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A buzzworthy shopping trip . . . for legal weed

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Retailers are always trying to offer new shopping experiences to the American consumer.

One novel retail experience – that skirts the edge of legality under federal law – is about to become available to millions of consumers around the country, in addition to those in Colorado and Washington State: the recreational-marijuana store.

The sale of cannabis to adults 21 and over with valid ID is now legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska by voter initiative. Colorado and Washington rolled out state-licensed stores in 2014 (after voting to legalize in 2012). Oregon and Alaska will develop their new commercial marijuana markets in the coming year after legalizing recreational pot in November 2014. 

Marijuana-legalization advocates, meanwhile, predict that as many as 11 more states could pass similar initiatives by 2017: California, Nevada, Arizona, Missouri, Massachusetts, Maryland, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Hawaii. Medical marijuana is already legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia, and is available to people  as young as 18 years old, with a medical prescription. Marijuana is still classified as a controlled substance and its production, distribution, sale and possession remains illegal under federal law.

Marketplace reporter Mitchell Hartman recently visited Live Green Cannabis, a recreational marijuana store in suburban Denver. Manager Brian Zordan showed off the security – extensive video cameras and old-fashioned safes for storing cash and inventory. He also displayed  the three main types of consumable marijuana for sale: leaves and buds, edibles and concentrates.

Marijuana leaf-and-bud is sold in resealable packages, at $40 to $50 for 1/8 ounce. That is more than double what one black-market Colorado dealer offered; approximately 30 percent of the sale price at legal marijuana stores goes to state and local taxes. A few dozen varieties are available at the store; all must be produced in Colorado by law. Varieties available include Lamb’s Breath, Hippy Chick, White Fire/Cinderella 99, and Daywalker/Tang Tang. The THC content is displayed on the package. The store also sells a wide range of edibles, including hard-candies, drinks, cookies and chocolates – all made with varying potencies of marijuana.

Anyone with a valid (21-and-over) ID from any state may purchase and possess up to 1 ounce of recreational marijuana in Colorado. Store employees carefully check ID before admitting a patron to the store, but they do not  keep any record of the individual’s name or other personal information. Nor do they keep a record of the type or amount of marijuana purchased.

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