Legal marijuana sales began in Washington state on Tuesday with the opening of a few stores in Seattle and surrounding areas. Sales began at 8 am at Bellingham’s Top Shelf Cannabis, one of two recreational marijuana shops in the city north of Seattle that started selling pot as soon as state regulations allowed.
The start of legal pot sales in Washington is a major step for the state, whose voters passed the law 20 months ago, notes Yahoo! News. Washington and Colorado surprised much of the world by voting to legalize marijuana sales in November 2012 for adults 21 and older.
Since then, the states have created state-licensed systems for growing, selling, and taxing the drug. Sales began in Colorado on January 1, and now Washington joins its ranks. The state issued its first 24 retail licenses Monday, though not all businesses planned to start selling pot on Tuesday.
USA Today reports that, like Colorado, Washington already has a medical marijuana system. However, the stores that opened Tuesday allow legal recreational marijuana sales. Regulators in both states have been consulting each other via phone frequently to share tips and best practices as they develop the systems.
Andres Freedman, Colorado’s director of marijuana coordination, stated, “I think they’ve got a good handle on what they’re doing.”
Like Colorado’s scene in January, Washington state expects to see tight supplies of legal marijuana in the initial days that sales are allowed. When sales began in Colorado, prices for an ounce of high-grade marijuana rose past $300. However, one chain of marijuana stores was selling ounces for $85 plus tax over the weekend.
Pot prices are expected to reach $25 per gram or higher on Tuesday, or twice what people pay in Washington’s unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries. Prices are so high because of the short supply of legally produced pot in the state. While more than 2,600 people applied to become licensed pot growers in the state, fewer than 100 have been approved so far. Among those, only a dozen were ready for harvest by early this month.
Washington also is not permitting edibles sales for now, because the state has not yet approved any of the edibles manufacturers. So, buyers in the Evergreen State will be limited to buds and hash, rather than candies, sodas, salad dressing, and other marijuana-infused products.
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, such as hashish. All buyers must be 21 or older to purchase legal marijuana.
[Image by United States Fish and Wildlife Service]