Marijuana, ganja, hooch, grass, weed, whatever you call the green stuff you can now purchase it without the threat of handcuffs in Colorado.
Ok, I admit I'm a little late to the party (but I am over 21), the first retail cannabis stores opened in Colorado on January 1 in 2014 but a recent trip to the green state was my first since the new laws took place so forgive my fascination.
Now I'm not going to say I've never inhaled, after all I worked as national publicist for a leading record company that had Willie Nelson and Cypress Hill on the roster and both came to Australia during my time there, but it's been a long while since either were in the charts and I was more than a tad curious to see how it all works now it's legal.
"This one has been marinated in a pungent spice mix of illicit herbs that will give you a body high but ensure your cerebral faculties remain intact" says the girl behind the counter at the first weed store, sorry, cannabis dispensary, I find myself in.
"Or you could try this one, more of a mind high and less of a body numb" she continues as she opens a glass mason jar and wafts the contents beneath my nasal passages as though showcasing the latest Dior perfume at a big city department store.
I suppress a laugh, oh who am I kidding, I guffaw outloud like a moose caught with his antlers down. It's all so, well, so, pedestrian as though it's a Thermomix demonstration. When did grass become so middle class?
Strains come with such names as Agent Orange, Blue Dragon, Acapulco Gold and Jack the Ripper and I wonder if they come with a gas mask or a cocktail umbrella and a slice of fruit on the side or if there is such a thing as a green barista?
If you have migraines, social anxiety, PMS, PTHD or ADHD there's a marijuana strain marketed to you. There's even a strain blessed by a Rabbi so it's only a matter of time before the Pope offers a papal pipe range.
Many locals I speak to swear by the anti anxiety inducing effects of one strain or the creative enhancement of another. It's all so confusing but they tell me there's a strain for that too.
Whatever your politics, green, red or blue, Marijuana Tourism is big business in Colorado, the industry employs between 7500 to 10 000 people who may otherwise apparently not have jobs. In the first year of operation, consumers bought more than 17 tons of the recreational green stuff (medicinal sales reached close to 50 tons) and the turnover for the first twelve months of legalisation was over US$700 million with almost half of that from recreational pot alone.
I'm used to smelling the familiar aroma of a baked human in ski towns (some towns more than others) but with the sale of edible weed products (2.85million sold in the first year) with no aroma I found it hard to tell just who was high on life and who was high on gummy bears.
Yes, you heard right, pot infused gummy bears, chocolate truffles, mints, fudge bars and their friends, adult candy that could easily be mistaken for kids. Though it could be worse you could actually be ingesting the artificial colourings and preservatives and additives and other legal drugs in real gummy bears and their friends.
I was warned by one well versed local that should I even consider such a bear that I simply take one and wait four hours or I may be in danger of repeating the famous scene from Wolf of Wall Street. You know the one, where he can't walk, literally, can't walk, but thinks he can.
So just remember to hide those edibles from yourself should you get the munchies or things could go horribly wrong.
So here's the legal deal in the state of Colorado. If you're over 21 you can grow cannabis plants for personal use but they must be in a locked space, kind of like a dog in a yard. You can carry an ounce while travelling and you can give an ounce to another person over 21.
However it is thankfully illegal to drive under the influence (cue Leonardo in Wolf of Wall St) and while you can purchase in a store you can't smoke in that store nor can you smoke in public and I'm pretty sure if you injure someone else on the ski field while under the influence of alcohol or drugs you'll get fined or jailed or sued or something along those lines.
If you plan on entering any of the dispensaries in ski resort towns then take cash as retailers do not take credit cards, bank legislation prevents it. Sales taxes on cannabis ironically go to state schooling and education. One retailer informed me that over $50 million had already gone to Colorado public schools in the first year alone, though it's actually closer to $15million.
All this green grass has inspired a league of marijuana entrepreneurs addressing the needs of out of state tourists hitting the weed for the first time. The crew at Cultivating Spirits out of Silverthorne, Colorado service marijuana tourists with 'unforgettable cannabis experiences' (surely that's an oxymoron?).
They'll bring their Fusion Experience to you in your condo in Vail or Aspen and create a wine and cannabis tasting paring with a degustation meal in your home or if you prefer you can go on a cannabis growing tour or take a cooking with cannabis class.
Mary Jane Medicinals out of Telluride have created a line of pain relief and healing enduring products from massage oil to lip bongs, hash baths and pain relief salve. While Telluride Green Tours offer a walking tour of the town's dispensaries with qualified guides to break down the difference between Indica, Sativa and Hybrid plants and their qualities.
Only in Aspen will you find the swanky fit out of Silverpeak Apothecary more suited to a wine tasting cellar door than a backyard drug den with Scandinavian design and a state of the art High Valley Farm greenhouse down the road in Basalt.
I'm going to assume you're big enough, ugly enough and old enough to know what does and doesn't work for you and why and to then partake responsibly should you choose. If cannabis is your thing then Colorado is according to all I spoke to, a veritable playground, if it's not then you could always consider the state's craft whiskey distillers, alcohol's been legal for over eighty years in this state.
Though for some the majesty of the mountains and the thrill and freedom of white powder under ski or snowboard foot is addictive enough. Just saying.
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