Starting the new year on a high note, visitors and locals gathered in front of the Kine Mine in Idaho Springs on Jan. 1 for their first chance to buy recreational marijuana.
Pot enthusiasts, some waiting several hours, were allowed into the shop starting at 8:30 a.m.
One man, who wished to remain anonymous and was the first in line, said he was happy to wait a few extra minutes.
"I've been waiting 50 years for this," he said. The 62-year-old marijuana connoisseur sat in a lawn chair in front of the store hours before it opened.
"I expected this to be similar to a ticket line for a good concert, only this is the biggest concert ever," the man said. "This is monumental. This is the first legal marijuana sold anywhere in the world, and I can't believe I'm here to see it. … I never thought I would see the day."
As he finished making purchases and left the premises, he was applauded by those still in line.
It was a similar scene at Serene Wellness, a marijuana shop in Empire, which also saw steady business as the new year began. Owner Dan Volpe said trying to get the business ready for the first day was hectic.
"Got a couple hours of sleep and then we were back at it at 8 a.m., and the line just didn't stop until we closed our doors," Volpe said. "The second day we also had people as soon as we opened our doors, and we had a steady flow of business. We really didn't get any breaks."
The Kine Mine and Serene Wellness are two of several shops that began selling retail marijuana in Clear Creek County under the state's new law allowing retail sales of the drug. Medicinal sales have been allowed since 2009.
Volpe said about half of his customers were Colorado residents, while the other half came from across the country, including Chicago, Kansas, Alaska, New Jersey, Arizona and Illinois.
Customers from outside Idaho Springs
Lara Hill from Grand Junction, while waiting to purchase marijuana at the Kine Mine, said she and some friends slept in their car for three days in anticipation of what some called "Green Wednesday."
Hill's friend Greg Kelly, also from Grand Junction, said they came to Idaho Springs because there was more to do while waiting than in other communities with recreational retail outlets.
Kelly's brother, Brandon Kelly, came from Las Vegas to take part in what he considered a historic event.
Kine Mine co-owner Theran Snyder said the day represented for Colorado the end of prohibition.
"There is a line outside the door, and we're just expecting it to grow," Snyder said, adding that the business received so many calls in the weeks prior to Jan. 1 that he took the phone off the hook and let voice-mail take over. Snyder said the store received calls from as far away as Florida.
"We've worked 18 to 20 hours every day for the last week, trying to get this together," Snyder said.
A healthy profit
On the first day, recreational marijuana stores sold their products at inflated prices to reflect the amount of marijuana available and the demand. The average bill for the first several customers came to about $100 each.
A gram of marijuana at the Kine Mine sold for $25 to Colorado residents and $35 for out-of-state visitors.
While owners believe the cost will go down in the weeks and months to come, they are optimistic the retail trend in their industry will herald an era of profit.
"It has not been at all profitable. Every dime (was) going back into the business," Snyder said of the last several years selling medical marijuana. "This is (the tipping point). … We don't know what to expect. … It is exciting; it makes me a little nervous, but this is the direction it has been moving."
Snyder added that if the trend continues, he will need to hire additional staff and expand his business.
Volpe said the medical marijuana industry, at least in Clear Creek County, hadn’t been very large, given the competition and limited number of card-holding patients.
"At least now we have the ability to market to basically a new clientele every day," Volpe said. "That's the kind of beauty of Clear Creek. A lot of people pass through, and a lot of people are on their way to other places. Now we have access to a whole nation of people that are very interested."
Volpe said his business had been packed for the last several days and he said he didn't know yet if it was a fluke or a sign of things to come.
"I have a feeling, so long as the other states are not allowing it, and tourists want to come here and partake in what we are allowing, I think it is going to last awhile."
Contact Ian Neligh at email@example.com.