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TODAY   |  December 31, 2013

Colorado set to start sales of marijuana

The state will be the first in the country to allow recreational use of marijuana, drawing mixed opinions from the public. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reports.

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>> we want to begin this half hour with history about to be made in colorado . at the stroke of midnight it will become the first state in the country to allow recreational marijuana sales. gabe gutierrez is in denver this morning. good morning.

>> reporter: erica, good morning. we're here at the evergreen apothecary. starting tomorrow customers 21 and over with a colorado i.d. will be able to buy up to an ounce of pot. those from out of state will be limited to a quarter ounce. >

>>> the rules will be different from january 1st on.

>> anticipation is growing.

>> reporter: we brought in a staff of people. we have three people that have been rolling joints for two days straight.

>> colorado about to become the first state to allow the sell of recreational marijuana since the federal government banned it in 1937 .

>> this is one ounce of ak-47.

>> he calls it historic.

>> reporter: i think the end of prohibition is a phenomenal time.

>> colorado pioneered medical marijuana but voters went the extra step in 2012 , approving pot just for fun. since then the state built the most complex regulations for weed in the world. no smoking it in public. taxes topping 25% and strict rules for growers.

>> reporter: we'll be carding every single person that comes in the door.

>> colorado expects to rake in tens of millions a year in tax revenue . much of that set aside to build schools.

>> reporter: every transaction in every one of these dispensaries is still a federal crime even if the federal government promised not to prosecute it.

>> it's a burning controversy. while new businesses are popping up like this tour bus and shops selling pot laced food and drinks, denver's airport is refusing to go green, keeping it's own marijuana ban.

>> reporter: i think it's safer than alcohol.

>> i don't like the i didn't of people driving while they're high.

>> police say breath tests won't work but blood tests will.

>> reporter: we'll still be looking for the same signs of impairment.

>> they argue legalizing the drug will increase trafficking and fill colorado 's family friendly ski resort with tourists looking for a different type of rocky mountain high .

>> reporter: i think it's going to be a huge disaster. i think there will be so much damage done to the children out there that it's going to be very difficult to undo it.

>> voters in washington state also approve recreational marijuana but those sales don't get underway until later in 2014 . here they expect long lines to start at 8:00 a.m . tomorrow and erica, before i send it back to you, i must say i'm not sure i have ever done a live report in a place with such a distinct smell.

>> reporter: yes. i'm going to leave it at that, gabe.

>>