[Editor's Note: Colorado's burgeoning cannabis industry is the first of its kind, and with it a fascinating and unprecedented lifestyle is emerging. More and more people are traveling to the region to experience the groundbreaking cannabis culture, and AlterNet is focused on bringing readers up to speed with on-the-ground reports that capture this vibrant new scene.]
Welcome to the legal marijuana market [in Colorado]. For those new to the state, or just new to the idea of purchasing your cannabis legally, we have drafted a quick guide.
Do’s and Don’ts:
Do feel proud of being on the forward edge of the cultural movement. Legalizing marijuana was a hard battle for a large group of activists. Purchasing your cannabis legally makes you a part of this. Congratulations!
Don’t buy from random people on the street. People may be telling you that these purchases are legal under the law, but don’t be fooled. By buying your cannabis from a licensed shop, you ensure that your money isn’t flowing into the pockets of criminals. And tax revenue from your purchase goes to fund Colorado schools.
Do grow your own (if you’re a state resident). Every person in this state has the right to grow in his or her own home, no matter what your local municipal government has said about recreational sales. Can’t get to a licensed adult use dispensary or just don’t want to pay the extra taxes? Just pick up some clones and hit the grow store.
Don’t think that legalization is your cue to start selling your own. Just because you can set up a legal grow of 12 plants in your house doesn’t mean you should start your own illegal business. The guys who are selling it legally have been doing this for a long time. You’re not going to do any better than they are. Setting up your own commercial operation is not only expensive, you’re also opening yourself up to criminal charges. “It’s legal now!” is not going to be a suitable defense when your grow gets raided.
Do enjoy your toke comfortably in your own home. Enjoying yourself on your own property is something you never need to worry about. If you’re renting, you may want to check with the property owner to make sure it’s ok to puff indoors. Despite a recent attempt in the city of Denver, it is still perfectly fine to smoke on your porch or balcony. If you are staying in a hotel, check with the management before you light up.
Don’t smoke “openly and publicly.” Amendment 64 specifically mentions this. While residents of this state are forward thinking enough to allow marijuana to be legal, most folks don’t want the state turning into a giant smokefest (we leave that for designated occasions). You can still be fined for smoking in public – think open container laws on booze – but in all reality the likelihood of getting busted for smoking a doobie while enjoying a picnic in the park is pretty slim. Just be sure to keep your smoke away from kids; that will definitely get the cops called.
Do try new products! The legal stores should be rife with a variety of products, from hash to grass to edibles as well as a variety of strains. If something piques your interest, go for it. Don’t be shy.
Don’t overdo it. Chances are the stuff that’s sold in the store is a bit more potent than what you are used to. High quality strains can contain about 25 percent THC, so know your limits. If you’re new to hash, you may want to talk with your budtender before partaking. Dispensary employees will be pretty well versed. As for edibles, if you haven’t tried them before or just don’t want to smoke, give them a try. All legal products will have a THC milligram dosage on the package, so pay attention to this. The average product on the shelf will be enough to knock you into outer space if you consume it whole. Start off with a smaller dose, maybe around 10 milligrams, and see how it hits you. You can always take more. Once you’re over the bad trip mark, it’s hard to come back. Also be sure to allow enough time for it to kick in. For most edibles, this is between one to two hours. Don’t over consume while you’re waiting for it to kick in.
Do feel free to purchase up to the maximum allowable amount. For residents, this is one ounce a day. Out-of-staters are limited to a quarter ounce per day. While nothing is stopping you from hitting multiple locations in a single day, you are legally only allowed to carry a single ounce on your person.
Don’t bring your marijuana across Colorado state lines when you go back home. The TSA has stated its intention to treat small amounts of cannabis as a low priority, but this doesn’t mean you should try to take it on a plane with you. If you are unfortunate enough to live in a state that prohibits marijuana, you still face the same risks of being prosecuted. No claim of buying it legally will save you from a possession charge that will likely remain on your record for years to come.
Do make sure you have valid, state ID. This means driver’s license, passport, or valid state ID showing you are 21 years or older.
Don’t try to buy marijuana if you are under 21. Dispensaries are some of the most highly scrutinized businesses in the state. The chances of getting served without proper identification are less than it would be at a liquor store. If you happen to be between the age of 19 and 20, you are in the unfortunate position of being eligible for prosecution if caught with marijuana. Eighteen and under are eligible for a diversion program.
On strains to try
Though it seems like old hat to those of us that have been buying from dispensaries for years, you are going to want to consider the effects of different strains. Generally, sativas are the strains that energize you, providing a more cerebral high. For this reason, many prefer sativas. They are great when hiking, creating, or just out and about town.
On the other end of the effects scale are indicas, which usually provide a more mellow, sedentary high. The "body high" from these strains can be great for stress relief. If you have a problem with a raging internal dialogue while stoned, you may want to try an indica. Be warned that indicas are typically associated with a phenomenon known as “couch lock.” It's when you and your sofa become one entity.
Additionally, you can choose hybrid strains. These strains are marked along the lines of percentage sativa and percentage indica. The ratio - for example, 50 percent saliva, 50 percent indica - indicates what kind of high you can expect. It’s always a good idea to talk with your budtender. They can usually recommend a strain that will achieve your desired effect.
Where to buy
You should purchase only from licensed adult-use dispensaries. Many medical dispensaries remain open for medicinal use only, so don’t expect to get served there unless you have a red card issued by the state of Colorado. And remember that certain parts of the state have delayed or opted out of adult use sales. The city of Denver will have shops that will sell to you, as does Edgewater, Central City, Telluride, Aspen, Glendale, and Manitou Springs.
