Inside a legal Colorado pot shop on day one

4:54 PM, Jan 1, 2014   |    comments
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DENVER - Snow fell softly on the crowd of dozens lining up outside of the Medicine Man marijuana store in Denver.

As the clock struck 8:00 am, the owners invited one customer inside to make the first legal purchase and then swung open the door.

A security guard checked every customer's ID before entering to ensure they were at least 21 years old and the line was ushered indoors to a brand-new retail room.

Waiting in line to for a clerk ( or as the company affectionately calls them, "budtenders") the group looked at a wall of bagged marijuana behind the counter.

The bags came in three sizes: 1oz, 1/4 oz, and 1/8 oz.

Scrambling to stock the shelves on New Year's Eve, the company decided to sell only what it considers its "top shelf" product. The 1/8 oz bag sold for $45.

After tax, the bag cost just shy of $55.

"That's fine with me. I don't care," exclaimed Kevin Shatz of Omaha, Nebraska. "I've never been more happy to pay a tax in my entire life!"

The store estimated that a little more than half of its customers were visitors from out-of-state on opening day.

Wherever they came from, most seemed to want to be a part of history.

"I remember in school teachers would tell you they never would [legalize marijuana], you know," said Donald Przybylski, who came from Fort Collins, Colo. "And here we are."

At times, the shoppers resembled people at a wine tasting bar.

We watched one customer take a big whiff of an open jar, remarking at the subtle fruity character of the marijuana inside.

"I'll just have you cleanse your palate with the coffee beans before the next one," said the clerk.

The customer complied and then took a whiff of the next jar.

"That's kind of like a combination of dirty socks and laundry soap," the man said. "I like that one."

He had the clerk bag it up, probably not what a wine enthusiast would do after his description.

The customers in line all walked by a window called the "clone bar."

These are live pot plants made by taking cuttings from a group of mother plants the shop uses in its own grow operation. The store offered dozens of strains of marijuana like this for sale at $10 apiece.

A lot of customers asked questions about the clones, but few seriously considered buying anything but the finished product.

"It's easy to grow. That's why they call it a weed. But it's very difficult to grow it well," explained Elan Nelson with Medicine Man.

Still, stores see a potential cash cow in catering to homegrowers, who up until now could legally have up to six plants, but had no legal way to obtain a plant other than to receive it as a gift.

State government inspectors dropped into the shop to check on how things were going and to make sure rules are being followed.

Their leaders are pleased the system was ready by the ambitious deadline for legal sales established by the voter-approved Amendment 54.

Washington state opted to push its deadline back.

"Is the sky falling? No, I don't think the sky is falling today," said Colorado Department of Revenue Director Barbara Brohl. "However, I think we all have to remain diligent and vigilant to make sure that we do this in a very thoughtful and predictable and controlled manner."

Brohl said overall the rollout of legal pot appeared to be a success, though she predicted the state will need to work out plenty of kinks along the way.

She says everyone involved wants to get this right because it's clear that the world is watching to see if it Colorado's legal experiment with pot will actually work.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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