Hundreds line up as legal marijuana sales start in Washington

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - The first legal sales of recreational marijuana in Washington state have begun.

Eager customers bought pot at 8 a.m. Tuesday at Bellingham's Top Shelf Cannabis, the very first seller of recreational pot in Washington state. The store started selling marijuana as soon as was allowed under state regulations.

The first three customers in line were residents of Kansas, in Bellingham for their grandfather's 84th birthday. Sarah Gorton, 24, of Abilene, Kansas, came with her younger brother Robbie, as well as her boyfriend.

"It's just a happy coincidence and an opportunity we're not going to have for a long time," said Sarah Gorton, a 24-year-old with dreadlocks and homemade jewelry. "I'm really thrilled to be a part of something that I never thought would happen."

Gorton's boyfriend, 29-year-old Cale Holdsworth, made the first purchase: two grams of pot for $26.50. As customers applauded, he held his brown bag aloft and said, "This is a great moment."

The price is lower than earlier predictions that first-day prices would be as high as $25 a gram.

The other marijuana store in Bellingham, 20/20 Solutions, says they ran into a regulatory snag and will not open until later this week.

Meanwhile, in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood, another store opened at noon following a countdown. That store, Cannabis City, is the only store that will be selling legal pot in Seattle on Tuesday.

A line started to form at 3 p.m. Monday when a 65-year-old retiree named Deb Greene showed up with a chair, sleeping bag, food, water and a 930-page book.

"I voted for it, and I'm just so excited to see it come to be in my lifetime," she said. "I'm not a heavy user, I'm just proud of our state for giving this a try."

A few minutes before noon, dozens of media waited alongside hundreds of customers lined up at Cannabis City, waiting to buy some legal weed.

Store owner James Lathrop, holding a large scissors to cut the ribbon for the official opening, said it was time to "free the weed."

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, who supported efforts to legalize the drug, was on hand to watch the scene.

"It is definitely exciting and an iconic event," says store manager Amber McGowan "It's a big deal for Seattle, and it's definitely a big deal for us."

Security personnel are present at the store to check customers' IDs. They must be 21 or over to purchase pot.

Patrons can buy up to an ounce for $350, but most people will likely buy a gram, which is the size of a quarter, for $20.

The start of legal pot sales in Washington marks a major step that's been 20 months in the making.

Washington and Colorado stunned much of the world by voting in November 2012 to legalize marijuana for adults over 21, and to create state-licensed systems for growing, selling and taxing the pot. Sales began in Colorado on Jan. 1.

Washington issued its first 24 retail licenses Monday, though not all businesses planned to start selling weed on Tuesday.

State law allows the sale of up to an ounce of dried marijuana, 16 ounces of pot-infused solids, 72 ounces of pot-infused liquids or 7 grams of concentrated marijuana, like hashish, to adults over 21.