Feature: Marijuana “Tidal Wave” starting in Denver as thousands flock to buy weed

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DENVER: In less than a week of sales, Colorado’s cannabis stores are running out of marijuana, as Americans from coast to coast are flocking to the Rocky Mountain state to purchase the drug legally for the first time in the U.S. history.

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“The gates are now open and this flood won’t stop until it reaches all corners of the globe,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law, aka NORML, the oldest marijuana advocacy group in the United States, dating back to 1970.

“Colorado and the nation are calling for complete legalization, and it is coming fast,” he said.

St. Pierre says many more states are pushing legislation similar to Colorado’s 2012 Marijuana Amendment 64, and that Uruguay’s government taking on the production and sale of marijuana is proof the drug has international appeal and is widely recognized as a source of tax revenue.

In Colorado, revenue from the sale of “pot,” that was legal Jan. 1, has been more than 1 million dollars a day from only 24 stores open thus far (18 in Denver), according to local media. And each day, more stores open across the state, as 136 marijuana licenses were mailed by Dec. 23, according to the Col. Revenue Department.

Several retailers told Xinhua they expect 200 stores to be open statewide by March, most located in the state capitol of Denver.

Colorado officials may need to raise estimates that legal pot will generate more than 578 million dollars a year in sales and 67 million dollars in taxes for the state, as sales are exceeding expectations. It is being taxed at 21 percent. The first 40 million dollars in taxes will be put toward the school system.

On Monday, Denver’s 3D Cannabis Center announced it had sold out of “herb” and was referring customers to BotanicCare in Northglenn, where a 15-minute line remained out the door all day, as customers braved freezing temperatures to buy the drug. Several shops also reported selling out of edibles (marijuana-laced food), according to the Denver Post.

More than half of the first week’s sales have come from out-of-state buyers, who are allowed to buy small quantities of cannabis, according to Time weekly magazine. The Colorado government told pot tourists not to take their “weed” back across state lines where they faced incarceration, from many conservative states hostile to marijuana reform.

Denver hotels reported an increase in bookings, and companies giving “tours” or providing transportation to the pot stores, are selling out months in advance.

“The demand for our service has been nearly overwhelming – there’s a tidal wave,” said Peter Johnson of Colorado Green Tours, whose bus ferries tourists on tours of three of the newly legal dispensaries for 399 dollars.

Within a few days, the initial price of the drug had almost doubled due to the widespread demand and limited supply. On Monday, an eighth of an ounce was selling for about 85 dollars, almost twice the 45 dollars average initial price.

“Overall, I think things went relatively smoothly,” said Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson, noting “thousands” of marijuana users were buying and smoking the drug. Police said there were no reports of violence or crime related to the sale of the drug.

Investors were thrilled by the drug’s initial rampant success.

MediaSwipe Inc., that sells transaction processing systems to the medical industry and now works with cannabis stores, has seen its shares jump 88 percent over the past month of trading and 69.4 percent on Thursday alone.

GreenGro Technologies, a growing equipment dealer, saw share prices rise 52.3 percent, and Medical Marijuana Inc., a California grower of medical marijuana, saw an increase of 22 percent to 18.9 cents per share.

Researchers with ArcView Market said they expect the national legal marijuana market to grow from 1.44 billion to 2.34 billion dollars in 2014, and may rise when Washington state legalizes cannabis later this year.

“All eyes are on Colorado,” said Dennis Huspeni of the Denver Business Journal. “How do we tax it, how do we regulate it, does it creates addicts, does it attract tourism…. there are lots of questions that we still have to answer,” he said. PNA

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