New Year’s Day marked the beginning of a new era in the state of Colorado, where residents over 21 can now legally purchase up to an ounce of marijuana with nothing more than their ID. Voters in Washington also approved recreational marijuana in 2012, but Colorado was keen to see the bill put into action as soon as possible. Of more than 300 marijuana businesses in Colorado that have begun to receive their state and local licenses to operate legally, only a few dozen were able to complete the rigorous inspection and approval process in time to open their doors for the New Year.
In November, Colorado voters approved a 25 percent tax on all recreational-marijuana sales, which is expected to generate roughly $70 million in additional revenue for the state in 2014. “This is a big day,” said Tom Angell, chairman of drug reform group Marijuana Majority told The Huffington Post. “With what Colorado is doing now, and what Washington state and Uruguay will do later this year, we’re finally getting a chance to show the world the benefits of legalizing and regulating marijuana that we’ve been talking about for so many years.”
Many of the state’s first customers were happy to wait out in the cold for their first legal purchase of marijuana. “I’m going to run out of cannabis; it’s just a matter of when,” said Toni Fox, owner of 3D Cannabis Center in Denver. Some owners have tried to prepare themselves by raising prices and making larger-than-normal purchases of marijuana alternatives, like edibles, but with such high demand, it’s unlikely they can keep up.
“We’re cautiously optimistic, you never know what can pop up,” said Julie Postlethwait, spokesperson for the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED). “Retail, recreational marijuana is basically a black-market industry, so there’s a lot of things that we will learn in the next couple years — but if issues arise, we’ll talk about it and figure out how to do it better going forward.”