The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

National News

January 2, 2014

Legal weed sales bring long lines

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

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 regulator 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.

Denver International Airport erected signs warning travelers that they could not take marijuana home with them.

Keeping pot within Colorado’s regulated system and within the state’s borders are among requirements the U.S. Department of Justice has laid out to avoid a clampdown under federal law, which still outlaws the drug.

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.

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