The Pueblo West View

World watched Colorado’s big day of pot

DENVER — Long lines and blustery winter weather greeted Colorado marijuana shoppers testing the nation’s first legal recreational pot shops Wednesday.

WYOMING’S WATCHING

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Wyoming Highway Patrol says its troopers will be on the watch for anyone bringing marijuana from Colorado across the state line.

The patrol put out the warning Tuesday, a day after recreational sales of pot became legal in Colorado.

Spokesman Sgt. Stephen Townsend says no extra patrols are planned but troopers will remain alert as usual for any criminal activity.

People with 3 ounces of pot or less risk being charged with a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to 12 months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

•••

pot shots

DENVER — The second day of the nation’s first fully legal marijuana industry was just a bit less frenzied than the first. Here’s a look at the new normal in Colorado:

1. HOW MUCH FOR AN EIGHTH?

Colorado has no statewide pricing structure, and by midafternoon on the first day, one dispensary was charging $70 for one-eighth of an ounce of high-quality pot. Medical marijuana patients, who worried about being priced out of the market, just a day earlier paid as little as $25 for the same amount.

2. LAW ENFORCERS WATCHING

Authorities are watching whether consumers take marijuana to other states where the drug remains illegal. It’s too soon to tell if that’s happened yet but some law enforcement officials say it’s inevitable. Neighboring Kansas, for example, plans to continue its use of bogus road signs such as “Drug Check Ahead” and “Drug Dogs in Use” along highways to make motorists think twice about bring drugs on the state’s highways.

3. HOW MUCH MONEY FOR STATE?

Retail marijuana is being heavily taxed, with a 10 percent tax per sale and a 15 percent excise tax based on the average market rate of the drug. The state won’t have the first round of receipts until late February but it seems clear demand is strong. A trade group Thursday said three of its retail members reported between 600 and 800 customers during the first day. Colorado has projected $67 million in annual marijuana tax revenue.

4. NOT JUST POT

The same 2012 ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado also permitted industrial hemp farming. The Colorado Department of Agriculture on Thursday released procedures for producers to register with the state and pay fees. Hemp is marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin. It can be used in foods, cosmetics and textiles. It remains illegal to grow under federal law.

5. WHERE NEXT?

Washington state voters also legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 and that state’s market is due to open in a few months. Activists in Oregon and Alaska say they have enough signatures to put legalization measures on the ballot this year. Ballot measures may well crop up in other states from California to Massachusetts over the next few election cycles.

It was hard to tell from talking to the shoppers, however, that they had waited hours in snow and frigid wind.

“It’s a huge deal for me,” said Andre Barr, a 34-year-old deliveryman who drove from Niles, Mich., to be part of the legal weed experiment. “This wait is nothing.”

The world was watching as Colorado unveiled the modern world’s first fully legal marijuana industry — no doctor’s note required (as in 18 states and Washington, D.C.) and no unregulated production of the drug (as in the Netherlands). Uruguay has fully legalized pot but hasn’t yet set up its system.

Colorado had 24 shops open Wednesday, most of them in Denver, and aside from long lines and sporadic reports of shoppers cited for smoking pot in public, there were few problems.

“Everything’s gone pretty smoothly,” said Barbara Brohl, Colorado’s top marijuana regular as head of the Department of Revenue.

The agency sent its new marijuana inspectors to recreational shops to monitor sales and make sure sellers understood the state’s new marijuana-tracking inventory system meant to keep legal pot out of the black market.

The other state that has legalizes recreational pot, Washington, will face the same restrictions when its retail shops start operating, expected by late spring.

The states’ retail experiments are crucial tests of whether marijuana can be sold like alcohol, kept from children and highly taxed, or whether pot proves too harmful to public health and safety for legalization experiments to expand elsewhere.

“This feels like freedom at last,” said Amy Reynolds, owner of two Colorado Springs medical pot shops. Reynolds came to Denver to toast the dawn of pot sales for recreational use. “It’s a plant, it’s harmless, and now anyone over 21 can buy it if they want to. Beautiful.”

Discuss this story
comments powered by Disqus
The Pueblo West View
Popular