The jokes start as soon as you get off the plane: “Come in and get sconed,” says a sign in front of a bakery at Denver International Airport.
Colorado and its sister-hippie-state, Washington, were the first to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. But they’re no longer a freak show of two. Days before my plane touched down in Mile High City (really, that’s Denver’s nickname), Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. made it legal to possess weed. The next week, New York City announced that cops can write you a ticket for possessing pot instead of taking you into custody.
It feels like the tide is turning. Since I happen to be traveling to Boulder, I’ve done my journalistic duty and brought a notebook, camera, and cash. (Something about buying weed with a credit card strikes me as imprudent, even now.) I’ve jotted down the address of a dispensary, and here it is. Right on Boulder’s main thoroughfare, with a missable sign that reads Helping Hands Herbals. It shares an entrance with a gelato place. How perfect.
Following the sign for “recreational” (“medicinal” is downstairs), I take the carpeted stairs two at a time. The young guy checking IDs at the door says, “Ah, a fellow New Yorker. I moved here in January.”
“Oh yeah?” I manage. I assume the Green Rush brought him, but I’m too impatient to ask. I want to see what’s behind that door.
I’m with cousins, and we’re snapping pictures like tourists. It’s completely overwhelming, but in a fun, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory way. There are candies, baked goods, sodas and even seeds, and of course jars upon jars of pot.
My experience, I realize, is like that of a college kid who favors boxed wine, suddenly presented with a leather-bound wine list, and here is the sommelier pouring a taste into a glass. Happily, the black-fingernailed woman behind the counter is chill. When I ask her if she’d mind being in the picture, she flashes a grin.
The jars are arranged from sativa to indica, she says. What does that mean? (I’m grateful to my cousin for asking.) Sativas give you a “go go go” head buzz, while indicas have a more physical effect, promoting sleep and relaxation.
I figure I’ll get a sativa, but when I say I want something that won’t make me paranoid, she nods and explains that the more energetic strains can have that effect. I’d want an indica, but a “daytime” one that won’t knock me out.
Kind of unbelievable; like being handed a joystick to your brain. I walk out with a gram of Jelly Roll for $18. I get high as a kite off one hit, and convince my brother and his girlfriend to join me in smelling the bark of a ponderosa pine, which they (both sober) agree smells so much like butterscotch that we all try licking the trunk. Rumors that this stuff is getting more potent appear legitimate.
How many people do I know who would walk up those stairs and drop a wad of cash? How much money is Colorado raking in? How much fun did I just have? I can’t quite see my hipster friends trading their jeggings and plaid shirts for parachute pants and hemp tunics, but in one form or another, this scene is coming our way.