As reported by 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.
Do you smoke pot? Tell us about it
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.”
Public perceptions about pot have come a long way, from the dire warnings of “Reefer Madness” to growing acceptance of medical marijuana and the legalization of recreational use.
Photos: History of marijuana in America
Dennis Peron takes notes during a phone interview while Gary Johnson lights up at the Proposition 215 headquarters in San Francisco on October 11, 1996. The ballot measure was approved when voters went to the polls in November, allowing medical marijuana in California.
People in New York gather for a pro-cannabis rally on May 4, 2002. That same day, almost 200 similar events took place around the world to advocate for marijuana legalization. It was dubbed the “Million Marijuana March.”
Different varieties of medical marijuana are seen at the Alternative Herbal Health Services cannabis dispensary in San Francisco on April 24, 2006. The Food and Drug Administration issued a controversial statement a week earlier rejecting the use of medical marijuana, declaring that there is no scientific evidence supporting use of the drug for medical treatment.
Medicinal marijuana patient Angel Raich wipes her eyes during a press conference on March 14, 2007, in Oakland, California. The 9th circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that 41-year-old Raich, who used medicinal marijuana to curb pain from a brain tumor as well as other ailments, did not have the legal right to claim medical necessity to avoid the possibility of prosecution under federal drug laws.
Coffeeshop Blue Sky worker Jon Sarro, left, shows a customer different strains of medical marijuana on July 22, 2009, in Oakland, California. Voters in the city approved a measure during a vote-by-mail special election for a new tax on sales of medicinal marijuana at cannabis dispensaries.
A patient prepares to smoke at home in Portland, Maine, on October 22, 2009, a decade after the state approved a medical marijuana referendum.
Sonja Gibbins walks through her growing warehouse in Fort Collins, Colorado, on April 19, 2010. Since the state approved medical marijuana in 2000, Colorado has seen a boom in marijuana dispensaries, trade shows and related businesses. So far 20 states and the District of Columbia have made smoking marijuana for medical purposes legal.
Marijuana activist Steve DeAngelo wears a “Yes on Prop 19″ button as he speaks during a news conference in Oakland, California, on October 12, 2010, to bring attention to the state measure to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes in California. <a href=”http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/11/02/ballot.initiatives/index.html”>Voters rejected the proposal.</a>
Nutrient products are placed on shelves in the weGrow marijuana cultivation supply store during its grand opening on March 30, 2012, in Washington, D.C. The store is a one-stop-shop for supplies and training to grow plants indoors, except for the actual marijuana plants or seeds. Legislation was enacted in 2010 authorizing the establishment of regulated medical marijuana dispensaries in the nation’s capital.
People light up near the Space Needle in Seattle after the law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana went into effect in Washington on December 6, 2012.
A man smokes a joint during the official opening night of Club 64, a marijuana social club in Denver, on New Year’s Eve 2012. Voters in <a href=”http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/07/politics/marijuana-legalization/index.html”>Colorado and Washington state</a> passed referendums to legalize recreational marijuana on November 6, 2012.
Members of a crowd numbering tens of thousands smoke and listen to live music at the Denver 420 Rally on April 20, 2013. <a href=”http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/20/opinion/reiman-marijuana-day/index.html”>Annual festivals celebrating marijuana</a> are held around the world on April 20, a counterculture holiday.
Sean Azzariti, an Iraq war veteran and marijuana activist, becomes the first person to legally purchase recreational marijuana in Colorado on January 1, 2014. Colorado was the first state in the nation to allow retail pot shops. “It’s huge,” Azzariti said. “It hasn’t even sunk in how big this is yet.”
In April 2014, Maryland became the 18th state to decriminalize marijuana possession. Research published by the <a href=”http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/07/6-facts-about-marijuana/” target=”_blank”>Pew Research Center</a> in February showed 54% of Americans support legalization of marijuana.
Matt Figi’s 7-year-old daughter, Charlotte, was once severely ill. But a special strain of medical marijuana known as Charlotte’s Web, which was named after the girl early in her treatment, has significantly reduced her seizures. In July 2014, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pennsylvania, <a href=”http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/28/health/federal-marijuana-bill/”>introduced a three-page bill</a> that would amend the Controlled Substances Act — the federal law that criminalizes marijuana — to exempt plants like Charlotte’s Web that have an extremely low percentage of THC, the chemical that makes users high.
