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Colorado’s First Day Selling Recreational Marijuana Brings Huge Crowds

What does the future of marijuana-related legislation look like in Alabama? (Image Credit: MGN Online)

What does the future of marijuana-related legislation look like in Alabama? (Image Credit: MGN Online)

DENVER (CNN) - Iraq war veteran Sean Azzariti described his purchase of recreational marijuana — legally — as a historic moment Wednesday.

“It’s huge,” he said at a marijuana store along a light industrial corridor outside downtown Denver. “It hasn’t even sunk in how big this is yet.”

Indeed, before the 3D Cannabis Center opened at 8 a.m. MT, more than 100 people were waiting in snowfall and cold under gray skies to be the next buyers of recreational pot, under a landmark law voters approved in 2012. The dispensary was one of a handful that opened to lines of waiting people on New Year’s Day, with scores more expected statewide in coming months.

Azzariti was selected to be the first buyer at the 3D Cannabis Center because he was a Marine from 2000 to 2006 who now suffers post-traumatic stress disorder after two tours in Iraq. He can’t obtain medical marijuana in Colorado because PTSD isn’t a qualifying condition for that treatment, he said.

“This is what we worked so hard for the last few years,” he said of the voter-approved constitutional amendment that led Colorado to become the first state in the nation to open recreational pot stores to anyone age 21 and older. “It’s mind-blowing.”

Azzariti, 32, bought an eighth of an ounce of pot, plus chocolate truffles laced with marijuana. Those treats are called “edibles” at the store.

The price: $59.50.

The marijuana alleviates the anxiety and stress that come from PTSD, he said, adding that he’ll smoke the pot Wednesday evening.

Long lines

Even three hours after the stores opened, one downtown Denver dispensary had a line of about 100 people outside the front door to the corner. The snow had stopped falling by then, and the gray skies were clearing to blue.

While the young and the old, men and women waited patiently in line, the demographic at the downtown dispensary tilted more toward a 20-something and 30-something age group.

When many buyers emerged from the store and nudged through the line, they raised their bags of newly purchased pot above their heads.

People waiting on the sidewalk cheered them.

Despite the recreational weed now being legal, some purchasers declined to disclose their last name.

One woman, Dee, who didn’t want her surname known, said she waited in line for almost three hours to buy her cannabis. She and a male companion bought a small amount, she said, just to commemorate the occasion.

“We voted for it, and now it’s here,” Dee said of the recreational marijuana law. “We just went in and celebrated the new law. It’s a new day.”

She didn’t mind the long wait at the LoDo’s Dispensary. “Everybody is cool and mellow and nice. So it’s all good,” she said.

Some motorists passing the pot shop honked and cheered the queue of buyers, who whooped in return.

One motorist, however, shouted a disparaging remark about the “potheads,” and the crowd muttered raspberries in response.

Buyers whiled away the hours in line by talking aloud about the benefits of marijuana as a remedy for hangovers, headaches, sleeplessness and low appetite.

Then a young woman in a passing SUV slowed and interrupted them by asking, “What’s going on, guys?”

“Legal pot sale!” a man in line shouted.

“Oh, I need an eighth!” the young woman shouted back excitedly. The car drove on.

In fact, around 11:30 a.m. MT, an owner of the dispensary announced to the waiting people on the sidewalk that he was being forced to limit sales to an eighth of an ounce to each person, though under the new state law, a resident can buy up to an ounce.

The atmosphere at the dispensaries was clearly celebratory and cheerful. For example, about 10 miles outside of downtown, one man said he had waited in the snow since 2:30 a.m. for the Medicine Man dispensary to open at 8 a.m.

When asked how he felt after making the first sale there, he responded: “I’ll feel better in an hour.”

Applauding, criticizing the new law

Even before the weed went on sale, enthusiasts were anticipating the end of an era.

“Prohibition is over,” blared a flier for New Year’s Eve festivities atCasselman’s Bar in Denver. “Celebrate Cannabis freedom in style.”

As many as 30 stores throughout Colorado will sell recreational weed. But it’s uncertain how many will open on the holiday, according to marijuana advocates and state officials.

Of the estimated 30 stores, 18 are in Denver, and several were expected to be open for business at the earliest allowed time, 8 a.m. MT. One Denver shop scheduled a news conference for the occasion.

