This article was written and researched in Colorado during the summer of 2014. New marijuana laws were implemented at the beginning of that year. Although this piece is rather long the information contained within is paramount to understanding the effects of marijuana legalization throughout the States.
I’d come to the edge of the Rocky Mountains for a third consecutive spring, always with great anxiety and dubious circumstances. Without a handful of good friends I probably wouldn’t have made it back to the state nor would have I been able to study and experience the happenings within it.
Instead of being stranded in New Jersey, Philadelphia, Austin, Texas, and San Francisco, post-reckless travels — I have been repeatedly able to collect myself in the homes and apartments of a humbling generosity.
For that, and many other reasons, I’ve wanted to share this article.
Summer Days in Colorado Springs
Chris is in the passenger seat of his car; his fiancé Shannon is driving. I’m in the backseat, staring out at the open plains, to my right, littered with houses. To the left: the Pike’s Peak brotherhood of mountains, trails, foothills and valleys.
We’re heading north on Highway 25. It’s nearly 8 AM. Chris has to get to his boss’s house which is in a neighborhood adjacent to the Garden of the Gods. Today, he’ll be cutting down trees.
“You got a lighter, bro?” he asks me. Knowing that he never seems to carry one, or that he always loses it right after its use, I pull a white lighter from my pocket. I lean forward and hand it to him.
In the rear-view mirror I can see the reflection of a glass piece in his hands. Then observing the thick clouds outside in the distance from the previous night’s heavy rains and electrical storm, I hear him lighting up. A stream of smoke appears. I put down one of the back windows. The smoke follows right out the window as the pungent aroma of legal weed enters my nostrils.
Chris coughs a bit; and immediately I can tell that his soul is eased. The anxiety of his day-to-day life has just been remedied. Now, he can live and function without thinking negatively about all the bullshit that makes living in our modern world seem like such an endless struggle. I realize that without weed he is not the same person. He seems to need it in order to get by.
“Do you want some, babe?” he offers a hit to Shannon. She declines — she is the one driving the vehicle at close to 80 miles per hour on the interstate highway.
After a few minutes, just ahead of us we see a State Trooper. The car is unmistakable.
Chris tenses up but I have to wonder: what the hell could a cop really do if he or she were to pull us over?
“Now, I know that it smells a little bit like marijuana in this car. But please just be more careful when you’re toking up…”
What scares Chris, though, isn’t the fact that he is smoking a legal substance in the passenger seat of the car. He’s probably unwilling to get pulled over because I’m not entirely sure the automobile is insured.
No matter. Chris tells Shannon to slow down. That’s it. Just take it easy. There’s no reason to speed by the cops. Don’t get ahead of em.
Are you sure you don’t want to hit this?
Walking and Thinking
Shannon takes the exit for Uintah Street and stops the car at a red light. Quickly I inform both her and Chris that I am just going to get out, here, at the intersection and walk the rest of the way to downtown Colorado Springs, the second-largest city in Colorado.
“What?” Shannon asks, confused. “Are you sure?”
“I don’t mind walking.”
I hurry out of the car, tossing my laptop bag and my blue flannel shirt over my shoulder. Then I open the back door and reach in for two books, grabbing them and shutting the door behind me.
“You got your phone on you?” Chris asks me through the opened passenger window. He looks and seems genuinely concerned. Always I notice how his demeanor changes when he is slightly buzzed. He’s a different person when he is high. Or maybe that’s who he really is?
“Yeah. I’ll see you later.”
I walk off to the right, down Uintah. There’s a 7–11 to the left. I think about getting something to drink. Instead I keep going, crossing over Monument Creek. People are walking around, up and down the trails by the silently flowing water.
Do they care about legal weed? How does it affect them?
With the sale of recreational marijuana banned in Colorado Springs, I think about the rest of the state as I make a right onto Cascade at the west end of the city where the rolling green mountains are clearly visible. It’s a mouthwatering view, especially being used to the decay that occupies some of the areas I’m used to seeing back in New Jersey and South Philadelphia. Pondering the assignment to write about the effects of legal weed, I am suddenly comprehending the vast responsibility upon which I have accidentally stumbled.
