Customers lineup to buy recreational marijuana at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver on Jan. 1, 2014. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

Boulder residents travel to buy recreational pot

Cynthia Johnston, a legalization activist from Los Angeles staying with a cousin in Lafayette for the holidays, was the sixth person to buy legal recreational marijuana when it went on sale at 8 a.m. Wednesday at the Denver store 3D Cannabis.

Though both she and her cousin have medical marijuana licenses, she said, they both wanted to be part of making history.

“I feel like it’s kind of my responsibility to be there and see the first legal sale take place,” she said. “It’s a giant step toward ending prohibition altogether. Colorado is opening the eyes of the world that this is really necessary and not a big deal.”

At least 37 stores across the state were fully licensed and opened to sell marijuana to anyone 21 or over for any purpose, according to official lists and Denver Post research. Activists — who passed the marijuana-legalization measure in November 2012 that made the sales possible — arranged a ceremonial “first purchase” at 3D Cannabis at 7:30 a.m.

Yet in seemingly weed-friendly Boulder, recreational marijuana won’t be available for sale until late February at the earliest and more likely March or April, regulators, store owners and industry experts said.

More than a hundred state licenses for retail marijuana stores have been issued in Denver, but just one in all of Boulder County. Marijuana businesses also need local approval, and a web of regulations means even that business — The Canary’s Song in Nederland — won’t be able to sell pot to the general public until late January at the earliest.

Johnston said she first smoked marijuana as a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder in the 60s. She’s also used it to help her beat an addiction to alcohol and now to ease the pain of arthritis and fibromyalgia, she said.

“It’s come a long way,” she said.

She said buying recreational marijuana didn’t feel much different than buying medical marijuana. But, she said, standing in line with a happy crowd of people made it worthwhile

“Everyone was just beaming,” she said. “It felt like the culmination of a long struggle.”

The Denver Post contributed to this report.

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