Marijuana sales begin throughout state

If the world was watching Seattle on Tuesday, it saw history made as sudden celebrity Deb Greene paid $160 for 8 grams of tested, approved, legal marijuana.

After leaving the Cannabis City showroom, south of downtown, Greene said she would smoke 4 grams, called “Sweet Lafayette,” and donate the other 4 grams of “OG Kush” to the Museum of History and Industry.

“Maybe MOHAI might want it when I’m gone,” she said.

In much of the rest of Washington, history had to wait.

State government licensed 24 stores Monday, and stores in Seattle, Spokane, Bellingham and Prosser were ready right away. Others were struggling to secure enough supply from the growers that themselves had been licensed only weeks or at most a few months.

The shelves of the Freedom Market stood empty as a planned noon opening approached at the shop in Kelso, population 11,960 and more than 120 miles south of Seattle.

Everything was ready but the weed.

“We’re supposed to have a delivery at 11:30, so I’m really on pins and needles,” owner Kathleen Nelson said at 11:15 a.m. as she stood looking at glass display cases that held nothing but pipes.

The marijuana finally arrived from Spokane at 8:35 p.m. Just before 9 p.m., Nelson was preparing to sell to the line of buyers waiting outside. She planned to remain open until the supply was gone or midnight, whichever came first.

Despite the obstacles, Nelson wanted to open on the first day sales were legally allowed. “We’re right here at the edge of history,” she said.

In Seattle, after a technical glitch at noon forced a short delay and a second crowd countdown, the city’s first legal retail pot emporium officially opened at 12:15 p.m.

Seattle city attorney Pete Holmes, a backer of Initiative 502 that legalized marijuana in 2012 and set Washington on this path, held aloft a bag following his purchase.

“Out of the shadows, into the light,” he said.

The pot was packaged in 2 gram bags. Greene’s bag was labeled “OG Cush.” She said she didn’t feel right explaining to store staff that Kush was misspelled. She said she didn’t want to embarrass anyone.

A line began forming on Monday afternoon and by 8 a.m. Tuesday some 30 people were standing and sitting outside Cannabis City, waiting for the doors to open.

Media trucks lined the west side of Fourth Avenue South, as reporters sought interviews and cameras rolled.

A food van sold vegan ice cream and breakfast was on the menu at a Subway sandwich shop next door.

No anti-drug protesters were present and the only demonstration came from supporters of medical marijuana and another group carrying signs proclaiming “Free Kettle Falls Five” and “No One Deserves to Go to Prison for a Plant.”

Police tape covered the door of the store. Security guards stood watching the growing crowd as noon approached.

By 10:30 a.m. the line had grown to more than 100 people. “My birthday is 4-20, I can show you my ID,” said one woman.

Inside the former machine shop and former coffee shop, Cannabis City attorney Neil Juneja said “We’re in the most liberal city in America. Everybody is justifiably excited.”

One of the customers in line waiting for the opening was George Madrid, 63, of Roy. “There’s nothing in Tacoma that I know of. That’s why I came here. I think it’s a good idea. It’s about time. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke cigarettes. After work I like a little puff.”

In Kelso, a small green cross was the only clue visible from the road to what’s inside the 1,000-square-foot gray building, watched inside and out by 32 cameras.

The Freedom Market sits next to a medical-marijuana store and is run by some of the same people, including Nelson, 53, who until the recession hit owned a business that sold vacuum cleaners.

Customers who showed up in the morning were asked to come back later in the day.

Asking about the price, they learned that between the skimpy supply and hefty state taxes, a gram would set them back $33.

That’s roughly three times the typical prices at Washington’s unregulated medical-marijuana shops. In Colorado, which became the first state to debut legalized marijuana for recreational use Jan. 1, a gram of pot might fetch $20 or so.

“Thirty-three dollars a gram. That’s crazy money,” Bill South said.

The retired locksmith took a detour on a trip to a blues festival in Portland. He said he couldn’t resist the chance to check out a legal pot store.

But his hopes to buy a couple grams were put on hold, and his hankering for some marijuana-infused candy bars was even less likely to be satisfied. Edible treats like those were waiting on state approval of special kitchens.

South, 65 and an itinerant New Orleans native, wasn’t complaining. Saddled with a criminal record long ago over marijuana, he said, he never thought he’d never live to see the day the drug was legal.

“I think it’s about time,” South said. “There are too many young lives ruined because of a marijuana conviction, when they promote the snot out of booze.”

William Foufas, who said he had recently been slapped with a $650 ticket in Oregon for smoking a bowl, thought it was pretty cool he could buy it in Washington with the state’s blessing.

The curly-haired 25-year-old has enjoyed marijuana since age 13 and used it to treat pain nearly as long. Foufas arrived at the Kelso store shirtless and prepared to smoke, carrying a pipe in his pocket, but not prepared to buy. “I’ve still got to get my money together,” he said.

Some stores 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.

In Bellingham, eager customers bought pot at 8 a.m. at Top Shelf Cannabis, one of two stores in the city north of Seattle that started selling marijuana as soon as was allowed under state regulations.

The first three customers in line were residents of Kansas, in Bellingham for their grandfather’s 84th birthday. Sarah Gorton, 24, of Abilene, Kansas, came with her younger brother Robbie, as well as her boyfriend.

“It’s just a happy coincidence and an opportunity we’re not going to have for a long time,” said Sarah 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.”

Gorton’s boyfriend, 29-year-old Cale Holdsworth, made the first purchase: two grams of pot for $26.50. As customers applauded, he held his brown bag aloft and said, “This is a great moment.”

State 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.

Officials eventually expect to have more than 300 recreational pot shops across the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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