“With Washington state next to implement marijuana legalization and other states strongly considering enacting similar laws, we believe this marks the beginning of the end of the nation’s decades-long war on marijuana and its harmful human and fiscal toll,” Ezekiel Edwards, a director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a prepared statement.

But not everyone was applauding.

“Legalization — with all of the American-style promotion that will accompany it — is the last thing people in recovery, parents, communities — and even our nation — need right now,” Smart Approaches to Marijuana said on its website.

A total of 136 stores received state licenses last week, but most apparently haven’t obtained approval yet from their local governments to open on the first day that sales are legal, January 1.

In 2012, Colorado voters approved the sale of recreational marijuana, as did voters in Washington state. But Colorado is the first to have the pot shops up and running under regulations recently established by state and local governments. Colorado voters’ approval in effect amended the state’s constitution to allow for the retail sale of recreational pot. The state already allows medical marijuana.

Limits to marijuana consumption

Not all of the state is participating in the new law. A community can decide not to allow the shops, and in fact, most of the state geographically hasn’t, including communities such as Greeley and Colorado Springs.

Proponents of the new law were dealt a setback last week when Denver and state officials threatened to shut down a private party at a dance club scheduled for January 1 celebrating the end of the prohibition against cannabis — an event billed as “Cannabition.” The organizers canceled the party because officials said it would violate a Denver ordinance prohibiting the public consumption of marijuana.

Cannabis can only be smoked on private property with the owner’s permission.

Under the new state law, residents are now able to buy marijuana like alcohol. The cannabis purchase is limited to an ounce, which is substantial enough to cost about $200 or more. People from out of state can buy up to a quarter-ounce.

In a vivid example of how recreational pot is a new reality for the state, Denver officials posted public signs in the tourist-populated corridor known as the 16th Street Mall. The street signs read, “Know the Law about Marijuana Use in Denver.”

“You must be 21 or older to have or use retail marijuana,” says one bulletin on the sign. But further below it, the sign warns readers that “it is illegal to use, display or transfer marijuana on the 16th Street Mall.”

One of Colorado’s main media outlets, The Denver Post, has even devoted a website to the history-making moment and its ongoing impact.

“The culture of cannabis, that’s what we’re here to talk about,” says the newspaper’s “The Cannabist” page. “As marijuana’s coming-out continues, we’ll report journalistically from our homebase in Denver, Colo. — the site of recreational marijuana’s first legal sale in the modern world on Jan. 1, 2014.”

This week, Denver International Airport authorities banned all marijuana on the airport grounds. Medical marijuana had been legal to bring to the airport as long as it didn’t go through security checkpoints, said airport spokeswoman Stacey Stegman.

But a total ban was implemented to avoid confusion as the recreational pot law rolls out, she said. Officials are concerned that a large influx of people may take marijuana to the airport and transport it across state lines.

So if a visitor brings marijuana to the airport and leaves it in the car to pick up a relative at the terminal, that visitor will be breaking the law and could face a fine of up to $999, Stegman said.

Colorado becomes the first place in the world where marijuana will be regulated from seed to sale. Pot is the third most popular recreational drug in America, after alcohol and tobacco, according to the marijuana reform group NORML.

33 comments

  • preacher

    This is yet another Nail in Americas coffin! “Woe to those who call Evil good, and Good evil”! God will intensify His judgement upon America for this stupidity. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of The Living God. Woe to Sodomites as well. Amen…

    • Alan

      What’s it like being such a moron? It’s obvious you must be considering how little you not only even know about marijuana, but your own stupid religion. Even the bible says that god created all the plants, and that all seed bearing plants were good. Marijuana would fit directly into that category, so shut up, listen to what the experts say about marijuana, and try to learn something for once.

    • Alan

      What’s it like being so dumb? It’s obvious you must be considering how little you not only even know about marijuana, but your own stupid religion. Even the bible says that god created all the plants, and that all seed bearing plants were good. Marijuana would fit directly into that category, so shut up, listen to what the experts say about marijuana, and try to learn something for once.

    • preacher?

      To Preacher…how is a plant that God made evil…it is ignorance and hatred that spews out of your mouth that is true evil

    • Timothy Felten

      As it is said…..”God made grass…Man made booze, who do you trust”.
      Evidently you don’t trust your own maker. He give you a book to preach about and you put down the one thing that the bible says that god created all the plants, and that all seed bearing plants were good.
      Or did you over look that part in the bible.

