US & Canada

Washington 'pot shops' hit by shortage on first day of sales

Cannabis City owner James Lathrop gestures as he stands in the middle of his new marijuana shop days before the grand opening in Seattle 2 July 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption Cannabis City owner James Lathrop gestures as he stands in the middle of his shop days before opening

Legal marijuana sales in the western US state of Washington have begun amid a shortage of the drug in the state.

State officials told licensed pot shops they could open at 8:00 local time but only a few are expected to have marijuana to sell on Tuesday.

The shortage comes as fewer than 100 people of more than 2,600 who applied for a growing licence were approved.

Washington and Colorado voters legalised the possession and sale of the drug in November 2012.

Colorado's marijuana stores opened for business on 1 January.

An Associated Press survey of 25 licensed Washington cannabis dealers found only six were expected to open on Tuesday, including one in the largest city of Seattle.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Only a fraction of the growers who applied for licences were approved

Others planned to open later in the week, while some shops said it would be at least a month before they had marijuana to sell.

In Bellingham, Top Shelf Cannabis investor John Evich told the Associated Press news agency they were "pretty stoked" to be open on the first day of sales.

"We haven't had any sleep in a long time, but we're excited for the next step," Mr Evich said.

The store told the Seattle Times early on Tuesday they initially saw fewer people than expected. Their first customers were from Kansas.

Washington officials eventually expect about 300 licensed shops to open.

More than 2,600 people applied to become licensed growers in Washington, but fewer than 100 have been approved.

And as of early this month, only about a dozen growers had crops ready to harvest.

The shortage is expected to raise prices to at least $25 (£15) a gram, the Associated Press news agency reports.

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