Pot sellers expect big turnout in Colorado for 1st day of sales

Posted at 11:43 AM, Dec 31, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-31 11:43:22-05

By Graham Winch

(CNN) — A licensed weed retailer in Colorado says her stores could run of out marijuana on New Year’s Day, when it becomes legal to sell recreational pot under state law.

“I do expect a big crowd especially at the store in Central City, because the town has a lot of tourists with the casino there. I definitely expect some high traffic there. But everything we have seen coming off our social media makes me feel that it will be an enormous day — something similar to 420,” said Erin Phillips, referring to the date of April 20, which marijuana enthusiasts around the world have adopted as “weed day.”

Phillips owns eight medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, and three of those stores will start selling recreational weed Wednesday. Eventually, Phillips says, she plans to sell recreational weed at five of her Colorado shops.

Colorado will be the first state in the nation to open recreational pot stores and become the first place in the world where marijuana will be regulated from seed to sale.

Ron Kammerzell, deputy senior director of enforcement at the Colorado Department of Revenue, told HLN he expects a good turnout New Year’s Day, but he says people need to realize that even though recreational marijuana is about to become legal, to buy and possess it doesn’t mean people can smoke weed in the stores or in public places. Kammerzell recommends people smoke the drug in the confines of their own homes.

“Marijuana in the state of Colorado cannot be consumed openly and publicly,” said Kammerzell. “You can smoke it in the confines of your property. So that has been a highly debated issue. Can you smoke it on your porch? Can you smoke it in your backyard? I think without a lot of guidance from the courts on that I think case law will further define what that means.”

The Colorado Department of Revenue is in charge of licensing the retail stores that will sell recreational weed. Kammerzell says he expects about 25 stores across the state to begin selling recreational weed New Year’s Day with about 100 more following suit in the next few months.

Residents of Colorado can buy up to an ounce of marijuana per transaction, and out-of-state residents can buy up to half an ounce. Kammerzell says his department will be out in force to make sure stores are only selling marijuana to people 21 years old or older, and at the legal amounts.

“We will have staff out in the field on January 1. We will also have staff on call to make sure everything goes smoothly and the transition is a smooth one. I personally will be out in the field on January 1 with our chief of investigations and the executive director of the department,” Kammerzell said.

Erin Phillips says her stores will be in compliance with Colorado’s law starting Wednesday. She says she has already spent more than $200,000 to ready her stores to sell recreational marijuana.

“It’s been quite an extensive endeavor. It’s probably cost close to $150,000 in licensing fees alone,” said Phillips. “On top of that, we have had to get sales tax bonds for both the city and the state. We have also had to get all types of different hardware to become compliant with all the new laws.”

Despite all her efforts to adhere to Colorado’s law, Phillips will still be breaking federal law, under which medical and recreational marijuana are still illegal. But in August, the U.S. Justice Department said it wouldn’t challenge Colorado’s or other states’ laws that legalize recreational marijuana. Instead, federal officials will focus on serious trafficking and keeping the drug away from children.

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