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Washington state issues marijuana shop licenses

SEATTLE, Washington--Washington State issued its first retail marijuana licenses Monday a day before the start of legal sales, and 21 hours before the only store licensed to sell in Seattle was set to open, a line was already forming.

At Cannabis City, a 65-year-old retiree named Deb Greene had 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.”

The start of legal pot sales in Washington on Tuesday marks a major step. Washington and Colorado stunned much of the world by voting in November 2012 to legalize marijuana for adults over 21, and to create state-licensed systems for growing, selling and taxing the pot. Sales began in Colorado on Jan. 1.

Businesses including Cannabis City, which will be the first and only recreational marijuana shop in Seattle, got word early Monday from the state that they were licensed marijuana dealers.

Owner James Lathrop worked into the night Sunday hoisting a grand-opening banner.

“I've had a long day. It really hasn't sunk in yet,” Lathrop said.

Randy Simmons, the state Liquor Control Board's project manager for legal marijuana, said the first two dozen stores were notified early to give them an extra few hours to get cannabis on their shelves before they are allowed to open their doors at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

The store openings are expected to be accompanied by high prices, shortages and celebration.

An AP survey of the licensees showed that only about six planned to open Tuesday. Some were set to open later this week or next, while others said it could be a month or more before they could acquire marijuana to sell.

Officials eventually expect to have more than 300 recreational pot shops across the state.

Pot prices were expected to reach US$25 a gram or higher on the first day of sales — twice what people pay in the state's unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries. That was largely due to the short supply of legally produced pot in the state. Although more than 2,600 people applied to become licensed growers, fewer than 100 have been approved — and only about a dozen were ready to harvest by early this month.

At Cannabis City, despite the line already beginning to form, Lathrop wasn't planning to open before noon.

“Know your audience: We're talking stoners here,” he said. “I'd be mean to say they need to get up at 5 a.m. to get in line.”

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Krystal Klacsan prepares artwork to be hung behind a case displaying glass bongs at marijuana store Cannabis City in Seattle, Washington, Monday, July 7.

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