(Kobi-TV Medford) Author: Christine Pitawanich
The new year always brings new laws and in Colorado you can now buy marijuana and use it recreationally.
Marijuana has been legalized in Washington and Colorado, but Wednesday was the first day folks in Colorado could purchase it at at store.
Oregon's measure 80, which sought to legalize marijuana, failed when it was on the ballot in November 2012. However, advocates have said they expect the drug to be legalized in 2014. So, it's no surprise that the new law in Colorado has people in the Rogue Valley paying close attention.Medford resident, Jerry Coffee, was excited when he woke up to the news Wednesday morning.
"It's something in my lifetime that I didn't think was going to happen," began Coffee.
"But within the last 10 years we've made leaps and bounds and people have seen the medicinal uses.
It's safe to say some people in Colorado felt the same way.
At 8am on the dot Wednesday, the state's pot industry opened for business.
The first customer in line at a pot shop in Denver was an Iraq war veteran who also fought to get pot legalized in Colorado.
"Now I get to use recreational cannabis to help alleviate my PTSD and it's a stepping stone for other states to help other veterans as well," said veteran, Sean Azzariti.
Moments later, hundreds of others were allowed in to buy up to the state-mandated limit of one quarter of an ounce.
"It is a whole new world not having to be underground about it and sneaky about it," said Sandy Rubin, who uses marijuana.
What happens in Colorado will be watched closely around the world and right here in Oregon.
"In the next five to seven years, 10 states could legalize," said Alex Rogers, owner of Ashland Alternative Health.
Many activists are hoping to prove legalization is better than the expensive American-led war on marijuana.
"Colorado is actually opting a far more sensible approach in which we are going to regulate and tax the cultivation and sale of marijuana for adults," Mason Tvert, with the Marijuana Policy Project said.
Taxes are expected to top 25% in most transactions. However, critics warn increased access will lead to more drug abuse and crime. "I think it's going to be a huge disaster. I think it's something that there will be so much damage done to the children out there, that it's going to be difficult to undo it," said Calvina Fay, representing Drug Free America Foundation.
Regardless, two dozen pot shops across Colorado opened on Wednesday, with dozens more in the pipeline to get licenses to sell marijuana.
There are rules. Users have to be at least 21. They can't smoke in public and users can't go across state lines with their purchase. To help with part of the law, a ban at Denver's airport remains in place.
For now, the federal government has promised not to interfere in Colorado, even though using, possessing, growing and selling marijuana remains a federal crime.
Advocacy groups in Oregon plan to get a legalization initiative on the November 2014 ballot.
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