Jan. 1 marks a new beginning for people around the world. But in Colorado, New Year’s Day is the start of something truly new.

That’s the day when the first 42 legal, regulated recreational pot shops in the world will open for business. The earliest stores will start serving customers at 8 a.m., the opening time allowed by state law, though that’s not an hour customers should count on.

Stores are opening on their own schedules, and there won’t be many of them on the first day of legal sales. The first licenses to sell recreational pot were issued in Denver Dec. 27 to 14 medical marijuana dispensaries, 17 growers and three makers of pot-infused products.

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Eight of the dispensaries licensed by the city will be among the few operating in the state on New Year’s Day. The shortage of fully licensed pot shops poses a potential problem for retailers, customers and law enforcement. Only a handful of stores will be ready to open, and big crowds are expected. Supplies could run short.

But business owners are optimistic. In Denver, Andy Williams told Politico he sees his revamped shop as a kind of Apple Store for weed. The public will be able to see the warehouse floors where pot is grown and trimmed. Williams’s mission? To sell cannabis to the public like wine.

“It’s going to be all white and beautiful,” the former industrial engineer said. “We are building an impressive showcase for the world, to show them this is an industry.”

Justin Jones, who owns Dank Colorado in Denver, said he’s confident he can meet demand on opening day. After that, things could get tougher. The first day, he predicted, will attract a lot of customers.

“It will be like people waiting in line for tickets to a Pink Floyd concert,” Jones said.

In Telluride, all three local dispensaries will convert to recreational sales – and all three will be open Wednesday morning. City leaders said they don’t anticipate any problems on Jan. 1.

“We expect business as usual,” said Town Manager Greg Clifton. “The dispensaries have operated here without a lot of issues, and I don’t think a lot is going to change.”

Indeed, of all states, Colorado is particularly well-suited for the transition to legal weed. Ever since voters legalized medical marijuana, the drug has been plentiful and easy to get.

The biggest complaint, here as in California, has always been that people without real medical problems abused the system. But here, as it may there, that argument seemed to work in favor of marijuana: When legalization made the ballot in 2012, Colorado voters had already experienced a decade in which pot was all but de facto legal.

Voters in Washington State also legalized marijuana in 2012, and retail sales are expected to start there in the spring. California and several other states could vote to make recreational weed legal in 2014 and 2016.


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