Legal sales of recreational marijuana began in Colorado on Wednesday. Hundreds of state residents, as well as tourists from around the country, lined up before dawn to purchase state-regulated marijuana, The New York Times reports.
Forty stores around the state are selling recreational marijuana. Investigators on Wednesday were checking retailers’ licenses, making sure stores checked customers’ identification, and inspecting packaging and labeling.
In November 2012, Colorado and Washington state voted to legalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational use for anyone at least 21 years old. While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the Justice Department has announced it will allow Colorado and Washington to regulate sales of the drug. The department will focus enforcement on criminal charges in specific areas, such as distribution to minors.
Until last week, marijuana dispensaries in Colorado were only allowed to sell to customers who had a doctor’s recommendation and a state-issued medical marijuana card, according to the newspaper. Now, residents of Colorado who are at least 21 can purchase up to an ounce of marijuana at a state-run dispensary, while out-of-state visitors can buy a quarter-ounce and consume it in the state. They cannot smoke marijuana in public or at many hotels.
Marijuana sales are not likely to begin in Washington for at least a few more months. States considering legalizing recreational marijuana, including California, Oregon, Arizona and Alaska, will be closely watching how recreational marijuana sales unfold in Washington and Colorado. Questions include whether recreational marijuana will end up in the hands of teens, how much tax revenue will be raised, and whether drug traffickers will take the drug across state lines.