Lines form in Colorado for first legal sales of marijuana
THEY lined up before dawn and in the snow on Wednesday - baby boomers from Nebraska, retirees from Denver and a young man who had driven all day from Ohio.
Some were long-time marijuana users. Some had been arrested for marijuana possession.
They were among the hundreds of tourists and residents across Colorado who took part in the country's first sales of state-regulated recreational marijuana.
They walked into 40 shops, from downtown Denver to snowy ski resorts, flashed their identifications and, in a single transaction, took part in what supporters hailed as a historic departure from drug laws focused on punishment and prohibition.
"It makes you giddy to say it: I went into a store and bought pot," Ms Linda Walmsley said as she walked out of the Denver Kush Club, where a line of shivering customers stretched down the block.
While about 20 states allow medical marijuana, voters in Colorado and Washington state decided last year to go one step further, becoming the first in the United States to legalise the sale of small amounts of the plant for recreational use and regulate it like alcohol. Colorado began promptly on New Year's Day.
To supporters, it was a watershed moment in the country's tangled relationship with the drug. To sceptics, it represented a grand folly.
The governor and the Denver mayor both opposed legalisation and stayed away from the celebrations and inaugural sales on Wednesday.
Marijuana enthusiast Darren Austin said: "We wanted to be here. It's historic."