In July 2014, the New York Times published “<a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/27/opinion/sunday/high-time-marijuana-legalization.html?_r=0″ target=”_blank”>High Time: An Editorial Series on Marijuana Legalization</a>,” which called for the federal government to repeal its ban on marijuana.
Alaska Cannabis Club CEO Charlo Greene prepares to roll a joint at the medical marijuana dispensary in Anchorage on February 20, 2015. Several days later, Alaska became the third state in the nation to allow recreational marijuana.
A woman smokes pot at her home in Washington on February 26, 2015, the first day it was legal to possess marijuana for recreational purposes in the nation’s capital. Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser defied threats from Congress by implementing a voter-approved initiative, making the city the only place east of the Mississippi River where people can legally grow and share marijuana in private.
Employees make last-minute preparations before the grand opening of the Cannabis Corner in North Bonneville, Washington, on March 7, 2015. The pot shop is the first city-owned recreational marijuana store in the country.
Georgia Rep. Allen Peake celebrates with Kristi Baggarly, holding her daughter Kimber, after the state Senate approved Peake’s medical marijuana bill March 24, 2015 in Atlanta. The bill will legalize possession of cannabis oil for treatment of certain medical conditions, such as the seizures suffered by Baggarly’s daughter Kendle.
An employee at Kaya Shack, a Portland, Oregon, medical marijuana dispensary, showcases three types of marijuana sold at the shop on June 26, 2015. Oregon legalized recreational marijuana use on July 1, 2015.
Public perceptions about pot have come a long way, from the dire warnings of “Reefer Madness” to growing acceptance of medical marijuana and the legalization of recreational use.
Harry Anslinger was named commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics when it was established in 1930. While arguing for marijuana prohibition, he played on Americans’ fear of crime and foreigners. He spun tales of people driven to insanity or murder after ingesting the drug and spoke of the 2 to 3 tons of grass being produced in Mexico. “This, the Mexicans make into cigarettes, which they sell at two for 25 cents, mostly to white high school students,” Anslinger told Congress.
A poster advertises the 1936 scare film “Reefer Madness,” which described marijuana as a “violent narcotic” that first renders “sudden, violent, uncontrollable laughter” on its users before “dangerous hallucinations” and then “acts of shocking violence … ending often in incurable insanity.”
Marijuana cigarettes are hidden in a book circa 1940. Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, effectively criminalizing the drug.
Even after Congress cracked down on marijuana in 1937, farmers were encouraged to grow the crop for rope, sails and parachutes during World War II. The “Hemp for Victory” film was released in 1942 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A woman buys ready-rolled marijuana cigarettes from a dealer at her door circa 1955.
Members of the Grateful Dead talk with reporters from their home in San Francisco on October 5, 1967. The band was protesting being arrested for marijuana possession.
U.S. Customs agents track the nationwide marijuana market during Operation Intercept, an anti-drug measure announced by President Nixon in 1969. The initiative intended to keep Mexican marijuana from entering the United States.
Research scientist Dr. Reese T. Jones, right, adjusts the electrodes monitoring a volunteer’s brain response to sound during an experiment in 1969 that used a controlled dosage of marijuana. The tests were conducted at the Langley Porter Institute at the University of California, San Francisco.
Marijuana use became more widespread in the 1960s, reflecting the rising counterculture movement.
People share a joint during a 1969 concert in Portland, Oregon. In 1973, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize cannabis.
Police dogs trained to smell out hidden marijuana examine U.S. soldiers’ luggage at the airport during the Vietnam War in 1969. Drug use was widespread during the war.
Marijuana reform was the <a href=”http://life.time.com/culture/war-on-drugs-1969-photos-from-u-s-customs-operation-intercept/#1″ target=”_blank”>Life magazine cover story</a> in October 1969. The banner read: “At least 12 million Americans have now tried it. Are penalties too severe? Should it be legalized?”
Protesters wade in the Reflecting Pool at the National Mall in Washington during the “Honor America Day Smoke-In” thrown by marijuana activists in response to the official “Honor America Day” rally organized by President Nixon supporters at the Lincoln Memorial on July 4, 1970.
