High times: Pot for fun goes on sale in Wash. state

SEATTLE — Lines formed early outsided pot shops Tuesday as Washington became the second state to legalize recreational marijuana, joining a fast-growing market that's already generating tens of millions of dollars in taxes with no signs of slowing down.

All that demand is expected to cause significant shortages and high prices at the Evergreen State's privately run, tightly regulated shops.

Some shops were scheduled to open at 8 a.m. PT, but Cannabis City owner James Lathrop wasn't planning to open his Seattle shop before noon.

"Know your audience: We're talking stoners here," he said. "I'd be mean to say they need to get up at 5 a.m. to get in line."

After 18 months of work, Washington's Liquor Control Board released the names of 25 retail pot shops Monday, most of which expect to open this week. Those that are ready to open are not sure if there is supply to handle the immediate demand.

"It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to be closed come Sunday night for a couple weeks until we can replenish," said Chad Champagne, who owns 420 Carpenter, scheduled to open Friday.

Champagne, who won two retail marijuana licenses, called the process "long and ever-changing," but said he expected it to be hard.

"It seemed like as soon as you cleared one hurdle, there were three more you had after that," he said.

A team of 18 is processing the volumes of marijuana selling and growing applications, Liquor Control Board Director Rick Garza said. Between 10 and 15 more applications could be approved every week, he said, adding that any delays came from the applicants themselves, not his office..

"Sure, people can be critical," said Garza. "One of the things to keep in mind is, there's no blueprint here. There is no one that has done this before."

As for the perceived lack of supply, Garza strongly disagreed.

"Remember that for 19 months, it's been legal for people to possess an ounce or less of marijuana," he said, "Where do yo think they're getting that marijuana? I don't think there's a lack of supply in Washington state."

Colorado began selling pot for recreational use Jan. 1. Like Colorado, Washington already had a medical marijuana system in place. The new stores opening Tuesday allow adults over 21 to buy pot just for fun. Regulators in both states have been consulting each other via phone every two weeks for months, sharing tips and best practices as they develop them.

"I think they've got a good handle on what they're doing," said Andrew Freedman, Colorado's director of marijuana coordination.

Colorado already has collected more than $24 million in marijuana taxes and fees as residents and tourists buy pot at state-licensed stores. Washington expects to collect $190 million over the next four years, according to state projections.

Outside Cannabis City on Monday afternoon, Deb Greene claimed the first spot in line. She was armed with food and a good book.

"Now you get good stuff. You get it legally," Greene beamed.

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