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Washington pot shop customers cheer first legal sale


BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) -- Cale Holdsworth strode to the register at Top Shelf Cannabis after inspecting and sniffing a glass jar filled with marijuana and said: "I'll take two grams."

Holdsworth paid $26.50 and held up the brown bag containing his pot as other customers applauded the store's first transaction as Washington on Tuesday became the second state to allow people to buy marijuana legally in the U.S. without a doctor's note.

"This is a great moment," said the 29-year-old from Abilene, Kansas, as a swarm of reporters and television cameras recorded the moment. State law allows both Washington residents and people from out of state to purchase a limited amount of pot.

People began buying marijuana at 8 a.m. at Top Shelf Cannabis, one of two Bellingham stores that started selling the drug as soon as it was allowed under state regulations. Before it opened, several dozen people lined up outside the shop in this liberal college town of about 80,000 north of Seattle.

Holdsworth, wearing salmon-colored shorts and a brown sweatshirt jacket over a tie-dyed T-shirt, was first in line, along with his girlfriend, Sarah Gorton, and her younger brother. They showed up at 4 a.m.

Gorton said the trio was in Bellingham for her grandfather's 84th birthday.

"It's just a happy coincidence and an opportunity we're not going to have for a long time," said Gorton, a 24-year-old with dreadlocks and homemade jewelry. "I'm really thrilled to be a part of something that I never thought would happen."

The start of legal pot sales in Washington marks a major step that's been 20 months in the making.

Washington and Colorado stunned much of the world by voting in November 2012 to legalize marijuana for adults over 21, and to create state-licensed systems for growing, selling and taxing the pot. Sales began in Colorado on Jan. 1.

Washington issued its first 24 retail licenses Monday. An Associated Press survey of the licensees showed only about six planned to open Tuesday: two in Bellingham, one in Seattle, one in Spokane, one in Prosser and one in Kelso. Some were set to open later this week or next, while others said it could be a month or more before they could acquire marijuana to sell.

It's been a bumpy ride in Washington, with product shortages expected as growers and sellers scrambled to prepare. Pot prices were expected to be higher than what people pay at the state's unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries.

That was largely due to the short supply of legally produced pot in the state. Although more than 2,600 people applied to become licensed growers, fewer than 100 have been approved - and only about a dozen were ready to harvest by early this month.

Colorado already had a regulated medical marijuana system, making for a smoother transition when it allowed those dispensaries to start selling to recreational pot shops Jan. 1.

Washington's medical system is unregulated, so officials here were starting from scratch as they immersed themselves in the pot world and tried to come up with regulations that made sense for the industry and the public.

The rules include protocols for testing marijuana and requirements for child-resistant packaging. Officials also had to determine things like how much criminal history was too much to get a license, and what types of security systems pot shops and growers should have.

Washington law allows the sale of up to an ounce of dried marijuana, 16 ounces of pot-infused solids, 72 ounces of pot-infused liquids or 7 grams of concentrated marijuana, like hashish, to adults over 21.

Brian Kost, a 45-year-old Bellingham man, was among the first in line at Top Shelf Cannabis, in an industrial area off Interstate 5. He said he hadn't smoked marijuana in 17 years because he didn't like the hassle of trying to find it on the illegal market.

"With the chance to buy it legally, I just couldn't pass it up," Kost said. "I never thought I'd see the day."

Gorton said she, her brother and boyfriend planned to head back to their relatives' house and sample their purchase.

"We're probably going to break open a bottle of wine, sit on the porch and enjoy this," she said.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
tistolaugh July 08 2014 at 5:03 PM

A stoned America... The decline of our great nation continues.

Flag +99 rate up
50 replies
dtk071952 July 08 2014 at 5:07 PM

First we get Odumbo as the President, next he forces socialism, forced gay marriage and other atrocities onto us. Now we have two states where it is legal to be a pothead. When is this insanity going to stop?

Flag Reply +94 rate up
49 replies
debnaert July 08 2014 at 5:10 PM

WOW... IF you have to BUY this crap at 8 o'clock in the morning then YOU have a drug problem. JUST wait until this crap starts boiling to the top right along with ALCOHOL addiction. More deaths on the roads and this crap will lead to harder drugs. The studies and findings DON'T lie. This crap destroys the brain.

Flag Reply +74 rate up
44 replies
jlmon7 July 08 2014 at 5:04 PM

I am so tired of hearing about peoples concerns about Legal Pot. It is about time they did this!

Flag Reply +62 rate up
28 replies
pmcjim July 08 2014 at 5:07 PM

good for you washington!!! may the rest of the U.S. follow suit soon.

Flag Reply +51 rate up
10 replies
dencuddy July 08 2014 at 5:12 PM

All the fears that they had in Colorado never came to pass. Stop the fear mongering.

Flag Reply +41 rate up
13 replies
Brenda July 08 2014 at 5:09 PM

I have no problems with people "responsibly" using marijuana for pleasure. (I don't like the high for myself.)

I do use "prescribed synthetic marijuana" for multiple sclerosis. It relieves painful legs spasms so I can sleep.

Marijuana should be legal and controlled.

Flag Reply +31 rate up
9 replies
Dude! July 08 2014 at 5:14 PM

Pot won't be legal until you can grow it and ingest it on your own property without any government interference!

Flag Reply +26 rate up
6 replies
sindfetish July 08 2014 at 5:03 PM

I'm ready to move there......from Ohio

Flag Reply +25 rate up
17 replies
wildinaz July 08 2014 at 5:11 PM

im all for weed to be legal

its better then any other drug and its grown in the ground

i done it twice and years ago
nothen is bad for it unless ur a dumbass who goes nuts with it
no 1 i know does that

Flag Reply +19 rate up
19 replies
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