DENVER - You can now buy pot in Colorado -- legally. The first legal sale of recreational marijuana in the country took place during a live news conference in Denver on Wednesday at 8 a.m.
The first buyer was an Iraq veteran with PTSD, Sean Azzariti.
There were people lining up outside several pot shops, wanting to be among the first customers on this historic day. They have come from nearly every state and from several other countries including Japan and Australia.
Denver is among the 19 cities and 7 counties that opted to allow existing medical marijuana businesses to begin transitioning into retail marijuana businesses on Jan. 1.
Any Colorado resident 21 years or older could walk into one of 14 shops in Denver and buy an ounce of pot. Non-residents can buy a fourth of an ounce, but cannot take it across state lines.
-- Pot stores opened on Jan 1:
-- The Grove, 74 Federal Blvd.
-- The Haven, 777 Canosa Court
-- The Shelter, 4095 Jackson St.
-- Dank Colorado, 3835 Elm St.
-- LoDo Wellness, 1617 Wazee St.
-- Medicine Man Denver, 4750 Nome St.
-- Evergreen Apothecary, 1568 S. Broadway
-- Denver Kush Club, 2615 Welton St.
-- The Green Solution, 2601 W. Alameda Ave.
-- The Green Solution, 4400 Grape St.
-- The Healing House Denver, 2383 Downing St.
-- CitiMed, 1640 E. Evans Ave.
-- Kindman, 4125 Elati St.
-- 3D Cannabis Center, 4305 Brighton Blvd.
"I have first time guests coming in who are already aware of our menu and asking about certain strains that we have," said Jason Coleman, an employee at Medicine Man. "The average transaction is about five minutes."
If you plan on buying pot, here is a list of rules you'll need to know. Basically, you'll want to treat it much like alcohol. You can't smoke it in your car, can't carry it in an open container in your vehicle, can't smoke in public and you can't sell it or give it to minors.
"I'm in my mid-50s and I grew up in a time ... you got what was available on an illegal side :and it wasn't as highly developed as it is now," said Paul Curran, a customer from Colorado. "This is all very new to me."
It is still a federal offense to smoke marijuana but the U.S. Justice Department is not challenging Colorado's laws and is focusing instead on drug trafficking and keeping it away from children.
In total, there are 18 retail marijuana stores, 27 retail marijuana grow facilities and 5 retail marijuana infused product manufacturers currently operating in the City and County of Denver.
Close to 350 retail marijuana licenses have been issued in the state -- 136 stores and about 200 cultivation and product manufacturing facilities. The vast majority of all licensed facilities, a total of 270, are located within the City and County of Denver. More than a hundred of those are still pending in Denver, meaning the city is likely to have many more shops in the first few months of 2014.
"We drove 8 hours just to do this legally, finally. It's great that we can actually do this now and don't have to worry about getting in trouble," said Beth Mellow, who is from New Mexico. "We're at a hotel, so we're just going to go hangout and get high."
Colorado's over-the-counter pot sales is being watched closely across the country.
The state has implemented an aggressive first-of-its-kind tracking system to trace all retail marijuana from seed to sale, but since tracking devices didn't get to some shops by Jan. 1, the state has issued a waiver for some businesses to sell retail marijuana even without the tracking system in place.
Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock released the this statement regarding the successful launch of retail marijuana sales in Denver:
“I am proud of Denver's responsible and balanced implementation of Amendment 64. Over the past year, our city agencies have worked hard to collaborate with our partners and listen to so many in our community to establish thoughtful regulations. We also focused on educating residents and visitors of those laws. We saw the fruits of that labor today.
“I want to thank the businesses and consumers alike for acting responsibly and with great accountability today. Denver is a progressive city, a vibrant city, and it’s incumbent on all of us to continue getting this right.”
For more information on the new law you can go to the state's website - http://www.colorado.gov/marijuanainfodenver/ - where they've posted useful information on what the change means.
Washington state, the only other state to allow recreational pot use by adults, plans to have stores open by late spring of 2015.
Here is a look at the line outside one Denver pot shop on opening day: https://vine.co/v/hVjDVjQaF2b/embed