The state of Washington this week handed out its first licenses to approved marijuana vendors, nearly two years after voters decriminalized the drug for recreational use. As the Associated Press reports, the state sent emails to the first wave of applicants early Monday morning, telling them they can open for business as early as Tuesday, though the rollout will be limited. A spokesman for Washington's regulatory agency told the New York Times that only about 20 licenses will be issued during the first phase, including just one store in Seattle, Washington's largest city.

Supply shortage could lead to higher prices

Voters in both Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in November 2012, but the states have implemented their policies in very different ways. While Colorado moved swiftly to open retail weed operations — stores opened for business in January — Washington has proceeded more slowly, due in part to still-heated opposition from some local governments. Dozens of municipalities enacted bans and strict zoning rules on marijuana sales this year, amid fears that the industry may lead to higher drug use rates among children and higher costs for taxpayers.

There are concerns over supply, as well. The state began issuing licenses to marijuana growers in March, though fewer than 80 of the more than 2,600 applicants have received approval, and many say their harvest won't be ready when stores open this week. Vendors won't be allowed to sell marijuana-laced edibles, either, because state-licensed food producers haven't begun operations. Business owners and industry experts tell Reuters that retailers opening on Tuesday may sell out within hours, adding that prolonged supply constraints could lead to higher prices.