Mile High City: ‘Awesome, man’
Purple Trainwreck anyone? Marijuana chocolate? Colorado is barely three weeks into its marjuana-legalisation experiment, and demand is high for the exotic products
John Scanlon walks out of the dispensary after shopping legally for marijuana for the second time in a fortnight. He complains that the prices are higher than what his illegal dealer charges. “It is still expensive, but I am doing it out of convenience,” he says. There are no cryptic phone calls or clandestine meetings. He just shows an ID to prove he is over 21 and buys his weed over a counter.
Many residents of Denver, the Mile High City, have felt a little higher since January 1st, when Colorado became the first American state to legalise sales of marijuana for recreational purposes – or “for getting high purposes”, as Rolling Stone magazine put it. Not even Amsterdam has gone as far as this city on the edge of the Rocky Mountains.
You can smell the LoDo Wellness Centre before you see it. The unmistakable aroma of weed wafts up from the basement store on Wazee Street in the nightlife district of downtown Denver. Here eight grams will set you back $160 (€120), but high demand has forced this dispensary to limit sales to three grams per person, enough for between six and seven joints.
“We started rationing from day one – we wanted to spread the love,” says Liz Haynes, an effervescent 26-year-old saleswoman at LoDo. “If we didn’t put limits on it, we would have sold out in a few days. It has been crazy.”
Scanlon says that he can buy eight grams for about $60 cheaper from his regular, illegal, vendor. “Once the buzz dies down and everyone mellows it will be just like having a drink or smoking a cigarette. I am hoping the prices will come down then,” says Scanlon, a 36-year-old lumberyard worker.
Behind the counter downstairs Jay Bouton is overseeing a brisk late-afternoon trade. Balls of dried marijuana leaves sit in glass jars. He weighs out three grams per person in small, transparent ziplock bags. Many customers ask for premade joints. “This is awesome, man,” one happy customer keeps repeating in a stoner drawl.
Purple Trainwreck, an indica marijuana and one of six types on sale, is the most popular, says Bouton. “It is a very good body high, very relaxing – good for after work but not too strong.” The range of sativa marijuana is mellower, more for daily smokers. “People who work can smoke them and still work. It won’t put them to sleep.”
The shop stocks marijuana-infused chocolate, mints and fizzy drinks. The “edibles” come in a sugar-free range for diabetics, and there are also vegan and gluten-free products. Haynes says local police dropped by on the first day to ensure that the new strict regulations were being followed. Everything was fine apart from a bowl of complimentary jelly ranchers: offering free product is seen as incentivising marijuana purchases. “If they are going to let us play, we will play by the rules,” says Haynes.