Users line up to make history in Colorado pot shops

Users line up to make history in Colorado pot shops

It was barely dawn when people began lining up outside the Denver Kush Club, turning up their collars against the sleet and wind.

But a little winter weather wasn't about to put them off -- they were making history.

"I'm in no hurry. I've waited my whole life for this," said 43-year-old Scott Van Pelt, who drove seven hours from notoriously conservative Texas to be among the first to legally buy marijuana for recreational use.

Colorado and Washington approved the recreational sale of cannabis in November 2012 referendums, and pot shops were allowed to open on January 1 in Colorado and later in the year in Washington.

Medical marijuana is already legal and regulated in 19 US states, and has been allowed in some cases for the past 20 years. And in most of them, private consumption of cannabis is not classified as a crime.

The start of retail sales marked not only a legal turning point in how marijuana can be purchased, but also in terms of how it will be consumed and the market it will create, if the customers at the Kush Club are any indication.

A sour, earthy smell permeated the shop's two rooms.

Kush Club co-owner Darin Smith said he expects up to 400 customers per day, now that the law has changed, compared to about 100 when the shop only sold pot for medical use.

He opened the Kush Club -- named after a type of marijuana -- four years ago.

The potential market for marijuana sales is huge.

It is expected to grow by 64 per cent to USD 2.34 billion in 2014 with recreational pot added in Colorado and Washington, according to ArcView Market Research, which tracks and publishes data on the cannabis industry.

"It just makes it an item of commerce, like going into a liquor store," said a gray-haired Charles Pierce, 61, who was buying marijuana to use for the first time in two years.

Colorado state officials anticipate that marijuana sales will generate some USD 67 million in annual tax revenue.

Tourism is the second largest industry in Colorado.

More than 60 million people visited the state in 2012, according to the consulting firm Longwoods International, which conducted research for the Colorado Tourism Office.

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