On the first day of legal pot sales in Washington, only six stores in the state said they would be open. As word of the locations spread, long lines formed. Shoppers brought chairs and played card games, waiting for their turn at the counter. A young man from Kansas, who became the inaugural pot-purchaser at 8:03 a.m., started queuing before sunrise outside a Bellingham, Wash., shop. A group of five guys camped overnight outside a shop in Spokane, waiting 19 hours to buy their legal bud.
“The word positive just summarizes the whole experience,” says Altitude pot shop's Manel Valenzuela. “We had people waiting outside in line with happy faces.”
Despite crowds, a very limited supply of weed and a media frenzy, the first day of sales in the nation's second legal recreational-pot market had gone without incident by early evening. Sales and spirits (and in some cases prices) were all high. “Marijuana is on the shelves,” says Mikhail Carpenter, a spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which regulates the new marketplace. “We only expect the system to get better from here.”
That would come as welcome news to the first wave of stores and customers. The board issued retail licenses to 24 retail shops on July 7. All were allowed to open 24 hours later, but some owners were hampered by red tape in local jurisdictions and others couldn’t get their hands on enough supply.
Kelso-based Freedom Market was still waiting for its product to arrive at 4 p.m. Manager Hollie Hillman says media vans swarmed outside, and anxious customers flowed in and out all day. “It’s been like a circus,” she says. “As soon as it gets here, we want to open.”
Altitude, in Prosser, Wash., chose to close its doors by 2:25 p.m. in order to preserve its limited supply. The shop capped purchases at 1 g per person, priced from $20 to $30, and stopped selling after reaching 300 customers. Magic Insane was the first strain to sell out, according to Valenzuela.
Todd Bennatt, a co-owner of the Spokane Green Leaf, says he expects to sell out of the shop's 5-lb. stock of marijuana after limiting customers to one 2- or 4-g bag early in the day. Weed there is selling for $25 per gram. Bennatt hopes prices will fall as supply increases, yet he says the high costs and sales caps have done little to dampen the mood.
"It's been joyous," Bennatt says. "I was just looking for somebody to not be happy with the high prices or not letting them buy more, but everyone’s been understanding and patient."