Panel members of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse attend a hearing In Denver on January 10, 1972. From left, Dr. J. Thomas Ungerleider, psychiatrist; Michael R. Sonnenreich, commission executive director; Raymond P. Shafer, commission chairman; Mitchell Ware, Chicago attorney; Charles O. Galvin, Dallas law school dean. The commission’s findings favored ending marijuana prohibition and adopting other methods to discourage use, but the Nixon administration refused to implement its recommendations.
President Jimmy Carter, with his special assistant for health issues, Dr. Peter Bourne, beside him, talks to reporters at the White House about his drug abuse control message to Congress on August 2, 1977. Among other things, he called for the elimination of all federal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.
First lady Nancy Reagan participates in a drug education class at Island Park Elementary School on Mercer Island, Washington, on February 14, 1984. She later recalled, “A little girl raised her hand and said, ‘Mrs. Reagan, what do you do if somebody offers you drugs?’ And I said, ‘Well, you just say no.’ And there it was born.” She became known for her involvement in the “Just Say No” campaign.
Robert Randall smokes marijuana that was prescribed to treat his glaucoma in 1988. He became the first legal medical marijuana patient in modern America after winning a landmark case in 1976.
President George H. Bush holds up a copy of the National Drug Control Strategy during a meeting in the Oval Office on September 5, 1989. In a televised address to the nation, Bush asked Americans to join the war on drugs.
A television ad aired in 1996 by Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole’s campaign included footage from a 1992 MTV interview of a laughing President Clinton saying he would inhale marijuana if given the chance to relive his college days.
Dennis Peron takes notes during a phone interview while Gary Johnson lights up at the Proposition 215 headquarters in San Francisco on October 11, 1996. The ballot measure was approved when voters went to the polls in November, allowing medical marijuana in California.
People in New York gather for a pro-cannabis rally on May 4, 2002. That same day, almost 200 similar events took place around the world to advocate for marijuana legalization. It was dubbed the “Million Marijuana March.”
Different varieties of medical marijuana are seen at the Alternative Herbal Health Services cannabis dispensary in San Francisco on April 24, 2006. The Food and Drug Administration issued a controversial statement a week earlier rejecting the use of medical marijuana, declaring that there is no scientific evidence supporting use of the drug for medical treatment.
Medicinal marijuana patient Angel Raich wipes her eyes during a press conference on March 14, 2007, in Oakland, California. The 9th circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that 41-year-old Raich, who used medicinal marijuana to curb pain from a brain tumor as well as other ailments, did not have the legal right to claim medical necessity to avoid the possibility of prosecution under federal drug laws.
Coffeeshop Blue Sky worker Jon Sarro, left, shows a customer different strains of medical marijuana on July 22, 2009, in Oakland, California. Voters in the city approved a measure during a vote-by-mail special election for a new tax on sales of medicinal marijuana at cannabis dispensaries.
A patient prepares to smoke at home in Portland, Maine, on October 22, 2009, a decade after the state approved a medical marijuana referendum.
Sonja Gibbins walks through her growing warehouse in Fort Collins, Colorado, on April 19, 2010. Since the state approved medical marijuana in 2000, Colorado has seen a boom in marijuana dispensaries, trade shows and related businesses. So far 20 states and the District of Columbia have made smoking marijuana for medical purposes legal.
Marijuana activist Steve DeAngelo wears a “Yes on Prop 19″ button as he speaks during a news conference in Oakland, California, on October 12, 2010, to bring attention to the state measure to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes in California. <a href=”http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/11/02/ballot.initiatives/index.html”>Voters rejected the proposal.</a>
Nutrient products are placed on shelves in the weGrow marijuana cultivation supply store during its grand opening on March 30, 2012, in Washington, D.C. The store is a one-stop-shop for supplies and training to grow plants indoors, except for the actual marijuana plants or seeds. Legislation was enacted in 2010 authorizing the establishment of regulated medical marijuana dispensaries in the nation’s capital.
People light up near the Space Needle in Seattle after the law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana went into effect in Washington on December 6, 2012.
A man smokes a joint during the official opening night of Club 64, a marijuana social club in Denver, on New Year’s Eve 2012. Voters in <a href=”http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/07/politics/marijuana-legalization/index.html”>Colorado and Washington state</a> passed referendums to legalize recreational marijuana on November 6, 2012.
Members of a crowd numbering tens of thousands smoke and listen to live music at the Denver 420 Rally on April 20, 2013. <a href=”http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/20/opinion/reiman-marijuana-day/index.html”>Annual festivals celebrating marijuana</a> are held around the world on April 20, a counterculture holiday.