    • Will Kramer

      @preacher You are truly a idiot. Go read your bible. Shelter your kids. And watch them grow to adults in fear of a make believe man made god. Religion has killed millions more than any drug on this planet.

    • Alan

      Even if you could substantiate your claim, why do you suspect it would be a bad conversation? God: Hey, do you remember those times you lit that plant on fire and inhaled the smoke? Person: Yeah, that was great. God: I know right, that’s why I put it there! Why exactly would anyone be punished for inhaling a plant that god himself put there? It’s not even like he commanded people to not do it, the only mention of it was that all seed bearing plants are good. Silly people.

      • Alan

        I don’t actually believe any of the crap about god, was just using their own religion to refute their stance. I do feel the same about all drugs though, studies have shown that once drugs are legalized use goes down, crime goes down. I am a believer in FREEDOM and that our government has no power to tell anyone what they can and can not put in their own bodies, so long as they aren’t harming others.

      • Alan

        I don’t actually believe any of the stuff about god, was just using their own religion to refute their stance. I do feel the same about all drugs though, studies have shown that once drugs are legalized use goes down, crime goes down. I am a believer in FREEDOM and that our government has no power to tell anyone what they can and can not put in their own bodies, so long as they aren’t harming others.

  • Jessica

    Alright, you cannot logically compare marijuana to those hardcore drugs!!! Alcohol is perfectly legal and it kills thousands of people a year!!! How many people has pot killed??? Just because its legal doesnt make something right, just like something illegal is not always wrong!!!

  • RED

    The Health benefits are astounding! It should be legal in every state! Would you rather your Children try all these other chemicals to try to get a buzz? All men are created equal…HA! All states should have the same laws HA!. What should be illegal is alcohol and all these pills these Doctors give us that doesn’t help us, you have to take one pill to help with one thing and another pill to help with the side effects of the other pill.I smoked for years, and don’t care who knows it, but when I quit, I’m on enough pills to strangle a horse and the side effects of destroying my kidneys and liver is sure at a higher risk than if I smoked pot! It’s like eating a bag of Skittles for breakfast all this stupid medication that a joint would make you feel much better! I have experimented with my Blood Pressure many times comparing it to the pill. I have even thought of going into my Doctors office and show him…But I’m sure he already knows, because he never once told me Denise, you need to quit smoking pot! And I have been seeing him for almost 20 years. And all my old tests showed positive for THC. He will pass out when this last blood work doesn’t show that! I say this now, cause I can pass a drug test. Cause I’m trying all these stupid pills, that are killing me! Should have never been illegal and if you think it is a sin, so is your drinking..overeating…and adore for material things, your lusting and your judging. I am a Christian and God made it for a reason. And it’s just like medication, it might not be the one you need to take and you may have side effects or be allergic, all people are different. Watch the crime rate go down, other than the drunks and Meth heads…might even chill them out. I’d rather be around 50 pot smokers, than one alcoholic! My father was a alcoholic and my marriage was destroyed by alcohol. And you would really be surprised if you knew who really smoked pot, just like the closet alcoholics. Some people you don’t even know drink, they drink everyday! When I smoked, I never missed a day of work,and wasn’t whining about being hung over and couldn’t show up! But when I drank all the time, my work history was horrible. And my bills have always been paid on time, and if you know me, I’m a good person and a hard worker and always take care of my business, the only reason I struggle is because of the economy. And if it is ok to kill a 6 pack of beer or a 5th of liquor in the evening, why can’t I chill with a joint? If we all had a bong, we would all get along! HAPPY 2014 Colorado, hit one for me! Marijuana should be legal everywhere! If you have been lucky enough for alcohol to not ruin your family or take innocent lives, count your blessings. It runs right up there with Meth and Crack in my book!

  • Jessica

    Oh, yes! I completely forgot how dangerous prescription medications are!!! And I’m not just talking about pain pills! Ever listened to the warnings on those on the TV ads? Those are dangerous perfectly LEGAL drugs. Check on the side effects of pot, lol.

    • Alan

      I’ve heard that the side effects of pot include: being happy, being hungry, and losing the remote control.

  • Pam

    I wish it were legal here because it has great medical purposes with less side effects than the drugs my husband has been prescribed. As far as recreational, I’d rather be in a room full of pot heads than in a room with just one alcoholic.

