(Adds color, quotes from Seattle opening)
By Eric M. Johnson and Bryan Cohen
SEATTLE, July 8 Eager customers lined up before
dawn on Tuesday as Washington became the second U.S. state to
allow the sale of marijuana for recreational use, although
shortages and high prices were likely to accompany any euphoria.
Store employees clapped and cheered at Top Shelf Cannabis in
the northern city of Bellingham as its first buds were sold to a
29-year-old from Kansas, Cale Holdsworth.
"I'm happy to be a part of history," said Holdsworth, who
was on vacation visiting family and took his place at the front
of the line at about 4 a.m.
A handful of shops opened a day after 25 outlets were issued
licenses under a heavily regulated and taxed system approved by
voters in November 2012.
The nation, and the federal government, are watching
Washington's rollout as a broader trend of liberalization and
pro-pot activism takes hold in the United States.
More than 100 people were outside Top Shelf Cannabis, in an
industrial office park, when the doors opened at 8 a.m.
After Holdsworth's ID was checked to ensure he was 21 or
older, he picked out two grams (0.07 ounce) of "OG Pearl Kush"
for $26.50, which included about $6 in taxes.
His marijuana was placed in black plastic packaging labeled
with its name and strength.
"This is exactly what we need: proper education and
information," Holdsworth said. "It's a great step forward."
A couple of miles (3 km) away, Bellingham's second licensed
store, 2020 Solutions, remained closed as staff said a technical
issue with the state's tracking system prohibited their producer
from shipping their pot.
SEATTLE'S ONLY SHOP
While Colorado has raked in millions of dollars a month in
tax since regulated retail sales began in January, Washington
has charted a glacial path to market.
State regulators are still processing more than 300 license
applications, and the limited harvests by approved growers have
fed concerns about shortages.
In Seattle, home to about 630,000 people, the only licensed
retailer held a "high noon" ribbon-cutting ceremony.
First in line at Cannabis City was Deb Greene, a 65-year-old
retiree who queued for 21 hours. She said she would keep her
package of pot sealed as a memento, and might even leave it to
Seattle's Museum of History and Industry in her will.
Brent Michael, the owner of a tile and stonework business in
Tacoma, said he and an employee took the day off to drive the 37
miles (60 km) north to the store.
"We took a snow day," Michael said. "We just wanted to come
be part of this. I'll probably take the bag and save it and open
up my regular jar and smoke the much more affordable pot."
While some stores offered lower pricing for early customers,
the cost of a gram is expected to rise to between $12 and $25
depending on quality and type.
Customers are legally allowed up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of
marijuana before buying more. They also can buy up to 16 ounces
(454 grams) of pot-infused product in solid form, or up to 72
ounces (2 kg) of marijuana-infused product in liquid form.
(Additional reporting by Jimmy Lovaas; Writing by Daniel
Wallis; Editing by Sandra Maler and Eric Walsh)