By Kara Mason
Nearly every time I’ve mentioned where I’m from when I’m away from home, one specific conversation follows.
Being from Colorado leads to, “So, pot…”
I’m probably the worst person to talk about this subject with, due to the fact that I’ve been offered the substance less than a handful of times in my life, and I’ve only stepped foot inside a recreational shop to drop off copies of the monthly newsmagazine I edit.
For nearly two months, I thought “Maggie’s Farm,” a new store in a local mini-mall, was an organic co-op or indoor market. Turns out, the lines of people in the mornings had a different kind of plant in mind.
My dealings with marijuana are minimal, really nothing different from pre-Amendment 64, which legalized having up to an ounce and no more than six plants.
Still, the perceptions of marijuana from outside Colorado’s borders are that it’s literally everywhere and everybody has it.
In 2010, the Denver Post reported that there were more medical marijuana dispensaries in the city than there were Starbucks, liquor stores or public schools. Having a bountiful supply of marijuana isn’t new for Coloradans, but it’s still pretty new for the rest of the country.
“Yeah,” I usually reply to the pot comment. I don’t have strong feelings for legalization one way or the other. I usually let the other person lead the conversation. Surprisingly, it’s about how they’re planning to visit my home state to experience the mile high.
They ask about Boulder, where the University of Colorado usually makes national news in April for its massive 4/20 event, and Denver and the nearby ski towns that are now more than just word-class ski destinations.
People like to talk about the unknown. It seems far out that something so controversial is on every street corner in Colorado’s capital city.
“I don’t even really notice it,” I usually say, which is true. Two hours south of Denver, where I live, the pot shops thin out, but they’re there.
If the conversation doesn’t lead to me being a travel guide, it often results in questions about what recreational stores are like. And while I’ve heard there are places where it’s like walking into a stoner’s basement, the stores I’ve been into are nice.
“So, like liquor stores?”
Not really. Walking into a liquor store and buying a six-pack is very relaxed. You browse, pay and you’re done. For many recreational stores in Colorado, it doesn’t even seem like you’re walking into a pot shop.
There aren’t any little baggies of weed just lying around, and Bob Marley isn’t blasting through an old radio. There isn’t shelf after shelf of different strains of marijuana.
Usually, there’s a salesperson to greet you and guide you through the process. There’s a waiting area, and each client gets a personal consultation.
It’s more like buying shoes in a doctor’s office.
Whenever I’m dragged into a marijuana conversation by an outsider, I try to make sure I add there’s definitely still a stigma associated with the drug. National media often portray a different reality.
It’s true that marijuana is making money, and people seem to be more open about it now. But there are still a lot of places, mostly conservative counties, that don’t allow recreational shops. East of the Front Range, only one recreational store exists, in Sedgwick, near the Colorado-Nebraska border.
“Huh, really?” they usually respond, sounding a little surprised that pot isn’t everywhere in the state.
As an insider on the outside, pot looks a lot different. I can see how people get caught up in the media reports and believe Colorado is a totally different state than it was before. But the truth is that marijuana has changed the state a lot less than was expected.
Perhaps, it’s just that the legalized marijuana frenzy altered the reality for those outside Colorado, who rarely ever see any sort of pot shop, more than those living in midst of it.