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Washington pot shops roll out welcome mat for new users

Some Washington marijuana retailers are taking special steps to service customers who have not used marijuana recently, if ever. (AP file)
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As Washington's first legal pot shops open, retailers expect a number of customers who haven't smoked pot in years, if ever. They're gearing up to do all they can to guide people through the experience.

"We just had a gentleman walk in the door who said he hasn't smoked in years, but being a new thing he would like to come in and try it again and see how different it is from when he was younger," says Thomas Beckley, owner of Top Shelf Cannabis in Bellingham.

The potency and variety of marijuana has increased dramatically over the years and Beckley says the effects can be overwhelming for inexperienced users who over imbibe.

Read: 65-year-old camps out overnight to take front of line for Seattle's first legal pot shop

"We've hired a pharmacist to help counsel customers," he says. "We are encouraging new users to really take it easy and follow the guidance on the packaging and from our experts."

Beckley expects to offer over 30 different strains of marijuana at first, with varying amounts of THC - the mind-altering compound in marijuana. In addition to staff members who can detail the properties of each, much like a wine steward, he will also provide literature about each strain to further educate consumers.

The effects can vary significantly depending on the variety, with some providing an energizing effect while others can induce extreme lethargy, and everything in between, Beckley says.

Read: Marijuana Q&A

Washington state's new marijuana regulations require testing and labeling of all pot sold in stores, with a clear indication of the amount of THC and other chemicals. All marijuana producers will be required to disclose in writing all pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides in their growing operation. Marijuana can be labeled as organic but only if certified by the state Department of Agriculture.

Beckley says the experiences of new customers will play a big part in the success of the nascent recreational industry, and its critical his business and others do all they can to accommodate them.

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