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Marijuana hits shelves as Washington begins legal pot sales

Krystal Klacsan prepares artwork to be hung on July 7, 2014, behind a case displaying glass bongs at the recreational marijuana store Cannabis City in Seattle.

TED S. WARREN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Washington became the second state Tuesday to allow people to buy marijuana legally in the U.S. without a doctor's note.

People bought pot at 8 a.m. at Bellingham's Top Shelf Cannabis, one of two stores in the city north of Seattle that started selling marijuana as soon as it was allowed under state regulations.

The start of legal pot sales in Washington Tuesday marks a major step that's been 20 months in the making. Washington and Colorado stunned much of America by voting in November, 2012, to legalize marijuana for adults over 21, and to create state-licensed systems for growing, selling and taxing the pot. Sales began in Colorado on Jan. 1.

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Washington issued its first 24 retail licenses Monday, though not all businesses planned to start selling weed on Tuesday. It's been a bit of a bumpy ride in Washington state, with product shortages expected as growers and sellers scramble to get ready.

Pot prices were expected to reach $25 a gram or higher on the first day of sales – twice what people pay in the state's unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries. That was largely due to the short supply of legally produced pot in the state. Although more than 2,600 people applied to become licensed growers, fewer than 100 have been approved – and only about a dozen were ready to harvest by early this month.

Colorado already had a regulated medical marijuana system, making for a smoother transition when it allowed those dispensaries to start selling to recreational pot shops on Jan. 1.

Washington's medical system is unregulated, so officials here were starting from scratch as they immersed themselves in the pot world and tried to come up with regulations that made sense for the industry and the public. The regulations include protocols for testing marijuana, what types of edibles should be allowed, requirements for child-resistant packaging, how much criminal history is too much to get a license, and what types of security systems pot shops and growers should have.

Washington state law allows the sale of up to an ounce of dried marijuana, 16 ounces of pot-infused solids, 72 ounces of pot-infused liquids or seven grams of concentrated marijuana, like hashish, to adults over 21.

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