What’s the big deal? Doing the deal legally is the big deal…

Like a stereotypical stoner home from school in the middle of the day, I took a bite of pizza and Googled “Recreational Pot Use Colorado” on Tuesday. The computer told me I had “about 23,000,000 results” to choose from. Wow. How long would it take me to check out tens of millions of sites dealing with recreational pot in Colorado? We have deadlines at this newspaper.
I could watch Stephen Colbert riff about it. I could read what the Christian Science Monitor had to say about it. Every newspaper in America, if not the world, had articles about it. There’s no shortage of info, opinions and comedy. Hey, what’s the big deal? It’s not like pot wasn’t easily available before January 1 in more than a few restaurant kitchens or construction sites. Not that I indulge regularly but I’ve heard that’s the case.
Based on what you now see on national TV, international publications and the worldwide web, you’d think Colorado had invented a solution for Global Weirding, poverty, taxes and the polar vortex all in one magic pill. Everywhere you look right now, there is a picture of a Colorado flag with a marijuana leaf, a line in front of a Colorado pot shop, or a Colorado sports team with photo-shopped jerseys sporting marijuana leaves.

But I didn’t fritter away my afternoon reading millions of opinions on and jokes about Colorado being the first place in the universe to legally sell retail pot. I waited until the evening and went to Crested Butte’s first Marijuana Hospitality Night at the Red Room…located downstairs from the Secret Stash. Sponsored by the Acme Healing Center, the event drew probably 100 people over the course of two or three hours as reggae played in the background. Those attending ranged in age from about 21 to those well into their 60s. They were all pretty excited about the state of events. “It’s like Colorado is turning 21,” said one. “It sure is interesting to be in the middle of it,” said another. ”It won’t be a big deal anywhere in a few years but this is the ground floor. It is historical,” observed another. “Frankly, I’m just trying to figure it all out,” said someone else.
There were vendors like Whetstone Garden Supply talking about hydroponics, John from The Tobacconist chatting up his glass as the best on the Western Slope and Mary Jane’s Medicinals touting cannabis salves and bath salts. Heavenly Hash Bath, anyone?

Crested Butte Mayor Aaron Huckstep answered some questions. He didn’t answer others and the bottom line is that there are still a lot of unknowns. The questions ranged from how is the local airport handling the pot situation to when would Gunnison County, a county with a rich agricultural heritage, allow a new type of agriculture, to when would retail pot shops be allowed beyond the C-zone of Crested Butte and where will local marshals bust you for smoking weed. Can you smoke it on your deck or front porch? Huckstep said “probably” but made it clear the town hasn’t officially addressed that aspect of the issue and he advised people to be cautious and not be stupid about it.
Huckstep’s primary message was that as things evolve, pot will become more and more accepted in the local society but there is still a lot of gray area hanging over the issue. He was proud that Crested Butte was on the cutting edge of a big national deal. “I don’t expect to see a sea change overnight or even in the next year but overall, I expect more positive impacts than negative ones,” he said.
The mayor said there is legitimate concern with the impact of legalization on kids. He sees good economic benefits and not much of a change in local enforcement of the law. He sees an evolution to eventual Elk Avenue locations. “It’s all a matter of patience and seeing how it all rolls out,” he said.
Acme general manager David Niccum said the three stores (Crested Butte, Ridgway, Durango) have been fielding a massive amount of calls since January 1 about when and how people will be able to legally purchase recreational marijuana. He expects a huge boom when they all start selling legal weed. In fact, based on what’s happening in the Colorado stores already selling legal marijuana, Niccum expects to have a supply problem. Legal sales should begin in Crested Butte on Wednesday, January 22. Acme received its state license in the mail this week. The last hurdle is a simple and expected Town Council approval at the next meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, January 21.

Now, understand that legal weed won’t necessarily be cheap. Right now I am told you can buy an eighth of an ounce of marijuana on the Crested Butte “black market” for about $25. Medicinal marijuana goes for about $37 for an eighth. Once recreational weed is allowed, an ounce of legal retail marijuana will be about $75, including tax. Niccum said the Crested Butte store is looking at providing a significant “local’s discount.”
“We understand that there’s been a black market here for a long time and don’t really expect to impact that much,” he said. “There will be a substantial price difference between black market, medicinal and legal retail marijuana.”
Niccum did want to emphasize that the business is making stringent efforts to inform and educate customers about how to treat their new legal weed. They want to keep it in the hands of adults and out of the realm of kids. Niccum is adamant about protecting the kids from what is a mind-altering substance not meant for children.
So here we are—in the only place in the universe where marijuana is legal. Even in Amsterdam it is not technically “legal,” but having been there, it sure is “tolerated.”
You know, it is sort of a big deal. And the big deal will get bigger in Crested Butte when the first retail sale is completed on the morning of January 22.

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