This is a wonderful city, financed by blood.
And this year, for the first time, the state and certain localities within it are taking in tax revenue from a legalized magical plant which has, for years, been attracting people from all over the country.
Not everywhere across the state is the new law uniformly upheld. But could this be part of a revolutionary turnaround in the way our economies and politics are inter-connected, without such a constant sacrifice of blood?
The Front Range, which splits the mountainous region of Colorado from the eastern plains, is the leading edge for the habitat of smokers, stoners, potheads, medicinal users, hippies, transplants, growers, bud trimmers, dealers and dispensaries. Here, in the Land of the Free, we are experiencing what our imperfect forefathers attempted to build into the foundations of our Constitution: the freedom of the individual to thrive. And to be allowed, if we should choose, to get recreationally high — legally.
Why not let the states experiment with the taxable commodity of pot? Is it really any less healthy than so much of the other kinds of chemicals and preservatives readily found in our grocery and convenient stores? What about tobacco? According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco is the leading cause of lung cancer; and lung cancer in the United States has the highest death-rate of any cancer. Tobacco companies, quite literally, are making a killing.
Does the federal government intervene? I don’t think so.
And the States keep profiting from the endless stream of taxes which cigarettes provide. That’s not even including the money which bleeds into our hospitals from what it does to our bodies. But, hey, this is America — it’s our choice.
So many strains. So many choices.
How about THC beer? Vaporizer pens? Maybe some chocolate, or how about a cookie? What about granola? Or some THC-flavored chewy candies?
Weed and its chemical derivatives produce a multitude of genuinely positive effects on the body and mind that science and industry can no longer deny or keep hidden.
According to the National Cancer Institute (“established under the National Cancer Institute Act of 1937, [as] the Federal Government’s principal agency for cancer research and training”), cannabinoids are “carbon-containing compounds produced uniquely by the Cannabis species” and they have been scientifically proven to have anti-tumor effects, including said effects on breast and colon cancers, respectively. Marijuana and cannabinoids also endorse anti-inflammatory properties in cell functioning, as well as stimulating appetites, which can be helpful in patients with AIDS or cancer.
No matter how much the mainstream journalists flip-flop or spin, people are awakening to the truth.
All types of marijuana, now out in the open. Regulated within the confines and statutes of the new recreational laws that are flowering on top of the medicinal structure, into new businesses and taxes across the state, from Denver, expanding outward. Sort of like a new Universe based on the chemicals which derive from a magical plant, Cannabis sativa.
The Dangers of Putting Edible Things In Your Mouth
Within the past year, I have tried a gratuitous amount of pot-infused edibles (without ever legally purchasing them, of course) and I have enjoyed much of their effects on my body and consciousness. However, the state is mindful of this type of gray market consumption.
Still, the edibles I ingested all worked very much the same, making me feel relaxed, creative and slightly hungry for not really a meal, but, like, a snack or something.
Although one experience did push me over the edge.
I was given an edible at a bar one night in downtown Denver, at a place on Lincoln Street called the Funky Buddha. Initially, I was the designated driver and the wing-man for Gina, the girl with whom I’d been staying. (It worked for her — the next night.) So after a few beers, I stopped drinking.
Out of nowhere, a neighbor from Gina’s apartment complex approached us and then graciously handed over some weed chocolate in a napkin. Without thinking, Gina and I split the entire edible. When the neighbor told us we were only supposed to eat a sliver of the chocolate, it was too late. An incredibly potent dose, I knew driving home was going to be difficult.
Gina took off my shoes for me after we made it back to her apartment and I struggled to get into her bed, drooling and cross-eyed, and I’d remain in bed for the entire next day.
As adults, we must always remember to be careful about what we’re putting into our mouths….
Downtown Colorado Springs
I cross Platte, now entering the downtown area of Colorado Springs.
From the highway to this exact point on which I’m standing the quiet and relaxed feel of the streets is enormously palpable. But once I reach to where the banks, the municipalities and the storefronts are locked in the workaday world, the ant-like activity bursts asunder. The platitudes of easy-living are contradicted with the endless march towards earning a buck.
