Drug culture in America hit a major turning point on New Year’s Day.
As of Jan. 1, 2014, people can buy marijuana in Colorado to use recreationally. At this time, Colorado is about as legally relaxed as you can get when it comes to marijuana.
Naturally, people across the country have been watching to see what happened: if there would be enough pot to keep up with demand, how people would behave, and how long the lines would be.
I decided to check it out for myself since I was visiting family in Colorado for the holidays.
Recreational marijuana became legal under Amendment 64 to the Colorado state constitution, which passed by a 10-point margin last November and allowed marijuana shops to open their doors to the public as early as today. Many shops are still waiting on licenses, but hundreds opened on time.
“It’s completely unprecedented,” Terence McKenna, 29, told Business Insider as he waited in line to make a purchase. We talked to him outside a marijuana shop called Kush Denver, a 20-minute drive from his residence in Boulder.
J.D. Leadam, 24, flew in from the liberal San Francisco Bay Area for Colorado’s big marijuana milestone.
“I’m pretty surprised California didn’t do this first,” Leadam told Business Insider. “I’m not a big smoker. I’m here more for the novelty.”
Many stores now selling recreational pot used to be only dispensaries where medical marijuana patients got their prescriptions. Now they have significant retail-only sections, set up to mimic any old shop selling any old product.
“People are going to be amazed at how normal it seems,” Cynthia Johnston of the NOMRL Women’s Alliance of Los Angeles told Business Insider.
Pot was set to go on sale at 8 a.m, so I woke up around 6:45. Here's a view of Denver from the road.
...even though there didn't seem to be that many there yet. This is a view of the front of the line around 7 a.m.
There are a few rules to purchasing recreational pot in Colorado: You have to be 21 years or older to buy it and you can't smoke it in public. No buying more than an ounce at a time, either.
Inside was way more crowded. A press conference was about to start, and media people were everywhere. They definitely outnumbered the 'regular people.'
It was going to be difficult to get a photo of the first sale, which is what everyone was most excited about.
This is the outside of Denver Kush Club. It's in Denver's 5 Points neighbourhood, near Cervantes, a popular concert venue.
This is the line just before the store was set to open. There were all different kinds of people waiting -- young, old, Colorado people, visitors from other states.
Finally 8 a.m. The doors open to the first customers. They had hired private security in case anything went wrong.
This is Jess Vanderpool. Was she ready for today? 'Absolutely. Mentally and otherwise. But it's calmer than we expected.'
Here's a transaction. The hands on the right belong to Jack, who guessed that he was the oldest guy in the whole line. He's buying marijuana -- legally!
Another woman, who didn't want to give out her name, bought two joints and a small container of pot. 'I don't want a trail,' she said, paying in cash.
Many recreational marijuana retailers can't accept credit cards because banks want nothing to do with them. Denver Kush Club, however, has a good relationship with their bank. Their customers can pay using credit cards if they want. This is the back room of the store.
Here's a sign with a bunch of legal reminders. These are also posted around Denver now, including on signposts at 16th Street Mall, a busy outdoor shopping area.
Everyone working behind the counter was knowledgeable and ready to help out customers with their questions. Don't forget to tip.
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