Colorado starts selling retailer marijuana

Updated: 2014-01-02 13:10


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Still, supporters and detractors alike see the two Western states as setting a course that could mark the beginning of the end for marijuana prohibition at the national level.

"The era of marijuana prohibition is officially over in Colorado," said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project.

"Making marijuana legal for adults is not an experiment," he told a news conference. "Prohibition was the experiment and the results were abysmal."

He and other supporters of the change point to tax revenues to be gained and argue that anti-marijuana enforcement has accomplished little over the years but to penalize otherwise law-abiding citizens, especially minorities.

Critics say anticipated social harms of legalization, from declines in economic productivity to a rise in traffic and workplace accidents, outweigh any benefits.

They also warn that legalizing recreational use could help create an industry intent on attracting underage users and getting more people dependent on the drug.

Cannabis remains classified as an illegal narcotic under federal law, though the Obama administration has said it will give individual states leeway to carry out their own recreational-use statutes.

Nearly 20 states, including Colorado and Washington, had already put themselves at odds with the US government by approving marijuana for medical purposes.

Comparing the nascent pot market to the alcohol industry, former US Representative Patrick Kennedy, co-founder of Project Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said his group aims to curtail marijuana advertizing and to help push local bans on the drug while the industry is still modest in stature.

"This is a battle that if we catch it early enough we can prevent some of the most egregious adverse impacts that have happened as a result of the commercialized market that promotes alcohol use to young people," he said.

Under Colorado law, however, state residents can buy as much as an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana at a time, while out-of-state visitors are restricted to quarter-ounce purchases.

Restraint was certainly the message being propagated on New Year's Eve by Colorado authorities, who posted signs at Denver International Airport and elsewhere around the capital warning that pot shops can only operate during approved hours, and that open, public consumption of marijuana remains illegal.

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