It was a false countdown to high noon, when Cannabis City, a store in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood, was supposed to start selling marijuana.
The doors finally opened after 1 p.m. Outside, the mood was festive. Music played and a biscuit truck sponsored by a company that rates marijuana strains handed out free food.
Cannabis City was among 25 businesses to receive a license on Monday, but one of just five that started selling on Tuesday. Hundreds showed up in the morning to score some of the pot.
“It is very exciting and a little intimidating at the same time,” said Amber McGowan, the manager of Cannabis City. “There is a lot riding on us. We want to make sure that we put our best foot forward here."
Washington has been working toward launching a regulated recreational pot system for the past 20 months – since residents voted to approve legal marijuana. There isn’t much pot to go around, as many growers have not finished harvesting their product.
In line were tourists and activists, including a man from Las Vegas and Deb Green, 65, the first in line, who had arrived at 3 p.m. the day before.
(Being first in line, she was the media maven of the day. Her dealer saw her on the news and texted her: "I saw you on TV. Now I know why you're not calling me!")
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes was on hand to address the line of potential buyers and "exercise his legal right" to buy. He told the crowd the short supply is just one of the many bumps in the road ahead – as the city moved from what he called the “failed war on drugs” into a regulated system.
People played cards on the sidewalk, but they did not smoke pot outside. When a reporter asked why not, someone replied, “You could be an undercover cop.”
These buyers would pay more than they would for black market weed, but for many in line, that was a small price to pay. At Cannabis City, weed was selling for $20 a gram, nearly twice the black market rate.
The rules of this regulated system, in short: Adults 21 and older may buy pot, up to one ounce of flower or bud, 16 ounces in solvent form (edibles) and 72 ounces in liquid form (equivalent to a six-pack).
Deb Green was the first to make a purchase and blew her budget on two bags: one for herself and one for history. Her plan after nearly 24 hours of waiting in line was to go home, smoke a bowl and go to bed.
The Hold Up
Growers have been rushing to harvest and dry their product for Tuesday. As the day approached, there was concern that there wouldn't be enough.
Washington requires that pot be tested for yeast, mold and microbes before it is passed for sale.
The two testing labs in the state are reporting that a total of about 120 samples have come in so far. About 10 percent failed tests for yeast, mold and microbes.
And that means there might be 300 pounds of salable weed for the whole state.
That doesn't sound like desperate times, but Nick Mosely, the quality assurance manager of Confidence Analytics, said some samples have been disappointingly un-aromatic. These were dried in a rush at higher heat and will smell more like hay than pot.
But Mosely said the full bouquet will be back next week, as more slow-dried marijuana becomes available.
There was applause in Bellingham as a visitor from Kansas became one of the first people to legally buy recreational marijuana in Washington state.
Cale Holdsworth purchased two ounces of pot from Top Shelf Cannabis in Bellingham. The store opened its doors at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Hundreds of people gathered for the opening, including Brian Travino, a student at Western Washington University.
"I don't even smoke, I don't even use marijuana but we're here to kind of be part of it. This is a solution to a broken federal policy and sort of a broken federal system," Travino said. "And this is a really cool thing."
Produced for the Web by Isolde Raftery.