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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Amid Fanfare, Pot Stores Open Around Washington State

Washington’s recreational marijuana market is open for business. From Seattle to Bellingham to Prosser, marijuana stores opened for business Tuesday to excited customers who lined up, dressed up and celebrated the end of pot prohibition.

You might think Seattle would be the epicenter of this new marijuana marketplace. But at least for now there’s only store in the city limits: Cannabis City.

“This means a lot," Carl Prothman, who lined up early outside the store, said. "After many years of being oppressed by the government for the drug war, we finally get to purchase legal marijuana and finally today’s the day.”

That sense of history in the making was what brought a lot of people out. In Spokane, Mike Boyer was so determined to be a part of that legacy he camped out overnight in front of Spokane Green Leaf.

"I want to be the number one guy in Spokane," Boyer said. "I want that title for life. The first guy to buy recreational weed legally in Spokane.”

And he won that title.

Shopping With A 'Cannabis Coach'

Prosser, Washington calls itself the “Birthplace of the Washington Wine Industry.” But now the little farming community along the Yakima River could add marijuana to that tagline.

A few dozen people – including a couple of sign-wielding protesters - were on hand Tuesday morning as Prosser’s lone pot shop became one of the first to open in the state. First in the door was Shirley Gray. Salesperson Taunya Moore welcomed her. But in this world she’s called a “cannabis coach.”

The shop, called Altitude, occupies a double-wide trailer. Moore had Gray sniff some samples, until she found one she liked called “Gremlin.”

Gray left with one gram of legal pot. After the standard 25 percent marijuana tax, it cost her $30.

Outside, Jacob Nichols was waiting his turn to go in. He said he’s willing to pay a premium to participate in the legal, regulated market.

“Sure, you can buy it for less on the black market right now, but I just want to be able to put the money into the state and the community instead of other people’s pockets,” he said.

'We’re Handing It Back To The People'

Pot prices are expected to fall fast. Then there will be a new worry: keeping it out of the hands of minors. That’s a top priority at Washington’s Liquor Control Board. The Board had to write the rules for legal marijuana under the voter-approved initiative that launched this experiment.

Deputy Director Randy Simmons sees this first day as a big hand-off.

“You know it’s really somebody else’s baby," he said. "We didn’t write the initiative. It was handed to us to watch over and get ready to go so I think we’re handing it back to the people.”

And the people seemed more than happy to receive. In Bellingham, Cale Holdsworth brought new meaning to the line, “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Holdsworth is actually from Kansas and was first to make a purchase at Top Shelf Cannabis.

Afterwards, reporters wanted to know what Holdsworth bought -- and where he was going to smoke it.

“I have two grams of OG Pearl Kush here and I paid $26.50 including tax,” he said. "I’m going to go to my relative’s house at which we have permission to smoke and we’re going to take part in it there.”

Holdsworth added that he doesn’t expect Kansas to adopt legal pot anytime soon.

The Washington Liquor Board says it will continue to issue retail licenses over the coming weeks. Eventually Washington could have 334 pot stores.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."