"Marijuana prohibition was a failed experiment," says Mason Tvert at 3D Cannabis

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Despite the snow, the holiday and the long lines, 3D Cannabis Center was abuzz with excitement yesterday morning with the start of recreational marijuana sales. Attempting to navigate both the media's hungry demand for more information on this historic event and the public's hungry demand for their first purchase of state government-approved marijuana, 3D hosted a press conference at 7:30 a.m. with those behind the A-64 campaign, followed by a strobe-light frenzy of camera flashes for what was presented as "the first sale in Colorado."

"A lot of folks have been referring to what's happening in Colorado as an 'experiment with legalized marijuana'" Marijuana Policy Project's Mason Tvert said early New Year's morning, speaking before a crowded room of reporters from around the globe. "But in fact the experiment was marijuana prohibition, and that experiment dramatically failed. Colorado has developed a far more sensible approach, and in doing so we're setting an example for the rest of the nation and the rest of the world. Lawmakers and voters around this country are watching what's happening here, and are interested in taking similar actions and adopting similar laws."

"In Colorado, we expect over 400 million dollars in sales next year," said Betty Aldworth, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, told the crowd. "Across the nation the marijuana industry will create $2.34 billion of economic activity. We'll be creating thousands of jobs and generating millions of dollars in tax revenue, all in regulated stores like this one. Today in Colorado we shift marijuana from the underground and into a regulated market, where we can provide advances for our community and create a stronger Colorado."

Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente announced that the day's first purchaser of recreational marijuana would be a local veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Sean Azzariti, highlighting the need for Colorado's MMJ regulators to include PTSD in their list of qualifying ailments,

As with many dispensaries, the sales floor at 3D isn't large, so only photographers were allowed in the room for Azzariti's groundbreaking purchase. (For the record, he bought an eighth of Bubba Kush and an edible truffle.) Meanwhile, outside in the lobby, reporters from Vice, ABC, NBC, the Washington Post, Al Jazeera and the German Press Agency, to name only a few, busied themselves with gobbling up as many interviews as possible, turning every Colorado pothead and political junkie into a pundit for the day.

Taking a moment to catch up with Tvert, we asked the A-64 co-director whether the marijuana black market could survive in spite of legalization, considering the significantly higher prices at the stores -- often twice the price of street-weed. "The black market is virtually at its last gasp, at least in Colorado," he said. "No one would ever consider calling around to their friends or walking down the street looking for some illegal alcohol just because it might be cheaper; they just stop at the store."

"It's difficult for these businesses to know what the market rate is for this product," Tvert continued. "And a lot of these businesses have spent the last year funneling money into their operations to make sure they're in compliance with these regulations.... It's expensive. So we're going to see more expensive marijuana at this point. In all likelihood it will go down a little bit. But right now it's a reasonable amount."

Meanwhile, dozens of cold but clearly excited shoppers waited in the falling snow outside 3D, enjoying hot-dogs and funnel cakes while sharing their marijuana prohibition stories with one another. "I've been waiting for this day for seventeen years," said Colorado native James Poston, who was issued a $400 ticket for marijuana possession by Greeley police in 1997. "I don't have a medical condition, so I've been going to the black market for my marijuana."

As at other recreational marijuana stores around Colorado, the lines only grew as the day went on, proving that those who made the decision to spend their New Year's Eve in a RiNo parking lot was justifiable. "We've had people camping out starting early evening last night," said 3D Cannabis Center owner Toni Fox. "We'd been here packaging for 24 hours straight until about 5 a.m. this morning. We went out last night at midnight, had a champagne toast with all the people in line and watched the fireworks."

"I talked to the first twelve people in line, and ten of them were from out of state," Fox continued. "I think the majority of our sales will be out-of-state tourists. Maybe not this first month. I think the floodgates of tourists to come around early summer.... For me, this day has been on my vision-board for ten years. When I picked this facility four years ago, it wasn't as a medical facility but as a recreational facility. And today I am converting 100 percent to recreational sales."

Follow me on Twitter at @JosiahMHesse.

From our marijuana archives:Are recreational marijuana prices in Denver headed sky high?

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