By Citizen Jay Daily
The face of recreational marijuana is not what I expected. In the beginning weeks of 2014, I had the opportunity to experience life beyond the looking glass. I became a bud tender. I spent some time back in October going through the motions of getting my support badge from the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division (MMED, what is now the MED). At the time, I wanted to spend the effort getting my badge in order to share that experience with my audience. And although I had entertained the thought of working at a dispensary, it was nothing more than just a thought.
Enter January 1, 2014, and the start of recreational sales in Colorado. That first day was a fiasco! No one knew exactly what to expect and yet the expectations were palpable. I had spent New Year’s Eve with some “straight” (i.e., non-weed smoking) friends of mine and in the morning I was eager to leave their company for more fertile ground, so to speak.
And that’s when I got the text from my mother-in-law. You see, she’s an old hippie. My wife and I were both born in the fall of 1967. Anyway, she knew that if she wanted to see the inside of a dispensary, I was her best bet. It’s not that she wanted to purchase weed. On the contrary, she knows that if she ever needs some, I’ve got her back. You see, there’s nothing illegal in Colorado about a son-in-law gifting his mother-in-law some weed. But she wanted to experience legal weed for the first time. She wanted to SEE it. She wanted to join in the excitement and feel it with everyone else.
And so, I picked her up! Since I had no idea what to expect, I planned to take her to four different dispensaries that I knew were opening up for recreational sales on the first. While everyone was expecting legal weed to be popular, the actual turnout was far more robust than anyone could have anticipated. As reported, the lines stretched around the block at each of the dispensaries we visited. This discouraged us from actually going into a couple of them. But we did manage to get into at least two of the grand opening establishments.
The Clinic Colorado has always been a nondescript location; simple signage on an office building and just a few parking spaces of its own. But on the first of January, 2014, there were scores of people milling around its entrance. Inside the lines of crowded shoppers shuffled together as they eagerly awaited their chance to purchase some of the best bud known to anyone. My mother-in-law, walker in hand, and I entered the fray to see what all the hub-bub was about.
Every dispensary has its own flavor—it’s feel, or look, if you will. Having never set foot in one before, Mom was enthralled. We didn’t want to spend too much of anyone’s time. We weren’t there to make a purchase and certainly didn’t want anyone to think we were jumping the line or getting preferential treatment (though, technically, we totally were…). To say the staff was busy would be an over-stated understatement. But Mom just wanted a peek through the special door—the one with all the weed behind it.
The nice people at The Clinic were more than happy to oblige. Keeping in mind that there were scores of anticipant patrons waiting for their turn to go through the big door to Weedville, we simply glimpsed the interior from the doorway itself. Still, in that brief moment, what my mother-in-law observed nearly dropped her jaw to the floor: jars of bud. Lots of jars filled with lots of buds. And smiling people looking at the jars; other smiling people serving the jars up for closer examination. There were colorful patches of packaging on the walls and in breakfronts —delectable edibles of varying kinds. Paraphernalia for sale—functional pieces enclosed in cases of glass. And the smiling people…oh, the smiling people! Our time and efforts having being spent, we euphorically left The Clinic in pursuit of another weedy experience.
And that brought us to the Evergreen Apothecary. While The Clinic contained their throngs within the interior of their building, the line at Evergreen stretched down South Broadway in two directions. People were waiting for hours just to get in, where they were greeted by another short queue before they could see the next available bud tender. It took an average of 4 hours to get into the dispensary on the first. But my mother-in-law and I sauntered right up to the door, where as luck would have it, we were greeted by my friend Mark Theguythatcouldfly, who was bud tending that day. He ushered us in for our quick look around. The flavor at Evergreen is less clinical and more like an old-fashioned apothecary; wood and brass accents, paper screens, and weed—lots of weed. As again we were conscious of other people’s wait, we did not linger long inside. I knew I’d be back soon enough with my camera in hand to give my mother-in-law and everyone else a better look around.
A few days later, I found myself behind the counter. In the furious haze of the first few days of 2014, my friends at Evergreen put out the call for badged and experienced people to join their team. If they were going to serve as many customers as were lining up at the doors, they were going to need more bud tenders. A system was developed to move customers through the shop more smoothly, and by the end of the first week, we were servicing over 350 people consistently throughout each day—about as many as we saw on the first. It seems that the crowds did not exactly diminish; we just got better and faster at serving them.
What really struck me though, was the demographic make-up of the crowd itself. It was not filled with young adults as you might expect—the twenty-somethings. Instead it was composed of a broad mix of people. And from what I could see, most of them were over 40. What’s the face of recreational weed? It’s the face of moms and dads, grandmas and granddads, nurses and teachers, truck drivers and lawyers, it’s everyman…everyone.
But here’s another thing that I was surprised to observe. A lot of the people coming in for recreational marijuana were actually looking for relief from pain or for help with sleep. These are things that even recreational cannabis is known to be good for. A good indica can be a powerful analgesic and can also induce sleep. Sativas are known to help with headaches and nausea. I’m glad to be able to offer some help to these people, but I wonder why, in some cases at least, they never pursued a medical marijuana card? The answer is completely obvious, of course, it’s because they’ve been afraid—afraid to put their name on a government list. I get it.
And then there are the calls from desperate people suffering from real hard ailments, specifically, cancer. They are calling from all over the country. They want to know if recreational cannabis can help them. And it may provide some relief, if they can get to Colorado. But what these people really need can’t be found in a recreational dispensary. They need real healing. They need cannabis oil, and they need it in large amounts. That is the purview of the medical marijuana community. That is why it still exists and why it must always exist. Because the real healing is serious business and the people developing the strains to help patients are real scientists doing real miracles.
I suppose that while I was surprised to see the number of people my own age or older coming in to buy legal weed, I should have actually expected it. Those of us who grew up before Nancy Reagan and D.A.R.E. remember fondly the hazy days of weed-dom in the 1960s and 70s. Now that the threat of shackles has been removed (at least here in Colorado), the charm of reliving those nostalgic days from college is finally attainable. But seriously, folks, and I don’t care how many times you call to ask me, I am not going to mail any weed to Texas…or anywhere else for that matter!