It’s nearly a new year, and Colorado businesses are getting ready to sell a new leaf. Jan. 1 is the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in the state. Whether you’re in the Rocky Mountains for the occasion or just curious, here are 10 things you should know.
This party is for adults only
Legalization advocates in Colorado argued that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and that it makes little sense to regulate one while banning the other. The ballot initiative, Amendment 64, states up front that only people 21 years and older can partake.
Tourists are welcome
Both Colorado residents and visitors are allowed to possess up to an ounce of pot, though non-residents can buy only a quarter-ounce at a time and no one is permitted to take it out of the state.
Tourists may have a tougher time finding a place to legally light up
The law states that marijuana cannot be consumed “openly and publicly,” and Denver officials have made it clear that this includes everything from sidewalks to restaurants to parks to music venues to cars. Hotels can allow up to 25% of their rooms to be smoking-friendly, but the safest place to toke is in a private residence.
Marijuana retail shops won’t be open in every Colorado town — but here’s where they will be
Dozens of municipalities have opted not to allow recreational marijuana sales, and many pot shops are still waiting to finish the licensing process. Denver will have the most licensed stores, which the city has helpfully listed on this Google map. The Denver Post is closely monitoring stores throughout the state and will be updating a list here. About two dozen have confirmed that they’ll be in operation for opening day.
Supply may not meet demand and lines may be long
Given the small number of open stores and the international focus on Colorado’s historic social experiment, officials have expressed concerns about “Green Wednesday” turning into a Black Friday. Mason Tvert, an activist who spearheaded the legalization effort in Colorado, believes those concerns are overblown, calling them a “kind of marijuana Y2K bug.” But he also notes that businesses may cap the amounts they sell to serve more customers.
Marijuana can only be bought with cash
Activists like Tvert are trying to reform banking rules that have left pot businesses without the option of accepting credit or debit cards. While changes may be on the horizon, shopping for marijuana can only be done with cold hard cash for now.
Recreational or “retail” marijuana will be more expensive than medical marijuana
Colorado pot shops are still setting prices, but employees say that because of taxes levied by the state, recreational weed will be pricier. One Denver shop, called Dank Colorado, sells medical marijuana for about $30 to $50 per eighth ounce and plans to sell retail pot for about $40 to $60 an eighth. In Denver, only existing medical marijuana shops were allowed to apply for a retail license.
Cops will be out in force, though maybe not for the reason you’d expect
The Denver police chief has promised to have his officers on the ground, but he says they’ll be there to protect shoppers — who will be waiting in lines with pockets full of cash — rather than seek out people who are consuming weed where they’re not supposed to. “I am not going to have a team of officers specifically going out looking for people smoking marijuana,” Police Chief Robert White told the Denver Post. “If we get complaints or run into it, we’re certainly going to investigate it. We have to balance our resources.”
Advocates will be stressing the serious side of marijuana
Tvert and his team at the Marijuana Policy Project are celebrating opening day by arranging for the first customer at one Denver store to be an Iraq war veteran who plans to use marijuana to help combat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that doesn’t qualify him for purchasing medical marijuana. For the legalization movement, that optic is an important contrast to Half Baked-esque stereotypes.
Colorado’s reputation may never be the same
Tvert says that while legal weed may be novel now, eventually it will just be the norm and people may not even remember which state was first to legalize. Other Colorado figures have looked on marijuana sales as something that might come to dominate the state’s reputation. “I don’t want our citizens to feel that Denver’s being overrun by marijuana,” Councilman Charlie Brown told TIME in a recent interview. “We’re the pioneers here, and our image is going to change.”