MONEY Leisure

7 Ways Buying Weed in Washington Is Not Going to Be a Party

waiting in line to purchase marijuana in Colorado
Line to purchase marijuana at the 3-D Denver Discrete Dispensary on January 1, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Theo Stroomer—Getty Images

The era of legal marijuana sales kicks off in Washington today. We'd tell you to light up in celebration, but doing so may be harder than you think.

The basics of buying marijuana in Washington appear to be pretty simple: The state issued 24 licenses to stores on Monday, and sales are allowed to commence 24 hours later—so Tuesday—and anyone 21 and up and is allowed to buy. But when you dig down into the weeds, so to speak, of opening day for legal weed sales, things get a little hazy. Here are some of the hassles and headaches marijuana shop customers can expect early on.

Stores probably won’t open at normal times. Largely because of all the last-minute bureaucratic hoops Washington marijuana stores must jump through, many of the businesses awarded licenses to sell legally aren’t going to be ready to open their doors first thing in the morning on Tuesday. Top Shelf Cannabis in Bellingham is one of the few shops that’ll be ready for business early, with an opening hour of 8 a.m.

But that store is the exception. Most don’t seem to be in any kind of rush to open. “Know your audience: We’re talking stoners here,” the owner of Cannabis City in Seattle told the Associated Press. Accordingly, the store is expected to open around noon.

Some stores won’t open at all Tuesday. Instead of scrambling like lunatics to deal with all the necessary delivery details and paperwork, many weed stores are taking a more mellow approach and aren’t even trying to open Tuesday. For instance, Main Street Marijuana, in Vancouver, Wa., which anticipates terrific sales due to its proximity to the Oregon border and the hipster city of Portland, plans on having a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday at 11 a.m. With the mayor handling the scissors, of course. The Olympian reported that it was possible none of the three stores licenses in the South Sound would open on Tuesday. One, 420 Carpenter in Lacey, was planning on holding off until Friday to open.

The lines will be huge. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s a historic happening, the supply is very limited, and people want to sample the goods and say, “I was there on Day One.” I mean, people waited outside for hours in the frigid cold in January in Colorado to buy pot when stores first opened there for chrissakes. By comparison, hanging out with a bunch of stoners on a summer day in Washington is a picnic.

You can only buy small amounts. Because of the shortage of marijuana, customers will be limited as to how much they’ll be allowed to buy on Tuesday, and likely for the near future. State law officially caps the amount you can buy and possess at one ounce (28 grams), but initially stores will probably cut off customers well below that amount to ensure as many customers as possible get to buy some product. “When the sign on the shop’s door says bud purchases will be limited to an eighth, have patience,” the Denver Post’s Cannabist blog warns Washingtonians, speaking from experience in Colorado. “When the budtender tells you about their one-edible limit, have patience. Soon enough you’ll be able to order your full ounce — or a six-pack of mix-and-match brownies and chocolate bars.”

It’ll be expensive. Because legal recreational pot is a novelty, and because of the very limited supply, prices for weed will be especially high at the beginning. Prices will start at $12 per gram, and go as high as $25 per gram. Down the road, prices should drop slowly, as they have in Colorado. According to FiveThirtyEight, as of this past spring, the price of recreational marijuana in Colorado was around $8 per gram, and the median price of medicinal marijuana was cheaper still, at just $5.60 per gram.

Stores will run out. Colorado pot shops were running low on weed almost immediately after sales became legal on New Year’s. By most accounts, Washington stores are less prepared for the rush of customers than their counterparts in Colorado were a few months ago. The supply of pot at stores in Washington is very limited, and will remain unable to match demand for quite some time, and as a result, stores will probably run out of weed early and often. “There may be outages from time to time,” Alison Holcomb, criminal justice director of the ACLU of Washington, told the Oregonian. “How long [stores] will be able to keep supply on the shelves is a really important question… It will be a little rough in the beginning.”

Cops will be everywhere. Buyers, beware. High Times reported that police will be staking out Washington pot shops, ready to bust people for driving while stoned, lighting up in public, or other infractions. Likewise, the Washington Liquor Control Board plans will be running sting operations to make sure that stores aren’t selling marijuana to underage customers. Washington authorities know the eyes of the world are upon the state, and they don’t want anything embarrassing or untoward to happen on their watch.

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