II never fail to have “the look” when I’m out of state and tell people I’m from Colorado.
It’s not so much the look you’d give me if I was on your porch asking if you’d like to buy some magazines to get me off the streets or ask to come in and talk about how Jesus can change your life.
You know that one, a mixture of surprise, fear, and rapidly darting eyes that clearly indicates you would bite your arm to get out of the situation. No, that look is more of a broad smile and a half-wink. A wink, wink, nudge, nudge. The kind of look you’d get if a big bottle of Viagra fell out of your shirt pocket and rolled right at the bartender, who had to give it back to you.
“Ohhhhhhh. Colorado,” they always say. Then they either tell me who they know just went there, or they give me their best shot at a pun. “So is this really a stadium a mile high?”
“I have friends who just got back from there,” said a restaurant manager in Lawrence, Kansas, while in town not too long ago, on my way to Kansas City to solve a serious benchmark problem that I have. “They wanted to go skiing,” he said, leaning over the word “skiing,” then holding the word to judge my expression.
It always takes me a few seconds to catch up on this kind of thing. It’s quite natural when you come from “ohhhhhhh – Col-or-ad-doh” for people to come here to “ski”. So you can expect a lot of even weirder looks when you answer them, “Cool. Or?”
Crickets. The look again. More crickets.
“Ohhhhhhhhh,” I still have to gush. “They came for the drugs.”
This immediately leads to the horrified widening of the eyes, the slight drop of the jaw, and the oh-my-gahd-he-says-dope-out-loud rubber neck. Like they expected half a dozen DEA agents to come out of the shadows and knock us all face down. Despite the fact that the number of states that have gone to the dark side is now 18 and counting, and Colorado is in the sixth year of the greatest experiment ever – like, ever, man – the interest for Colorado outside of Colorado is still lively.
If you come from elsewhere than here, you will have to excuse us. Not that we weren’t the first major state to end pot bans and pick up where we left off the day before recreational pot was legalized. But excuse us because we have now overcome this.
It would seem that the rest of the world did not. People my age are always dying to know what it is.
They’re almost always disappointed when I tell them it’s a bit like Lawrence, Kansas City, Dallas, New York, Phoenix… You get the picture. Friends, it’s not like we invented marijuana in Colorado. We just put it in stores and taxed it.
I’m old and have lived here all my life, so I know a lot of people. Most of my peers at least tried smoking drugs when we were younger, and many of us got pretty good at it. And as we grew older and got caught up in mortgages, careers, and offspring, we traded our free time to haunt the liquidation shelves of Home Depot and Walmart. – a task you would never attempt stoned. I practically gave up drugs for pretending to think with his eyes closed on the sofa with a toddler on a leash: “That’s funny! You can pretend you’re my dog and I’ll pretend to be lying here thinking of cool names for you with my eyes closed.
When life happens, things like finding the time and the urge to get high just don’t happen. I always tell people who wonder out loud when you actually become an adult that it happens when you no longer complain about being bored, but actively pursue it.
I pretty much lost interest in buying and smoking weed around the same time that the Metro Police lost interest in penalizing people for smoking it.
It wasn’t until Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2000 that most people I know gave it much thought. Suddenly, the entire state practically collapsed into a giant state of mass medical disease, since you had to have a doctor’s prescription to be a legal weed user at the time. Who knew so many Colorados had chronic back pain and nausea, and that marijuana could cure just about anything?
Pot shops have increased. Life went on. No one really cared that much until voters were asked if they wanted to ditch the back pain excuse and go all the way with the end of the ban. It was pretty much obvious. The last 100 or so years have clearly shown how easy it is to produce and find pot, whether legal or not. Since so many people were smoking it anyway, why keep showing it was totally for “medicinal needs” wink, wink, nudge, nudge?
It’s been almost 20 years now since weed became another form of beer, and a lot hasn’t changed in Colorado. Survey data shows that about 2 in 10 adults smoke it sometimes or all the time, about what they did before it was legal. A national survey shows that more like 3 out of 10 adults take the canna-bus at least once a month here in Colorado, which isn’t drastically different from what happens in the rest of the country.
Despite hand-wringer predictions of a Colorado apocalypse, it seems society hasn’t broken down into frequent public scenes of freezer madness.
Those most likely to smoke are men, without a college degree and earning less than more money, according to a rather groundbreaking report from the Colorado Department of Health a few years ago.
One number that has increased is the amount of party rentals at nearby Airbnb homes, often with lots of blank-eyed visitors staring at the lawn.
If people outside of Colorado ask me for advice, I tell them to take it easy. Smoke it, don’t eat it until you figure it all out. I’ve never heard of anyone being stoned to death, but there’s a huge plague of edible-gobbling visitors who for hours wished they’d never heard of it.
It’s kind of like being really, really drunk, only when you’re young and wasted on cheap beer, you don’t know so much at the time how screwed up you are. But when you’re too stoned, you can’t do anything but totally focus on how screwed up you really are, and how you’re gonna die, and everyone will know you died that way because you’re transmitting your stoner- dead spirit signal all over the planet and it’s probably picked up and rebroadcast by Fox or CBS. You can’t move from your prone position because it would detonate you like an IED, so you have to watch the clock creep for what feels like months until you’re just high enough and aware enough to realize that, if you live it, you will never do it again.
But given the right amount and the right circumstances, a pleasant buzz now is no different than it was a long time ago. Just like a few beers are as good now as they were when you used your own ID instead of your fake one to buy a six-pack in college.
And then you get the other look. Look of disappointment. People out of state are so bummed out when you tell them that legalizing recreational marijuana just isn’t a big deal, despite pot shops selling hundreds of millions of dollars every month.
There are no more lines. Already. There are sales and competition, just like liquor stores. Parties like the 4/20 celebrations at Denver Civic Center Park are now over. Headline writers like me have long run out of puns about getting down the road to profitability.
We even have a long list of belt-and-braces political types who fight to make sure the “cannabis industry,” as they like to call it, is treated as completely legitimate. The commercial marijuana industry has become respectable. Of course, about a billion dollars a year buys a lot of virtue.
You can see from the faces of the out-of-staters that this is not what they want to hear. They want to hear it’s heaven here, man. They’ve developed strains that grow hair, cause rapid weight loss, make you look 10 years younger, and I can’t believe how much fun it makes my job every day.
Sorry. It’s pretty much just one more thing you need to remember to stop and pick up when the weather forecaster predicts heavy snow is coming. It is convenient. And it’s pretty much the same as it always was.
Reprinted a few years ago in honor of the 20th anniversary of Amendment 64. Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or contact him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]