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Recreational cannabis goes on sale in Colorado as new law takes effect

Colorado has become the first US state to allow the legal sale of cannabis for recreational purposes. Activists have compared the legalization of the drug with the end of prohibition.

A new law allowing the sale of cannabis for recreational use to people of 21 years of age and older went into effect in the US state of Colorado on Wednesday.

Colorado has become the first state in the US where such sales are legal, getting in just before the state of Washington, which has also approved the selling of recreational cannabis, but has not yet completed licensing retail outlets.

It has been legal in Colorado to sell cannabis, or marijuana as it is also known, for medical reasons for about three years, and many of the shops selling it on Wednesday operated previously as medical dispensaries.

A referendum on the state constitutional amendment to allow the recreational sales passed in November 2012 with 55 per cent of the vote.

Buyers coming from outside of Colorado can buy no more than one-quarter ounce (7 grams), while in-staters can buy up to 1 ounce (28 grams). The per-ounce price range is 180-250 dollars (131-182 euros) before taxes.

Cannabis activists in the state have compared the implementation of the new law with the end of the Prohibition, the name given to the period when the production and sale of alchohol were forbidden in the United States in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Surveys show that a majority of people in the USA are in favor of legalizing the drug for recreational purposes, but it remains illegal at a federal level, with some 750,000 people in the country currently arrested every year for offenses related to the use or sale of marijuana.

tj/pfd (dpa, Reuters, AFP)