Long lines forming as Washington begins recreational pot sales

The sale of marijuana for recreational use began in Washington on Tuesday morning, the second state in the nation where the once-scorned drug is now legal for all.

Eager customers began lining up well before dawn at Bellingham’s Top Shelf Cannabis, one of about six stores statewide expected to sell on the first day. Licenses were issued to 25 stores, but not all are open.

“I feel it is something people should have the choice to do, or not do, on their own,” said Cale Holdsworth, 29, the first in a line of about 100 people. The line snaked around the corner from the store through the industrial area of the city north of Seattle.

Holdsworth, from Abilene, Kan., said he was visiting relatives and planned to smoke his purchase at their home. He described himself as a frequent user of pot, which remains illegal in Kansas. At present, only Colorado allows the sale of pot for recreational use, though Holdsworth said he hoped that Kansas would permit it at some point.

Holdsworth walked into the store shortly after it opened at 8 a.m. By 8:05 a.m., he was at the glass counter where pipes and other paraphernalia were on display. Because the Washington law does not allow the buyer to touch or sample product, Holdsworth sniffed the pot aroma from a bottle.


“It smells amazing,” said the man, who said he worked in the parts department of a RV dealership. “It’s very good quality.”

He ended up buying two grams, costing $26.50 including the tax. The first 50 customers at Top Shelf were allowed to buy at $10 a gram, sort of a door-buster special price. The usual price will be $15 to $25 a gram at the store.

“This is a great moment,” Holdsworth said. “I am thrilled to be a part of this. It’s awesome. I love it.”

Washington and Colorado voted in November 2012 to legalize marijuana for adults older than 21 and to create state-licensed systems for growing, selling and taxing the product. Sales began in Colorado on Jan. 1.

Washington has had problems, however, as stores waited to be registered and growers had to scramble to produce product that has been in shorter supply than some had wanted.

“I hope to run out today,” said one of the store’s investors, Ward Nelson.

Another investor, John Evich, said the store had 17 to 18 pounds on hand with more on the way. He said he hoped not to run out.

“I want anyone to have a chance,” Evich said, adding he wanted “the people who have to work today not to miss out.”

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