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Lone Seattle Weed Shops Opens to Throngs of Pot Buyers

"High Noon" took on new meaning in Seattle on Tuesday.
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"High Noon" took on new meaning in Seattle on Tuesday.

Pot stores around Washington state may have started earlier, but the only store authorized to sell legal marijuana in the state's most populous city opened at 12:00 p.m. after much anticipation and a line of heads who staked out their spot up to a day in advance.

"I came out at three o'clock yesterday afternoon," said Deb Green, who was first in line at Cannabis City, Seattle's only licensed retailer. "I picked up a sleeping bag and a book and went to camp out."

Green added, "I came not so much for the pot, though I do smoke a little bit, but I came out more for the history of this. I never thought this would happen in my lifetime."

Many complained about the lack of options in Seattle, but Cannabis City owner James Lathrop was on cloud nine.

"The day's going beautifully, it's gone off without a hitch," he told NBC News. "It's going to take time to get people through, but we'll definitely have product for everyone that's in line."

While Colorado has been raking in tens of millions of dollars a month in tax revenues since rolling out regulated retail sales in January, Washington has taken a slower path to market — state officials are still processing more than 300 license applications.

Customers are legally allowed to have up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of marijuana. They also can buy up to 16 ounces (454 grams) of marijuana-infused product in solid form or up to 72 ounces (2 kg) of marijuana-infused product in liquid form.

The Evergreen State issued the first 24 retail licenses Monday, but an Associated Press survey of the licensees showed only about six planned to open Tuesday: two in Bellingham, the one in Seattle, one in Spokane, one in Prosser and one in Kelso. Others were set to open later this month, while some said it could be a month or more before they could acquire marijuana to sell.

Some retailers said limiting early shoppers to buying a few grams will help deal with shortages, which are partly due to limited harvests by licensed growers, regulatory hurdles and an applicant backlog.

"I expect there to be a good showing of people for the next little while," said Lathrop. "Everyone's really excited when they come in — really excited and happy."

Popular "edibles," such as hash brownies, are not expected to be available, as no processor has been cleared to operate a cannabis kitchen.

Because of the clogged up supply chain, prices were as high as $25 to $30 per gram on Tuesday, roughly twice the price at the state's weakly regulated medical marijuana dispensaries. That's $5-$10 higher than prices in Denver, and up to two or three times the price of what illegal marijuana costs on the streets of other cities.

Green said she was only going to buy two bags of marijuana: one for potency and one for posterity.

"I'd like to see prices equalize, and what I plan to buy today is two baggies, 2 grams each — one which I'll have the owner sign and will never be opened. And yes, I will smoke the other bag, though it'll probably take me a month," she said.

Kevin Martinez, 25, had waited in line since 5 a.m. to get a pinch of pot.

"I kinda expected this craziness — it was all over the news," he said. "For me, standing in the sun was hot, there are really long lines here, I cramped up from standing in the sun for so long, but it's history in the making so I'd do it again. I'm just gonna smoke it — gotta go to work first though."

— with Hasani Gittens in New York City