So I have to question, behind this facade of American normalcy: how many citizens in this town get stoned? Legally.
Studying the people, I first notice the homeless, empathizing with them as they carry blankets over their shoulders, walking on invisible escalators, going nowhere. Where is their savior? Who helps these people living out on the streets?
Can the analysts and social workers see these stench-filled auras of green and brown and stick-icky?
It’s very possible that Colorado is a place for homeless people to come to because it’s mostly easy and legal to find some weed. (Which is exactly what I hear spoken on the streets.) There’s no telling how much of a difference a joint can make, when needing to form a friendship with other lost-and-found souls hovering along the avenues of the city.
It’s the fringe sentiment. Weed, at this level, brings people together. Whether that’s a good thing or not, is left up to their actions.
But, later on, I’ll see them laughing, red-eyed and careless. Hungry. But not alone.
Across the street, people are strutting on by like ostriches and peacocks. Ready to work or lost in thought about bills and domestic squabbles under the dead weight of living in a nation going broke. Some of the house painters are stained red, stopped on the sidewalk, pulling out cigarettes and smoking. Waiting for their days to begin, I can see them as they are — people taxed at nearly every level of their existence.
Is that money and energy going to build up the needed schools and other local infrastructure or will vast amounts of our energies continue to be silently wasted and exhausted?
Whose blood will it be?
Who really gives a shit….
Renaissance of Cannabis Culture
Sitting on a bench at the corner of Cascade and Pike’s Peak, waiting for the library to open. A group of kids approach me as I’m smoking a cigarette and drinking my coffee after eating a few peanut-butter-and-cheese crackers for breakfast. Still, I am thinking about the effects of weed being legal, here in the state, wherever it’s been appropriated by the people in conjunction with their local authorities.
Although there aren’t any recreational stores permitted in town, Colorado Springs is littered with medicinal weed dispensaries, and the prices are affordable for most.
(Just check out Weedmaps.com. Joints with $20 member purchases. Eighths for $30. Ounces from $79 to $189. The website is a weed smoker’s treasure map. It also reports on the status of the new recreational weed law — Amendment 64 — in each town and county of Colorado.)
And if you know the drill, there’s always the Lazy Lion — a hazy place out east on Bijou Street, not too far from The Black Sheep, a well-known Colorado Springs music venue. At the Lazy Lion, you can purchase within the city limits a product which is not recreationally legal. Lackadaisical “loopholes” of the new law allow for the Lazy Lion’s operation to be the only spot in town to get weed in a store without a medical license.
They got a dab bar, bro. That’s concentrated hash-oil, for the uninitiated. Wax and shatter. Also, you can bring your own glass pieces to the Lion. From four to five in the afternoons, it’s “Dabby Hour.”
This shop, like all the rest of its kind, has Indicas, Sativas, and Hybrids. From $9 a gram to $350 an ounce. Orange Ghost. Blue Dream. Wi Fi #3. Shake Special. There are even edibles to take home — “Recreated” Cheesecake and Lemon Pie — as well as concentrates.
All you have to do is show up with a little money in your pocket, listen to the rules, say the right words, and be on your way — a gram or sixteen heavier.
“Hey, man,” one of the four cartoon-looking kids says as I’m still sitting there on the bench, “you got an extra butt?”
I pull out my pack of cigarettes, ignoring the blood on my hands. Two of the hoodlums walk to the corner, stomping and waiting to cross the street. Young, eager and smelly, the other two are standing in front of me. I give one of the kids two smokes.
“Please and thank you,” the other kid interjects.
“I’m speaking for him,” he then says.
“I don’t smoke. But I’m just saying ‘thank you’ for him.”
I look at the kid directly in front of me as he starts to return one of the cigarettes I’d given him. Internally, I’m wondering why the hell he can’t speak for himself.
But I only say: “It’s cool. Keep em.”
They walk off. The smoker hands one of the cigarettes to a third kid wearing a long and filthy green t-shirt. Together, they light up. A fourth mongrel turns around to face me, his eyes all aflame.
