Much of the marijuana being sold Tuesday cost at least twice the $10 to $12 per gram offered by the state's unregulated medical dispensaries.
In Seattle, hundreds of people waited in the warm sunshine outside for Cannabis City to open at noon. Store owner James Lathrop declared it time to "free the weed" and cut the ribbon — actually yellow police tape strung across the shop's door.
His first customer, 65-year-old retiree Deb Greene, hugged and thanked Alison Holcomb, the author of Washington's marijuana law, before placing her order for 8 grams, totaling $160 with tax. Greene said she got excited and bought twice as much as she intended to.
The hype surrounding the pot shop openings was unwelcome in some quarters.
Derek Franklin, head of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention, said it can "normalize" marijuana use for children. He lamented that the state only recently scraped together some money for a digital and radio advertising campaign to urge parents to talk to their children about marijuana.
"This kind of messaging, not only is it too late, but it's not nearly in-depth enough," he said. "If we're the big marijuana social experiment, well, there's no experiment I'm aware of that you go into without informed consent."
Bellingham's first store, Top Shelf Cannabis, made more than 400 transactions by late afternoon. It opened at 8 a.m., when Cale Holdsworth strode to the counter and bought 2 grams for $26.50.
"This is a great moment," said the 29-year-old from Abilene, Kansas, as a swarm of reporters and television cameras recorded the moment.
Holdsworth was in town with his girlfriend, Sarah Gorton, and her younger brother for her grandfather's birthday.
"It's just a happy coincidence and an opportunity we're not going to have for a long time," said Gorton, 24. "I'm really thrilled to be a part of something that I never thought would happen."
The trio planned to head back to their relatives' house and sample the purchase.
"We're probably going to break open a bottle of wine, sit on the porch and enjoy this," she said.
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