Yesterday pot smokers in Colorado rang in the new year with special joy and less paranoia when the nation's first recreational pot stores opened for business there. Washington is due to follow suit later in the year. Arizona, Alaska, California and Oregon are also considering liberalizing their marijuana laws. Pot remains illegal under federal law, but the government has given tentative approval to Colorado and Washington's retail gambit, warning it will step in if state regulations fail to keep drugs away from minors, cartels, other states or federal property. Larry Ryckman is Assistant City Editor at the Denver Post, overseeing coverage of cops, courts and marijuana.