“We just talked to a rejected Renaissance man. His name was Gandalf. He was a reject!”
“Cool,” I reply.
They all laugh, turning around to cross the street, their stench of green trailing them.
And the scary thing? They weren’t even stoned.
At least not legally….
As I’m finishing my cigarette I realize that the library is now open. The WALK sign at the nearby intersection forces me to stand up. With my laptop bag over my shoulder, I grab the two books I’d placed beside me on the bench:
The Gonzo Letters, Volume II, Fear and Loathing in America and Dismantling America by Thomas Sowell.
I get across the street, flicking my cigarette to the ground. Suddenly I feel a pinch on my right forearm. A mosquito lands there, taking a quick sip. A shot of blood from my body.
I blow the thing away. But the damage is done.
How to financially fix the rest of the states that have been blood-sucked from bad investments, corrupt-and-unaccountable politicians, corporate greed, predatory lending, living beyond our means, the thieving and drying up of pensions and retirement funds, along with pernicious loans and credit from banks and credit card companies with plenty of capital — created out of thin air — to hook into the sides of our desperate and hungry mouths?
To some, it seems like an extreme impossibility for any kind of a worthwhile financial turnaround. However, one small solution to combat economic woes, in Colorado, is to sell legal weed.
And to tax the shit out of it.
RIDING UP TO DENVER
Heading north on a Greyhound bus, an elderly woman is seated to my left. She tells me she is heading for New York City. Through her mumbling and quick-firing words which seem to outpace the workings of her brain I respectfully nod and smile. During our one-sided conversation she pulls out her New York State I.D. She then shows me her Colorado E.B.T. card. Apparently, she refills it every time she visits her daughter in Colorado Springs. Or did she say she had a son? Anyway, I observe the card. It leaves me thinking about the implications of a person visiting the state, and them requesting taxpayer-funded assistance. Quickly, I let it fall from my mind. The mountains are rolling along, and the traffic makes me itchy and sweaty. I go back to reading Dismantling America.
After observing Manitou Springs — a touristy mountain town just west of Colorado Springs and location of the first recreational marijuana store in El Paso County, Maggie’s Farm, where a line of customers had stood outside, all day, for almost a week straight — I am going to Denver. A friend of mine has just arrived there, from Philadelphia.
Like me, he doesn’t smoke much weed. He thinks it makes him way too paranoid. He and I are heavy thinkers. Meaning, we think too much, too rapidly. We can barely keep up with it.
Supposedly, marijuana tames anxiety. This is a generalization of the functioning chemicals of the strand and user. Drugs offer a strong relation to the mental state of the person using them. So when I want to smoke weed, I smoke it. When I choose to smoke — when I have escaped the mental prison I neurotically create for myself — it always makes me think in different ways.
What is better for the neurotic? Other than a strange and sloppy blowjob.
Marijuana can help one to laugh, to slow down and to enjoy. If we want to use marijuana recreationally, I can’t see any legal reason why we should be denied that choice. If it is fit to be abused, is that any different than so much of what this country stands for and takes for granted?
Laws and Questions
However, the laws are so new that some of the local cops are sometimes left scratching their heads.
I learn of a story from a bud trimmer in Denver who was nearly arrested twice in one day because of frantic landlords and nosy neighbors wondering just what the hell he thought he was doing attempting to earn his living by cutting and reshaping these sort of legalized plants as they were growing sort of perfectly — right under peoples’ noses.
He’s not properly licensed, the cops clumsily decided at the first job, where he just barely escaped being taken to the police station in handcuffs. Some of those licenses run into the hefty thousands of dollars, in terms of fees and total cost.
At the second job, the trimmer told me, he ended up leaving before the cops could show up again.
“Another guy came in and threatened to call the cops,” he’d said, laughing, “so I just decided to call it a day.”
I arrive to the Greyhound station, in Denver. Possibly one of the seediest places in town. A few travelers linger outside of the terminal, most of them looking beaten and weary. Some are waiting on rides and some are wondering: what next?
