Legal recreational pot industry opens in Colorado

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 2, 2014 at 12:23 am •  Published: January 2, 2014
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"I feel good about it. The money's going to schools," said shopper Joseph Torres of Denver.

The price for high-quality weed at some shops was around $400 an ounce. That's about four times what smokers are paying on the black market in Colorado, according to crowd-sourced Internet surveys. Much of the extra cost was attributed to state and local taxes in excess of 25 percent.

People who were waiting in line shared their pot incarceration stories over coffee and funnel cakes.

"Trafficking conviction. Nineteen years old. For a plant, how stupid," said 24-year-old Brandon Harris, who drove 20 hours from Blanchester, Ohio.

Colorado set up an elaborate plant-tracking system to try to keep the drug away from the black market, and regulators set up packaging, labeling and testing requirements, along with potency limits for edible pot.

The U.S. Justice Department outlined an eight-point slate of priorities for pot regulation, requiring states to keep the drug away from minors, criminal cartels, federal property and other states in order to avoid a federal crackdown.

With the additional police patrols, the airport warnings and various other measures, officials hoped they have enough safeguards in place to avoid predictions of public health and safety harm from the opening of the pot shops.

A group of addiction counselors and physicians said they're seeing more marijuana addiction problems, especially in youths, and that wider pot availability will exacerbate the problem.

"This is just throwing gas on the fire," said Ben Cort of the Colorado Center for Dependency, Addiction & Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado Hospital.

Some medical marijuana patients groups say they're worried about supply. That's because the retail inventory for recreational use is coming entirely from the preexisting medical inventory. Many in the industry warned patients to stock up before the sales began.

It was too soon to tell whether prices for medical marijuana patients were going up.

For now, they should have plenty of places to shop. Most of Colorado's 500 or so medical marijuana shops haven't applied to sell recreational pot, and many that have plan to serve both recreational and medical patients

The industry has not just given rise to shops, but a whole line of other businesses, including tours.

Addison Morris, owner of Rocky Mountain Mile High Tours, had 10 clients waiting inside a limo who paid $295 for three hours of chauffeuring by a "marijuana concierge" who would help them choose strains and edible pot products.

Morris said she's booked through the end of February with out-of-state clients, who get samples in designer bags. And for the tours, guests are asked to leave cameras at home. She said she's selling discretion.

"We're your grandmother's pot connection," the 63-year-old said.

___

Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt . Associated Press writer Jim Anderson contributed to this report.



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