Colorado saw long lines, despite unexpectedly high prices, as the first legal sales of recreational marijuana in the United States were made in the state beginning at 8.am. on Jan. 1. Residents of Colorado that are over the age of 21 can now buy up to an ounce of marijuana legally in the state, while out-of-state residents can buy up to a quarter of an ounce with the caveat that it must be consumed within the boundaries of the state of Colorado.
37 newly licensed marijuana stores made history when they opened for business around the state on Wednesday, the biggest concentration of outlets being in the greater Denver area. Customers reportedly lined up early and often throughout the day, many waiting for hours and from several states away, as the marijuana business became legitimate in Colorado. Officials in the state report feeling pleasantly surprised at how smoothly the process went. Despite the crowds, police reported only two arrests for the public smoking of marijuana and it is unclear whether those arrests were directly related to the day’s start of legal marijuana sales.
While marijuana can now be purchased legally in Colorado, it is still illegal to smoke it in public. Some consumers apparently found their way around that regulation by purchasing edible marijuana products including a variety of baked goods and candies.
It wasn’t long lines the long lines that were a surprise as legal marijuana sales began in Colorado this week though, it was the high prices. Top quality marijuana was reportedly selling for about $400 per ounce in stores on Wednesday, as compared to the same product selling for about $250 per ounce to medical marijuana customers just the day before.
The state has not imposed any type of pricing structure on sales of the high demand substance. Those keeping an eye on the industry expect that prices in the new market will eventually even out, though it may take months or even years to happen. A report from Colorado State University predicts that the price will eventually land at a much lower point, around $185 per ounce.
Special sales taxes and local taxes are currently imposed on the legal sales of recreational marijuana. While some lawmakers would like to see those lowered, others say that they would like to see how the market shakes out, as well as what effect the legal market has on the black market, before making any changes. The introduction of legal marijuana for recreational use into the marketplace should not have any effect on the pricing or availability of medical marijuana in the state.
Generally it is felt that the dynamics of supply and demand will reign in the market at some point. Factors such as the opening of more outlets to purchase legal marijuana may also impact prices. Colorado has reportedly approved a total of 348 licenses to retail stores desiring to sell the product, with only slightly more than 10 percent of those already open for business.
New laws also allow people to grow up to six of their own pot plants at home, and the number of people taking advantage of that opportunity could impact prices by driving down retail demand as well. Additionally, it is expected that as the novelty of being able to purchase marijuana legally wears off, the demand from out-of-staters will decrease as well.
In the meantime, though, it looks like Colorado tokers can expect long lines and high prices as they begin to enjoy the opportunity to purchase marijuana legally in their home state.
By Michele Wessel