Pot sales begin Wednesday in Colorado while uncertainty remains
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The Associated Press
Different strains of pot are displayed for sale at Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in Denver. Medicine Man was among the first batch of Denver businesses to receive their licenses to legally sell recreational marijuana.

By Kristen Wyatt
The Associated Press

DENVER — A gleaming white Apple store of weed is how Andy Williams sees his new Denver marijuana dispensary.

Two floors of pot-growing rooms will have windows showing the shopping public how the mind-altering plant is grown.

Shoppers will be able to peruse drying marijuana buds and see pot trimmers at work separating the valuable flowers from the less-prized stems and leaves.

“It’s going to be all white and beautiful,” the 45-year-old ex-industrial engineer explained, excitedly gesturing around his business Medicine Man.

As Colorado prepares to be the first in the nation to allow recreational pot sales, opening Wednesday, hopeful retailers like Williams are investing their fortunes into the legal recreational pot world — all for a chance to build even bigger ones in a fledgling industry that faces an uncertain future.

Officials in Colorado and Washington, the other state where recreational pot goes on sale in mid-2014, as well as activists, policymakers and governments from around the U.S. and across the world will not be the only ones watching the experiment unfold.

So too will the U.S. Department of Justice, which for now is not fighting to shut down the industries.

“We are building an impressive showcase for the world, to show them this is an industry,” Williams said.

Will it be a showcase for a safe, regulated pot industry that generates hundreds of millions of dollars each year and saves money on locking up drug criminals, or one that will prove, once and for all, that the federal government has been right to ban pot since 1937?

The 1936 propaganda film “Reefer Madness” warned the public about a plant capable of turning people into mindless criminals.

Voters in Colorado and Washington approved recreational pot in 2012, sold in part on spending less to lock up drug criminals and the potential for new tax dollars to fund state programs.

Activists predicated a legal showdown.

That didn’t happen. In August, the DOJ said it wouldn’t sue so long as the states met an eight-point standard that includes keeping pot out of other states and away from children, criminal cartels and federal property.

For now, all the focus is on 2014. This being Colorado, there will be more than a few joints lit up on New Year’s Eve.

“Are we ready to go? Yes,” Williams said. “What’s going to happen? I don’t know.”

Last modified: December 29. 2013 7:38PM
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