12/28/2014

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Southwest Washington still waiting for its legal pot

Southwest Washington still waiting for its legal pot

KELSO, Wash. – Perhaps a hundred customers showed up Tuesday at Freedom Market to purchase marijuana that now can be legally sold in the state of Washington.

They were turned away. The marijuana that was supposed to arrive at 11 a.m. from Spokane was pushed back until at least 7 p.m. The truck is on its way, but is stuck in a bit of traffic.

Inside the store the owners got the ID check set up, which is a whole computer system designed just for selling pot at about $30 or more per gram when tax is added.

"We're totally ready to open, and we just don't have anything but pipes in here," owner Kathleen Nelson said.

She estimated about 100 people came to the store by noon, and the license plates were split about 50-50 between Oregon and Washington.

"We're just disappointed we have had to turn people away for the moment," Nelson said. "It's probably going to be August before we get a steady supply and can actually be open 8 a.m. until midnight."

Employees said they’re a bit stressed, but once their delivery of marijuana arrives, they’ll stay open until midnight or until they sell out. They said they plan on selling out first.

Elsewhere in the state, customers bought pot at 8 a.m. 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 other marijuana store in Bellingham, 20/20 Solutions, says they ran into a regulatory snag and will not open until later this week.

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."

For Oregonians the sale of recreational pot in Washington means easy access for many residents in that state.

The closest legal pot shop to Portland opens Wednesday, just across the Columbia River in Vancouver.

Law enforcement officials say there's nothing stopping Oregonians from buying pot in Washington. But the law bans them from bringing the marijuana back with them for use in their home state.

Also, authorities say Oregonians who drive home stoned could get busted, just like a drunken driver.

Oregon State Police said it's not doing anything differently in response to Washington's pot sales.

"We are always on the lookout for drivers under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both," Sgt. Gregg Hastings.

Washington law allows the sale of up to an ounce of dried marijuana. Under Oregon law, possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is classified as a violation, punishable by a fine.

Owners of stores near Portland anticipate lots of Oregon customers, but some observers say swarms of motorists and bicyclists heading across the state line are unlikely.

Because state-regulated marijuana production got off to a slow start, supply problems could send prices at Washington stores as high as $25 per gram this summer. That's more than double what many recreational users in Portland spend on the black market.

"I don't think access to cannabis in Oregon is difficult," said Leland Berger, a Portland lawyer who advises medical marijuana businesses statewide. "I think they're more likely to see folks coming from Coeur d'Alene (Idaho) to Spokane (Washington) than they are likely to see folks coming from Portland to Vancouver, and I think it really has to do with the availability and price."


 Watch: Here's what you need to know (and bring) to buy legal marijuana

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