long "Disneyland lines" like Black Friday? Anarchy on the surrounding roadways? Public amoral debauchery? Hippie stoners on pilgrimage crowding every sidewalk? Will the shops run out of product, sending armies of crazed reefer maniacs into a World War Z-style frenzy of destruction?
The estimable Mike Littwin at the Colorado Independent says, probably not:
If someone is looking for Amsterdam when they come here, they’ll find instead an unseemly shortage of decadence, and, if anything, that we are the clean-living capital of pot consumption (although, to be fair, Washington state, which has also legalized pot, could claim much the same). Tourists come here for the same reason most of us did – for the mountains and the outdoors and to get away from the 70-hour workweeks in the cities of long hallways and short, crooked streets.
Looking back, it was inevitable that we’d be the first place – or tied for first – to legalize pot, although I confess I didn’t see it coming. It happened here because of the peculiar intersection of politics and culture that can happen in the West and apparently the Northwest. After all, everything is politics, up to and including lighting up.
And it’s Colorado, where we have always had this weird strain of Western libertarianism that it has now been joined by the same mix of social liberalism that has turned the state from purplish-red to purplish-blue — the young urban dwellers who can’t fathom that pot was ever against the law, the suburban middle-class types who fondly remember that first hit they took in middle school, the boomers who will insist on telling you late into the night how they invented the stuff.
At least send us some photos of Cheech and Chong. Those are some hilarious stoners, and we assume they've taken up residence at least.