Sean Azzariti, an Iraq war veteran and marijuana activist, becomes the first person to legally purchase recreational marijuana in Colorado on January 1, 2014. Colorado was the first state in the nation to allow retail pot shops. “It’s huge,” Azzariti said. “It hasn’t even sunk in how big this is yet.”
In April 2014, Maryland became the 18th state to decriminalize marijuana possession. Research published by the <a href=”http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/07/6-facts-about-marijuana/” target=”_blank”>Pew Research Center</a> in February showed 54% of Americans support legalization of marijuana.
Matt Figi’s 7-year-old daughter, Charlotte, was once severely ill. But a special strain of medical marijuana known as Charlotte’s Web, which was named after the girl early in her treatment, has significantly reduced her seizures. In July 2014, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pennsylvania, <a href=”http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/28/health/federal-marijuana-bill/”>introduced a three-page bill</a> that would amend the Controlled Substances Act — the federal law that criminalizes marijuana — to exempt plants like Charlotte’s Web that have an extremely low percentage of THC, the chemical that makes users high.
In July 2014, the New York Times published “<a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/27/opinion/sunday/high-time-marijuana-legalization.html?_r=0″ target=”_blank”>High Time: An Editorial Series on Marijuana Legalization</a>,” which called for the federal government to repeal its ban on marijuana.
Alaska Cannabis Club CEO Charlo Greene prepares to roll a joint at the medical marijuana dispensary in Anchorage on February 20, 2015. Several days later, Alaska became the third state in the nation to allow recreational marijuana.
A woman smokes pot at her home in Washington on February 26, 2015, the first day it was legal to possess marijuana for recreational purposes in the nation’s capital. Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser defied threats from Congress by implementing a voter-approved initiative, making the city the only place east of the Mississippi River where people can legally grow and share marijuana in private.
Employees make last-minute preparations before the grand opening of the Cannabis Corner in North Bonneville, Washington, on March 7, 2015. The pot shop is the first city-owned recreational marijuana store in the country.
Georgia Rep. Allen Peake celebrates with Kristi Baggarly, holding her daughter Kimber, after the state Senate approved Peake’s medical marijuana bill March 24, 2015 in Atlanta. The bill will legalize possession of cannabis oil for treatment of certain medical conditions, such as the seizures suffered by Baggarly’s daughter Kendle.
An employee at Kaya Shack, a Portland, Oregon, medical marijuana dispensary, showcases three types of marijuana sold at the shop on June 26, 2015. Oregon legalized recreational marijuana use on July 1, 2015.
Public perceptions about pot have come a long way, from the dire warnings of “Reefer Madness” to growing acceptance of medical marijuana and the legalization of recreational use.
Harry Anslinger was named commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics when it was established in 1930. While arguing for marijuana prohibition, he played on Americans’ fear of crime and foreigners. He spun tales of people driven to insanity or murder after ingesting the drug and spoke of the 2 to 3 tons of grass being produced in Mexico. “This, the Mexicans make into cigarettes, which they sell at two for 25 cents, mostly to white high school students,” Anslinger told Congress.
A poster advertises the 1936 scare film “Reefer Madness,” which described marijuana as a “violent narcotic” that first renders “sudden, violent, uncontrollable laughter” on its users before “dangerous hallucinations” and then “acts of shocking violence … ending often in incurable insanity.”
Marijuana cigarettes are hidden in a book circa 1940. Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, effectively criminalizing the drug.
Even after Congress cracked down on marijuana in 1937, farmers were encouraged to grow the crop for rope, sails and parachutes during World War II. The “Hemp for Victory” film was released in 1942 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A woman buys ready-rolled marijuana cigarettes from a dealer at her door circa 1955.
Members of the Grateful Dead talk with reporters from their home in San Francisco on October 5, 1967. The band was protesting being arrested for marijuana possession.
U.S. Customs agents track the nationwide marijuana market during Operation Intercept, an anti-drug measure announced by President Nixon in 1969. The initiative intended to keep Mexican marijuana from entering the United States.
Research scientist Dr. Reese T. Jones, right, adjusts the electrodes monitoring a volunteer’s brain response to sound during an experiment in 1969 that used a controlled dosage of marijuana. The tests were conducted at the Langley Porter Institute at the University of California, San Francisco.
