Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Cancer: Cannabis

On the Road Again. 

Pueblo, Colorado, was certainly putting its marijuana money to good use, upgrading their roads and bridges and trying to economically develop their abandoned industrial areas. I wish them well, because it’ll take at least a decade to get the city not looking like a cut scene from Fallout 4. After that, the artists and the creatives will get pushed back out as the speculators and investors pour back in and jack up the real estate and the cycle of boom and bust begins anew.

All thanks to marijuana. Pretty interesting when you see it with your own eyes. I don’t know where you come down on the issue, but I’m ready to legalize it and tax the hell out of it and make a zillion dollars with it. Also, it’ll cut out a lot of the violence and crime at the border. Finally, it’ll help people. It might negatively impact some other industries, such as For-Profit Prisons, but I have to say, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. We need less prisons, and less people in them. There’s my politics on the subject. Moving on.

Colorado has a tax rate of over twenty percent on recreational marijuana. That’s high. Pun intended. But right now, it’s a license to print money, because we visited a number of dispensaries in two days, mostly to get the lay of the land and scope it all out, and I noticed a few things that they all had in common.

There was tight security at these shops, involving a doorman checking IDs of everyone entering, which was logged into a computer and returned with apologetic smiles and thanks. Once inside, the dispensaries were all decorated as some percentage of head shop and vape store, depending on the name of the place. Everything was clean and neat, and décor tended to run to the upscale and innocuous rather than counter-cultural. I didn’t see a single Bob Marley poster, nor an issue of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers anywhere. Having been in several head shops before, where these would have been signifiers that this was one of the good head shops, this was disconcerting. I was out of my element.

None of these guys were working at the shops. They were,
however, all in line waiting to buy stuff...
I was also used to a certain, shall we say, kind of person working in these establishments. And while every single employee I encountered over the weekend was indeed what the squares would call “alternative” in some way—white-guy dreads, aggressive tattoos, lip discs and spacers, or looking like an extra from the movie Dazed and Confused—they were all happy, friendly, knowledgeable, and patient with every customer. They were literally living their dream job, talking about the different kinds of strains and what the effects were. There was a lot of jargon and vocabulary, and I tried to absorb it, but the only thing that stuck was the term “flower,” which is what the dispensaries were calling the actual plant itself. In still illegal states, it’s called “bud.” When your state makes it alright, you get the vocabulary upgrade at no additional cost.

Everyone buying these products were happy. No one was in a bad mood. And there was a strange defiance in their eyes; all of them made eye contact for far longer than necessary. I suspect this is an over-reaction from years of having to skulk around. It’s almost as if, having legalized it, everyone stopped making a big deal about it.

Legal marijuana is still pretty expensive, and not just because of the high tax rate. The cheapest thing you could buy is pre-rolled joints, but most people were buying flowers or edibles. The gummies and the chocolates ran $20-$35 bucks each. Topical lotion was more. A full flower was over $100 after taxes. Compare that with, say, a six pack of Shiner Bock at $9.95 and you can see where the earning potential is.

I’m not a heavy drinker, and I can count the number of times I’ve done mushrooms and/or pot on one hand in forty-mumblemumble years. I’ve done it just enough times to know that it’s not my thing. Not really. In every prior instance, I didn’t have a lot of control over what was going on; nor did I really enjoy the effect it had on me. I’m just too uptight; or rather, if I’m going to be spontaneous, there’s a time and a place for that.

Still, when in Rome...

That’s how we ended up sitting in the hotel room, eating paleo-friendly tortilla chips and guacamole and watching Bridesmaids, while pleasantly relaxed and not at all freaking out. I slept like a hibernating grizzly bear that night. You couldn’t have woken me up with dynamite. The gummies Cathy bought certainly helped her with her nausea. It was a nice mental vacation, as well a physical vacation. Not really viable for the long-term, since there’s sixteen hours’ worth of driving just to buy the stuff. But it wasn’t the freakout experience I’m used to. More like what it feels like to drink one more than your usual amount at the bar.

There was a side-effect that no one has mentioned in any of the think-pieces I’ve seen. There was a killer-diller Classic Rock Station in Pueblo, the likes of which I’ve not heard since first moving to Austin, Texas, in 1990. It was a great mix of prog rock, proto-metal like Zeppelin, and some of the fake-punk crunchy stuff from the early 1980s. I was jamming out everywhere we went. I’m certain that station exists solely to serve the Green Nation of Pueblo, Colorado.

Colorado was great. I’m no skier, but Cathy and I are making plans again to find a place to hole up in Manitou Springs for a few days and just drift away. She will be finished with Chemo at the end of September. We may be able to make it an anniversary trip. Cross your fingers.

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