The United States’ first recreational marijuana shops opened in Colorado on Wednesday, marking the start of a bold experiment with legalising the drug.
Advocates have argued that a legal market would generate revenue for states and save money by not having to lock up so many drug offenders. They also hope that it will prove a viable alternative to the costly US-led war on drugs.
“Honestly, I thought I’d never see the day,” said a giddy Errin Reaume, who shared hits of concentrated marijuana at a 1920s-themed “Prohibition Is Over” party in the state’s capital Denver.
Skeptics worry, however, that the industry will make the drug more widely available to teens, even though legal sales are limited to adults over 21.
Colorado voted to legalise marijuana in 2012. Washington state has also approved its own version of the law, but will not allow the sale of cannabis until mid-2014.
Colorado at the forefront of legalisation
Colorado has set up an elaborate plant-tracking system to try to keep the drug away from the black market, and regulators set up packaging, labeling and testing requirements, along with potency limits for edible pot.
Pot is still illegal under federal law, but the US Justice Department outlined an eight-point slate of priorities for pot regulation, requiring states to keep the drug away from minors, criminal cartels, federal property and other states in order to avoid a federal crackdown.
“We understand that Colorado is under a microscope,” Jack Finlaw, lawyer to Gov. John Hickenlooper and overseer of a major task force to chart new pot laws, recently told reporters.
A group of addiction counselors and physicians said they’re seeing more marijuana addiction problems, especially in youths, and that wider pot availability will exacerbate the problem.
“This is just throwing gas on the fire,” said Ben Cort of the Colorado Center for Dependency, Addiction & Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado Hospital.
Marijuana supporters were hoping Colorado’s experiment wouldn’t be that noticeable after an initial rush of shopping.
“Adults have been buying marijuana around this country for years,” said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. “The only difference is that in Colorado they will now buy it from legitimate businesses instead of the underground market.”
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
Date created : 2014-01-01