Marijuana use became more widespread in the 1960s, reflecting the rising counterculture movement.
People share a joint during a 1969 concert in Portland, Oregon. In 1973, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize cannabis.
Police dogs trained to smell out hidden marijuana examine U.S. soldiers’ luggage at the airport during the Vietnam War in 1969. Drug use was widespread during the war.
Marijuana reform was the <a href=”http://life.time.com/culture/war-on-drugs-1969-photos-from-u-s-customs-operation-intercept/#1″ target=”_blank”>Life magazine cover story</a> in October 1969. The banner read: “At least 12 million Americans have now tried it. Are penalties too severe? Should it be legalized?”
Protesters wade in the Reflecting Pool at the National Mall in Washington during the “Honor America Day Smoke-In” thrown by marijuana activists in response to the official “Honor America Day” rally organized by President Nixon supporters at the Lincoln Memorial on July 4, 1970.
Panel members of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse attend a hearing In Denver on January 10, 1972. From left, Dr. J. Thomas Ungerleider, psychiatrist; Michael R. Sonnenreich, commission executive director; Raymond P. Shafer, commission chairman; Mitchell Ware, Chicago attorney; Charles O. Galvin, Dallas law school dean. The commission’s findings favored ending marijuana prohibition and adopting other methods to discourage use, but the Nixon administration refused to implement its recommendations.
President Jimmy Carter, with his special assistant for health issues, Dr. Peter Bourne, beside him, talks to reporters at the White House about his drug abuse control message to Congress on August 2, 1977. Among other things, he called for the elimination of all federal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.
First lady Nancy Reagan participates in a drug education class at Island Park Elementary School on Mercer Island, Washington, on February 14, 1984. She later recalled, “A little girl raised her hand and said, ‘Mrs. Reagan, what do you do if somebody offers you drugs?’ And I said, ‘Well, you just say no.’ And there it was born.” She became known for her involvement in the “Just Say No” campaign.
Robert Randall smokes marijuana that was prescribed to treat his glaucoma in 1988. He became the first legal medical marijuana patient in modern America after winning a landmark case in 1976.
President George H. Bush holds up a copy of the National Drug Control Strategy during a meeting in the Oval Office on September 5, 1989. In a televised address to the nation, Bush asked Americans to join the war on drugs.
A television ad aired in 1996 by Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole’s campaign included footage from a 1992 MTV interview of a laughing President Clinton saying he would inhale marijuana if given the chance to relive his college days.
Dennis Peron takes notes during a phone interview while Gary Johnson lights up at the Proposition 215 headquarters in San Francisco on October 11, 1996. The ballot measure was approved when voters went to the polls in November, allowing medical marijuana in California.

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.
At several recreational weed stores, buyers waited in line for three or four hours to be a part of opening-day history. Despite the hundreds of people queuing on public sidewalks, no significant problems emerged Wednesday, Denver officials said.
“I want to thank the businesses and consumers alike for acting responsibly and with great accountability today,” Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock said in a statement. “Denver is a progressive city, a vibrant city, and it’s incumbent on all of us to continue getting this right.”
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 patrons — young and the old, men and women — waited patiently in line, the demographic at the downtown dispensary tilted more toward 20- and 30-somethings.
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.
Even though recreational weed is now legal, some purchasers declined to disclose their last names.
One woman, Dee, who didn’t want to use her surname, 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, Don Andrews, whose family owns and runs 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 dispensary will close at 7 p.m. MT, but Andrews said he may have to start turning people away at 4 p.m. The line had gone out the front door, down the street and around the corner by 2 p.m. MT, when more than 400 people had made purchases.
In all, Andrews counted buyers from several states and countries. Buyers showed IDs from Vermont, Arizona, Georgia, Oregon, Wyoming, Louisiana — and even Alaska and Hawaii. Other prospective weed buyers came from Canada, Australia and Italy, though the Italian man, 21, walked away because he had to catch a bus for his tour of America.
South of downtown, the Evergreen Apothecary was encountering the same phenomenon: 700 people in line took numbers, but employees said they might not be able to serve all of them by the close of business.
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 at Casselman’s Bar in Denver. “Celebrate Cannabis freedom in style.”
As many as 30 stores throughout Colorado will sell recreational weed. Of the estimated 30 stores, 18 are in Denver.
“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 had not obtained approval yet from their local governments to open on 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.

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