    • Wake Up

      Pam, facts and logic are on your side! There is no doubt that alcohol does much more damage to our society than pot would.

  • Vincent

    It’s a natural plant that has many beneficial qualities. The whole plant stem seeds and everything can be used. Tax it like everything else and then we want have issues with money for road repair, new high schools, etc. For those who oppose, don’t purchase it but don’t judge those that do. There is only one judge and we all will stand before him some day.

  • Freshair

    There is a small problem that hasn’t been worked out yet. The Feds still have MJ classed as a CLASS l narcotic regardless of what the states say. You step over the line with possession or distribution and you could wind up doing prison time instead of a slap on the wrist and jail overnight with the locals. Also, even though it’s legal to smoke, it’s NOT legal to have in your system if you just happen to have in a “drug free zero tolerance workplace”. You can still be fired for having it in your system, on company premises , on company time, in company vehicles, or being anywhere in the business. These rules were brought about when the Feds required businesses to carry workman’s comp for their employees and the insurance carriers based their cost on your drug policy. A company can’t be forced to accept stoners in the workplace until the insurance rules are dropped. Back to the good old days.

    • Alan

      The feds have no legal authority to classify anything as illegal. As soon as we get that settled then maybe we can move on.

  • sheretta

    I wish it was legal here it helps me sleep other drugs that doctors give I sleep a fews hours wake up and do not remember a thing I do not really smoke it but if I decided to take a couple pullsit help the pain and I get sleep I can not afford what doctors give nor this but after all the side affecs from pills doctors give u I perfer this I ha a stroke hip surgeries a lot head injuries

  • Chasity

    I think that it should be legal here in Alabama it can be used for a lot of different things IN A GOOD WAY that is!!

  • mike ross

    I suffer from remotid arthritis I have done a lot of reading in the new England journal of medicines if pot was made legal in Alabama and my doctor says I would benefit and make the pain I endure on a daily basis easier yes I would smoke it god put it here on the earth its how you use it to me that makes the difference I will answer for my shortcomings just as you will answer for yours iam not judging anyone but it would have to be better than the handful of pills I take daily tax it make it legal

  • d green

    Im surprised there are not more comments. I think this is great. Would be nice to have law makers with the same opinion. Guess all are stoned asleep for tommorows work day. Alabama should speak up. No wonder its not passing every year. Sounds more expensive but conveience always is. Its a new year lets get it passed . Raise a voice and you shall receive.

  • Freshair

    Take a good look at the type of people who claim to be for MEDICAL use legalization but are in fact blowing smoke for use anytime /anywhere while lining their pockets with unreported cash. The Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition executive director , Christopher Butts went to jail last week on drug trafficking charges. Instead of pushing his cause, he was caught in Cullman running a grow house with 35 plants in an elaborate indoor system with grow lights and an air system. There was also a child in the house that DHR had to be called in to remove. His bond was one million ! Bonds for manufacturing in Alabama run from $5,000 to $1.5 million. Action by people like this undermine any efforts to pass prescribed medical use only legislation.

  • KATHY SANDERS

    POT IS A DRUG THAT IS GOOD FOR A LOT OF ILLNESS ESPECIALLY DEPRESSION AND U KNOW WHAT UR DOING WHEN U SMOKE IT NO MATTER HOW MUCH U SMOKE> (U CAN’T SAY THAT WITH ALCOHOL CAUSE THE MORE U DRINK THE DRINKER U GET) AND PAIN PILLS HELP WITH PAIN BUT WHEN U START OVER DOING THEM OR MIXING THEM THEY WILL MESS U UP, OR KILL U. I THINK IT WOULD GET ALABAMA OUT OF DEBT AND HELP PEOPLE THAT NEED IT WHEN A LOT TIME THEY MISS USING DRUGS BECAUSE THEY DON’T HELP & IT DOESNT MAKE U ANGRY SO BE A LOT MORE PEOPLE GETTING ALONE INSTEAD OF ALL THE FIGHTING. I WISH THEY WOULD PASS IT HERE CAUSE HUNTSVILLE HAS GOTTEN TO BE BAD PLACE BACK IN THE DAY U NEVER HEARD OF PEOPLE KILLING THEIR FAMILY’S & FRIENDS (DEPRESSION, ALCOHOL & SELF MADE DRUGS) IS ONE OF THE MANY REASON THAT POT WOULD HELP!!! FOR IT ALL THE WAY!!!

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