As a 20-something year-old American, it’s probably no surprise to anyone that I’ve smoked marijuana on more than a few occasions.
I’ve often heard people say college is the perfect time to experiment with such things. I’m no Marie Curie, but let’s just say I’ve done my share of experimenting.
However, once the weight of real life came crushing down on my shoulders, smoking marijuana was a habit that just sort of faded into the background of my life.
Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoy the occasional toke in a social environment, but those instances few and far between. A 40-plus hour work week and a massive stack of bills don’t exactly lend credence to that lifestyle. And it’s not likely to become legal in my home state of Georgia anytime soon (although that’s never stopped me before).
Still, there’s no doubt I was thrilled at the chance to smoke marijuana legally for the first time in my life. And what better place to legally light up than in my favorite city in the U.S.?
My love for Denver, Colorado dates back to a trip I took when I was a freshman in high school. I was instantly enamored by the city’s skyline on my way in from DIA (Denver International Airport). Denver combines the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains with the convenience and efficiency of an eloquent modern metropolis.
Since my first visit in 2004, I made several trips back to Denver and the multiple ski towns in the Rockies. But on my latest visit, things were different.
Marijuana became legal for recreational consumption in Colorado at the beginning of 2014.
Since then, the state has seen its new industry explode. With the advent of over 350 marijuana storefronts and an infinite source of tax revenue, Colorado’s has economy fundamentally change – and it’s changed for the better.
Marijuana alone was a $700 million dollar industry in 2014. And that’s ignoring the huge spike in tourism that Denver and all of Colorado has benefited from.
I was intrigued by this brave new world and was excited to finally get a piece of the action. Shortly after we arrived downtown, I ran a quick Google search and my girlfriend Dasha and I were off to the nearest dispensary.
As I walked in the lobby of Rocky Mountain High, I was overcome by a familiar nervous tightness in my chest. What I was doing?…it felt wrong. Clearly I had no moral objections, but when “it’s illegal!” has been drilled into your head for 25 years, it’s hard to shake that disposition.
After having checked our IDs, a young man led us into the back of the store and showed us the goods.
It was immaculate. Luminous display lights shined on jars gorgeous green buds on one side of the case. On the other, a smorgasbord of cookies, candy, sodas and other treats looked delicious enough to warrant a taste – regardless of whether or not they were infused with THC.
Choosing which delicacies we would indulge in proved quite difficult.
There was Purple Haze, Trainwreck, Blue Dream, Pinapple Express, Orange Kush, Glass Slipper, Cheese and Wizard to name a few. There were gummies, lollipops, truffles, baked goods and softdrinks all boasting a medicinal kick.
We ended up going with a familiar hybrid called Sour Diesel, and a few of the store’s individually wrapped chocolate truffles. Despite common misconceptions, the product was actually no more expensive in a regulated store than on the streets. Even with the state taxing it at 13 percent per sale, most strains of marijuana sell from $15 to $30 per gram – the same price your likely to pay on the street (or a frat house). I purchased the goods and a small glass pipe, and it was off to the hotel.
I gave the Sour Diesel a try on our first night in the hotel and was quite pleased with the results. I was giddy. The high was much more creative and energizing than the ones I’d received from my illegal purchases. There was no couch lock, no bloodshot eyes and no paranoia. I felt great – like I’d had a solid night’s sleep, a massage and a warm cup of coffee.
The next day, Dasha and decided to give our truffles a try. Dasha, being originally from Russia, had enjoyed far less experience with marijuana than me. The herb carries an even stronger stigma outside of the U.S., especially in conservative or religious societies. Still, she decided to be a trooper and take the plunge with me.
We were both pleasantly surprised by the taste. There was no skunky tang of grass – just the sweet flavor of chocolate and the smooth texture of Nutella. After walking around the snow-covered downtown area for about an hour, the effects started to kick in.
Naturally, we opted to grab a bite to eat.
We stumbled upon a quaint French restaurant for lunch and salivated over the menu options. I soon noticed that Dasha was really “feeling it.” She looked around at the other patrons in the restaurant and asked me if she looked strange. I shook my head no, but that didn’t do much to alleviate her concerns.
After we had placed our order, about 10 minutes passed before she asked, “Are they ever going to take our order?” I busted out in laughter, and she joined when I reminded her that we had already taken care of that.
We capped off that night with some ice skating before heading back to our hotel to devour an entire bag of pistachios back at the hotel while watching the Food Network.
We bookended our escapade by watching Peyton Manning throw a couple of touchdowns at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Our brief experience with “green tourism” was fantastic and really illuminated the harmlessness of state-regulated marijuana. If adults can drink responsibly, then smoking responsibility should be an absolute breeze.
It won’t happen in Georgia anytime soon, but the Peach State could really learn a lot from Colorado’s successful experiment.
Also published on Medium.