Starting New Year’s Day, anyone 21 or older with a valid photo ID can buy marijuana in Colorado. At 8 a.m. a handful of businesses licensed to sell recreational marijuana will open their doors, making Colorado the first state in the nation to legalize the cultivation, possession, sale, and use of a substance still considered illegal by the federal government.
Shops in 19 cities and seven counties will begin selling marijuana for smoking, as well as cannabis-infused products like cookies, candy, and carbonated beverages. Colorado residents can purchase an ounce of pot—almost enough to fill a small Ziploc baggie—that can cost up to $200 depending on the source plant. Out-of-state residents can buy a quarter of an ounce. All sales will include an additional 25 percent tax approved by voters last month.
Colorado citizens voted to legalize recreational marijuana by a constitutional amendment in November 2012. The law immediately allowed the private use and cultivation of a limited amount of pot, but the legalization of marijuana sales was delayed until Jan. 1, 2014, to give the state time to create an infrastructure to regulate the new retail industry.
Since Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division began accepting applications in October, the state has approved 348 marijuana business licenses for retail shops, pot growers, and manufacturers of cannabis-infused products. Because of a tedious state and local licensing process, which includes a public hearing for neighboring businesses to voice concerns and over a dozen building and fire inspections, only a handful of those shops will be open for business on New Year’s Day. In Denver, 14 pot shops will open.
Colorado law allows counties and cities to vote to ban recreational marijuana sales within their jurisdiction, and many have, including Colorado Springs and Greeley. Other cities and counties have passed moratoriums on marijuana sales until later in 2014, giving them a chance to watch the social and economic impact of sales in other cities.
Colorado’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) released a list of dos and don’ts for recreational marijuana use. Among them, NORML reminds users they cannot use marijuana in public, take marijuana bought in Colorado to other states, drive while under the influence of marijuana, or buy marijuana off the street or internet.
Colorado is still fleshing out the issue of public consumption. On Dec. 10, the Denver City Council voted to allow people to smoke marijuana on their front porch. But Denver threatened legal action against a “private” pot party planned for New Year’s Day in a dance club, according to CBS Denver.
“We’re hoping next week will be a fun-filled experience but a responsible one,” said Elan Nelson of Medicine Man, a licensed shop in Denver. “But this is a new experience for all of us. I guess we’ll just have to find out.”