Of course, some are only looking to buy some pot.
“Where’s the closest place I can buy some weed?” a guy asks me, excitedly.
“Just walk around, anywhere. You’re bound to find a place.”
Milk and honey! he seems to insinuate as he shuffles away from the station. I turn away from the road, facing an area where morals and laws serve as a degrading public bathroom and rest-stop.
One of the guys I’ve seen many times before, at this exact spot, is enticing a potential customer. No licenses. No taxes. No public declarations. Just black market bartering. I’m no detective but there’s certainly no deep secret about selling weed right outside of the Greyhound station.
As I overhear the discussing of details and prices of transacting larger amounts of marijuana, a cop car rolls by and then furtively dissolves back into another dimension.
“Get lost!” I hear somebody shouting at the laws of phantoms….
On someone else’s dime — one of the many earthly angels helping me along in my journey — I take an Uber cab to the outskirts of Denver. The sky to the west is darkening rapidly, almost like a lightning bolt could touch down at the Denver Broncos’ first pre-season game, sending the players sizzling to their locker rooms.
I’m heading to an outdoor barbeque, where my visiting friend will be with his [ex] girlfriend and some of his family members. It will be his first taste of a state where marijuana is recreationally legal. It’s everywhere, all over the place. No question about that.
After I get there and say hello to everybody, I sit down with a few of the guys. Some get up to smoke a blunt by the pool. (A “blunt” is an emptied cigar filled with marijuana.) My friend and I decline, content to be sitting there drinking our beers, bullshitting, nipping now and then from a bottle of whiskey. We’re both sacrilegious Americans at heart — we love to be able to pick our poisons.
Marijuana Propaganda is Highly Outdated
Marijuana is poison for the youthful minds of America! Don’t be a guinea pig! Don’t be a research subject!
With these slogans, an anti-pot campaign had been put up as four nine-foot tall rat cages in and around Denver, Fort Collins and the Red Rocks amphitheater in Golden, Colorado. The campaign was “funded by legal settlements from pharmaceutical companies,” according to the local affiliate of CBS in Denver.
Although I’d witnessed the obscenely large cage outside of the Denver Public Library, I was relieved at seeing it gone after a few weeks. “It served its purpose,” one of the library’s security guards told me when I’d asked him what had happened to the cage. Still, it felt like outdated propaganda.
Will the skeptics browbeat the law back into remission? Or will the legal market grow to exemplify the possibilities of which the rest of the states in this Union, and elsewhere, are keeping a close and watchful eye?
WHAT LEGAL WEED MEANS TO THE STATES
I inhale deeply.
If there’s any exemplification of the human response to the prohibitive ideology in which our federal government has been entrenched for decades, it is the moving transformation of peoples’ lives as they leave their hometowns and states to lead a new life in a place where marijuana is now made common and legal.
It’s not just for the weed, either. It’s for the way of life which the legalization of weed preponderates.
Thanks and praise should go out to the locally-elected leaders and other proponents of marijuana legalization.
Also, this is the newest market gone public which isn’t wholly connected to the international banking syndicate, and that’s an issue for which many business owners and their employees are having to deal. But if these weed businesses can figure out ways of operating differently with banks, then maybe that is just one of the many forward-thinking derivatives which marijuana legalization exploits.
Who knows? Maybe we are witnessing one of the smallest sparks in our modern-day awakening. Maybe this is the epicenter of something new and truly revolutionary.
I think Colorado is special, and so do many of the people residing there.
To be sure, more are on their way. No worries. The future of Colorado remains uplifting and bright.
Living with greater freedom of choice is what recreational weed means for a lot of people, in Colorado and elsewhere.
And a mile-high, shining beacon we need. Somewhere up in the heartland of America’s Rocky Mountain range, guiding us through this era of looming darkness and collapse which seems to cloud our better judgment for the purpose of a dollar. Reminding us that the security of our future should not be totally clasped in the hands of banks and corporations posing as the dictates of the federal government.
Money isn’t everything. But this united change to assert more social and economic freedom has got me feeling a little green.
Or maybe it’s just this damn good weed?