It won't happen in time for shoppers to fill their Christmas stockings, but it's sure to provide a little holiday buzz nevertheless: The nation's first retail marijuana stores — more than 100 of them — are expected to open in Colorado on Jan. 1.
So far, the star of the show is Annies, currently a medical marijuana outlet in Central City and the recipient of the first local recreational license on Thursday. That means Annie's will be allowed to expand its pot sales to all adults 21 and older, not just medical patients.
Pot backers noted that the Central City chief of police hand-delivered the license to Annie's, part of an eight-location local chain called Strainwise.
"This is a historic occasion, and at each milestone I am reminded of what we have achieved here," said Neill Franklin, a former police officer and current head of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs.
The official openings will come more than a year after state voters approved a plan to begin taxing and selling marijuana, much like alcohol. And many of the new pot stores will be medical dispensaries that will now have a much larger clientele.
"For the first time in history, those who sell marijuana are receiving licenses from the state instead of rap sheets," said Mason Tvert, who co-directed the campaign to legalize in Colorado last year.
Colorado's getting a jump on Washington state, the only other state that has approved marijuana for recreational use. Twenty states allow it to be used for medical purposes.
Washington state officials just started accepting applications for their retail pot stores this week. The state is expecting to have more than 300 of them and running by late spring.