As someone who writes about marijuana for a living, it recently started to seem a little strange I hadn’t actually been to the promised land of legal cannabis that Colorado has become over the past couple of years.
So on Memorial Day weekend, I flew to Denver on a mission to buy weed . . . legally.
I already knew the rules. Dispensaries close promptly at 7 p.m. You must be 21 or older to buy recreational cannabis; public consumption is a no-no. And so forth.
My first stop would be Pure Marijuana Dispensary. I expected to get carded at the door or during checkout, like bars and liquor stores in Chicago do.
Instead, I walked right in to what looked and felt like a spa waiting room — a spa waiting room filled with the pungent, unmistakable odor of marijuana. I was waved over to a pharmacy-style window, where a friendly employee asked for my ID and told me someone would be with me soon.
After a few minutes, I was ushered into the sales room, where jars of cannabis, pre-rolled joints and packaged edibles were neatly on display. I decided to buy a pre-rolled joint and some gummy edibles.
Next, I headed to Native Roots Dispensary. The well-known chain, which comedian Hannibal Buress amusingly toured last fall, was more crowded than the first dispensary. But aside from a somewhat longer waiting-room experience and longer sales line, the process was similar.
Outside Native Roots, the streets of downtown Denver were closed for an arts and music festival. I saw families and people with dogs and children dancing to music and browsing craft booths. Nobody seemed to mind or even notice the dispensary.
After living with marijuana prohibition all my life, Colorado’s legal weed experience was terribly exciting and incredibly mundane.
Aside from the dispensaries and the cannabis-related gift shop wares, Denver felt like a normal American city. It has murals, an art museum, breweries, mountains and beautiful scenery. Marijuana doesn’t appear to define the city. It’s more like the billion-dollar cherry on top.
By most accounts, marijuana legalization has been good for Colorado. The booming industry is translating into substantial tax gains for the state, and that revenue is now being used to fund public schools and help homeless people.
Emily Gray Brosious is marijuana news editor for the Sun-Times Network.