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Colorado prepares for 1st legal US marijuana sales
Colorado prepares for 'Green Wednesday' marijuana sales as 1st legal US pot industry launches
By KRISTEN WYATT
Associated Press
2014-01-01 03:01 AM

DENVER (AP) -- Police were adding extra patrols around marijuana shops as Colorado prepared to unveil the first legal pot industry in the U.S. on Wednesday.

The state will begin recreational sales to anyone over 21, with officials around the world watching. Dozens of state and foreign countries are considering changing marijuana laws. Uruguay has already become the first nation to regulate the drug.

While smoking pot has been legal in Colorado for the past year, so-called Green Wednesday represents a milestone for the decades-old legalization movement.

"No one's ever done this before," said Robin Hackett, manager of the pot shop BotanaCare, who planned to have a DJ to greet shoppers.

Shops were planning celebrations and hiring extra security to prepare for potential crowds and overnight campers ready to buy up to an ounce (28.3 gram) of legal weed.

Officials at Denver International Airport installed signs warning visitors their marijuana can't legally go home with them.

Preparation for the retail market started more than a year ago, soon after Colorado voters in 2012 approved the legal pot industry. Washington state's is scheduled to open in mid-2014.

Pot advocates, who long had pushed legalization as an alternative to the lengthy and costly global drug war, had argued it would generate revenue for states and save money usually spent on locking up drug offenders.

Pot is still illegal under federal law, but the U.S. Justice Department outlined an eight-point slate of priorities for pot regulation, requiring states to keep the drug away from minors, criminal cartels, federal property and other states in order to avoid a federal crackdown.

Colorado set up an elaborate plant-tracking system to try to keep the drug away from the black market, and regulators set up packaging, labeling and testing requirements, along with potency limits for edible pot.

"We understand that Colorado is under a microscope," Jack Finlaw, lawyer to Gov. John Hickenlooper and overseer of a major task force to chart news pot laws, recently told reporters.

Critics fear the changing global marijuana approach is setting up Colorado and other places for serious public health problems.

"This movement in public policy basically conflicts with the essence of bringing greater mental health and public health," said Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman and chairman of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes legalization.

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Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt

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