DENVER — The nation's first recreational pot industry opened in Colorado on Wednesday, kicking off an experiment that will be watched closely around the world and one that activists hope will prove that legalization is a better alternative than the costly American-led drug war.
Business owners who threw their doors open for shoppers at 8 a.m. are hoping the fledgling industry will prove to generate as much revenue as state officials hope it will. At least 24 pot shops in eight towns scrambled to get ready for the opening, increasing staff and inventory and hiring security.
More than a dozen people waiting in line outside one shop in Denver.
"We wanted to be a part of this movement," said Brandon Harris, who drove 20 hours from Blanchester, Ohio. "We're making history here."
Another shopper, Jacob Elliott, traveled from Leesburg, Va., to join the crowd waiting in pre-dawn chill. He said he wrote reports in college about the need to end prohibition of marijuana, but never thought it could happen in his lifetime.
"This breaks that barrier," he said. "We can buy it like any other free-market product."
Earlier, pot users welcomed the new year — and the new industry — by firing up bongs and cheering in a cloud of marijuana smoke at a 1920s-themed "Prohibition Is Over" party in downtown Denver.
Across town, a dispensary set up a food truck and coffee service for campers awaiting the opening of sales. Temperatures were in the upper 30s — balmy for a January night in Colorado — and revelers ditched hemp jackets and sweaters as they alternated between horn blowers and joints and bongs.