How much you can expect to pay
The cost of cannabis may fluctuate with demand. If the prices at medical dispensaries are a trustworthy guide, you can expect to pay between $30 up to $65 for an eighth, and $25 to $80 for a gram of hash concentrate, plus applicable tax. Not all cannabis is created equal, and that will affect prices. The cost of Edibles will vary even more based on the type of edible and the dosage. While these prices may seem rather high, rest assured your tax revenue is going to fund Colorado’s beleaguered public schools.
Where to get smoke wear
Many licensed dispensaries will sell smoking devices such as pipes, papers, and dabbing rigs for hash. Still, don’t forget there are shops all around that have been selling smoking devices since before marijuana was legal. Most of the time these head shops will have a larger selection than dispensaries, and often better deals. If you’re really interested in some high-end glass art to smoke out of, check out Illuzion Glass in Denver. Just don’t expect to get out cheaply.
Where to smoke
As Vincent Vega said, “It’s legal, but it ain’t a hundred percent legal.” Yes, Coloradans have legalized marijuana, but with a caveat that explicitly forbids “open and public” consumption. This means you can’t just walk down the street smoking a joint and expect not to get hassled. The key word here is discretion. While you will likely not be ticketed – or worse, arrested – for smoking, it’s always a good idea to be considerate to others. If a mother with a child can smell your good time, you can bet there’s going to be an angry call made to the police. So just be considerate where you light up and it won’t be a problem. You’re definitely going to want to avoid smoking in or around the shop where you purchased your marijuana. The dispensary will mostly likely ban you as its license is at stake.
If you happen to be going out for a night on the town, smoking in a designated smoking area is usually advisable. Some bars may take issue with this, but should be polite in asking you to extinguish. You may be better off going somewhere that doesn’t suck. While Colorado law still designates this as illegal, you are not likely to get busted for enjoying a quick puff in an adults-only establishment.
Smoking inside a bar is unadvisable. This is already prohibited by the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, which outlawed the use of cigarettes inside publicly accessible places and has been expanded to include marijuana. Some places will look the other way for portable vaporizers, though this may be more out of ignorance. There is always fear among bar owners that they could lose their liquor license over such behavior (however this has never happened).
As for concert venues, the above still applies, but there has always been an uneasy awareness of marijuana smoking during shows. This varies by venue. If security isn’t venue staff, don't expect to smoke. You see those guys in brightly colored shirts with walkie-talkies? They work for a security company, not the venue’s owners. They will nearly always make you put out your puff, or worse, throw you out. Smaller venues are usually a little more laid back. At the legendary Red Rocks amphitheater, you are not likely to run into problems.
If you’re staying at a hotel, make sure the operators are okay with smoking indoors before you do it. Some hotels will charge outrageous fees if it is thought you’ve been smoking in your room. This reporter had a particularly bad experience with the America’s Best Value Inn in Boulder when management tried to extort an insane extra fee based on the smell of unsmoked buds alone. If your hotel room has a balcony you should be safe smoking there, although this too would be contingent on the property owner’s consent.
Smoking in your car
It may not be such a great idea to smoke in your car. Although there is little empirical evidence to suggest stoned driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, Colorado has a driving limit of five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. This limit is likely lower than what regular smokers have coursing through their body at any given time, so not getting pulled over in the first place is probably the best bet. However, in order to test your blood, police generally need your consent, but refusing this request has negative effects. If a cop sees you blazing in your car, there’s a chance you will be nailed for a DUID. Be safe and be smart - don't smoke and drive.
Keeping your job
You can still be fired for failing a urine test. If you have the misfortune to be working for an anti-cannabis Nazi, you’ll have to find a way around it. Just because marijuana is both harmless and legal doesn’t mean you can’t be fired for it. Many head shops sell detoxifiers and concealers, so if it’s a problem for your boss, try one of those.
Skiing and marijuana
Chances are, if you’re visiting Colorado to enjoy the newly legal marijuana market, you’re also going to check out some of the amazing skiing just a few hours' drive from Denver International Airport. For some people, skiing and snowboarding is interwoven with getting lifted. It's part of the culture, but it is important to remember that this isn’t technically legal. Ski areas generally operate on leased federal land, and on federal property cannabis remains illegal. Recently the general manager of A Basin stated that ski passes would be confiscated from people caught smoking, which is shocking since A basin is considered one of the most laid-back ski areas in the state.
Even so, you’re not likely to be hassled if you are discreet. Smoking in a lift line while surrounded by families will always get you noticed. Ducking into a wind shelter in the middle of some trees by yourself is unlikely to do so. Some ski areas have legendary hidden smoke shacks. Ask that lift operator who looks like he's chill, and he’ll probably tell you where to find them. Whatever you do, remember to be safe. We don’t want you hitting trees because you were hitting among trees.
Enjoy the outdoors
Colorado is known for its beautiful scenery. Getting blazed legally while enjoying it just makes things better. Remember when visiting any of the state’s amazing national parks that marijuana remains illegal on federal land. This means discretion.
State parks are a good option, and there are several beautiful ones within an hour's drive of the metro area. Keep in mind that state parks also do not allow for open consumption, though you are less likely to run into problems than at a federally managed national park. Just be aware of your surroundings. Lighting up around families is not just extremely rude, but likely to end in trouble for you.
Published with permission from THC Magazine.