A Marine veteran of the Iraqi war was first in line at a Denver, Colo. industrial park New Year’s Day, becoming the first legal recreational pot customer in the state as the opening day of legal marijuana sales was greeted with fluctuating prices and long lines.
Sean Azzariti, 32, handed over $59 and walked away with an eighth of an ounce of a cannabis blend called Bubba Kush and some pot-laced chocolate truffles from 3D Cannabis, one of the 18 stores licensed under a voter-passed initiative in the 2012 general election.
Colorado residents 21 years old and older can buy up to an ounce of weed at a time while non-residents are limited to a quarter of an ounce under state law.
About 136 licenses have been issued for retail sales of marijuana. Owners of more than half of the state’s outlets for medical marijuana say they are now planning to sell the drug over the counter.
Among the stores selling marijuana, the price of the drug is fluctuating widely.
It is the latest development in what advocates of decriminalizing pot hope will be a country wide wave of state laws legalizing marijuana.
Backers of legalization contend sales that began when California legalized medical marijuana in 1996 will reduce, what many lawyers say. are arrests that generate criminal records for people –especially non-white males--whose only offense is pot possession and consumption.
Azzariti, an active advocate of legalizing recreational pot, told reporters he plans to use his purchase to help cope with combat-related post-traumatic stress.
Cannabis sales are expected to produce a surge of tax revenue in
Colorado, too. 3D Cannabis Center owner Toni Fox said she anticipates $30,000 a month in revenue.
The Pew Charitable Trust’s web site cited a study of the Colorado law by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy that predicted that marijuana legalization would produce nearly $60 million annually in new revenue and savings for the state each year.
State taxes on marijuana sales include a 15 percent excise tax (dedicated to school construction) and a 10 percent sales tax, for a total of 25 percent.
According to the study, those levies would bring in $32 million for the state budget, $14 million for local governments and would result in a savings of more than $12 million in state and local law enforcement spending. The first $40 million of the excise tax revenue is dedicated to school construction.
Skeptics worry that pot is a gateway drug to substance abuse and that legalizing pot will encourage a habit that some medical researchers believe is harmful.
However, the drive is nevertheless underway to legalize pot for recreational use in Alaska, Oregon, Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.