Store owner Toni Fox (main) greets customers who stand in line after the official opening of her 3D Cannabis Center, which opened as a legal recreational retail outlet in Denver at 8am on Wednesday Jan. 1, 2014
- Retailers were selling top-shelf versions of the drug for close to $400 an ounce on average, not including taxes.
- Medical marijuana is $250 for the same amount
- Average street price of 'medium quality' is $300
- One dispensary was selling one-eighth of an ounce for $70 - a markup from $25 for the same amount the day before
- Most expensive strands are the most popular, according to store owners
- Prices are expected to stabilize once the 'novelty' wears off.
The lines were as long as the prices were high, but there wasn't a complaint to be heard as Colorado ushered in its 'cannabis era' as part of an unprecedented experiment in the government regulation of marijuana.
Hemp hunters who waited for hours on Green Wednesday - the official implementation of the new state laws - were confronted with steep prices at the dispensaries granted licenses to sell legal bud.
On average, retailers were selling top-shelf week for close to $400 an ounce, not including taxes.
In comparison medical marijuana users, who’ve been able to buy weed from Colorado dispensaries since 2010, are currently paying around $250 an ounce, plus taxes, NBC reported.
An employee weighs portions of retail marijuana at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver
'I think people were a little bit surprised at the price,' said Rachel Gillette, executive director of the Colorado chapter of NORML, a national nonprofit seeking to make marijuana use legal nationwide.
'We are concerned about that.'
But the customers who waited for hours to make a purchase weren't looking to score a bargain - they were just looking to score.
'Our most expensive strains sold the quickest,' Toni Fox, proprietor of Denver's 3D Cannabis Center, told The Huffington Post.
'We're closing Monday and Tuesday next week to reassess after the large volume of sales we are seeing.'
The state of Colorado has not imposed any pricing structure for pot purveyors, leaving the market open to supply and demand.
One dispensary was selling high-quality marijuana on Wednesday at $70 for one-eighth of an ounce — a markup from $25 for the same amount the day before.
Sizing: A one-eighth ounce container of medical marijuana, which sells on average for $250
Customer Adam Hartle smiles as he makes a cash transaction at 3D Cannabis Center, which opened as a legal recreational retail outlet in Denver, on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014
Opened for business: Cannabis goes on legal sale in Colorado
A Colorado State University report released last April forecasts retail prices settling at around $185 per ounce.
Colorado residents can buy no more than an ounce per transaction, while out-of-state tokers can purchase up to a quarter-ounce.
Gillette expects the costs to eventually stabilize as well.
'It’s a new industry, a new market,' Gillette said.
'I think things will work themselves out in a few years. We saw the same thing happen with the medical marijuana industry before prices came down.'
But Gillette said she’d still like to see the 'high tax rates' associated with marijuana sales addressed by state lawmakers.
Colorado State Rep. Jonathan Singer, who sponsored the House bill on legal marijuana sales, said he doesn't want to see the 10 percent special sales tax added to each transaction changed just yet.
The state won't know how much those taxes will provide to Colorado's coffers for at least another month.
Various marijuana strains at the Botanacare marijuana store in Northglenn, Colorado
Marijuana advocate Attorney, Brian Vicente addresses media prior to the first legal retail sale of marijuana in Colorado
'If marijuana continues to funnel into the black market, I am happy to look at shocking the black market out of the legitimate industry by slashing taxes, but this is way too early in the game,' Singer said.
'And judging by the thousands of marijuana consumers lined up around the block yesterday, Coloradans appear comfortable with taxes as they are.'
Phyllis Resnick, lead economist at Colorado State’s Colorado Futures Center, said she also expects prices to lower.
'My sense is that competition will eventually arise … and costs will fall below what the black market wants,' she said.
Medical marijuana users, meanwhile, shouldn’t be affected by a ramp up in prices or long lines, said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates for medical marijuana bills.
Medical marijuana sales aren’t subject to the special sales tax and similar local taxes that drive up costs to the general public.
Jesse Phillips celebrates being the first person to legally buy recreational marijuana at the BotanaCare store in Northglenn, Colorado January 1, 2014
Tyler Williams, of Ohio, selects marijuana strains to purchase at the 3-D Denver Discrete Dispensary on January 1, 2014 in Denver, Colorado
In addition, there are dispensaries that are dedicated to medical marijuana sales only, so patients won’t have to wait hours for service.
About three-dozen retailers around Colorado opened to adults aged 21 and older on Wednesday, the state has actually approved 348 retail licenses.
Many outlets have been slowed down because they also have to get permission from their local municipality.
Prices could also be affected on the supply side by the fact that Colorado allows people to grow at home (up to six plants per adult), and there currently is no cap on how much total marijuana can be produced statewide.
As for any demand driven by out-of-towners, Resnick believes the idea of a booming pot tourism industry won’t be a lasting one.
'How many people are going to fly to Colorado to ride around in a van and get pot, and then you’re limited to where you can smoke it?' she said.
'Plus, it’s not like you can bring it home with you.'