“Happy Independence Day!” That’s the sign that greeted me as I made my way into one of Colorado’s largest dispensaries to buy marijuana. A steady stream of exuberant customers filed into the Medicine Man in Denver, as even happier customers were leaving, all here for the same reason – to buy recreational marijuana…legally.
Born and raised in New York, where enforcement of marijuana laws resulted in nearly 450,000 misdemeanor charges from 2002 to 2012, and now living in California, I’ve seen all sides of the weed smoking spectrum, but now I wanted to see this Mile-High City celebration first-hand.
Since legal pot stores opened on Jan. 1, sales have exceeded $5 million in Colorado. And, as my experience at Medicine Man shows, people have clearly jumped on board, and into, this sort of cannabis epicenter.
As soon as I stepped inside the clean, well-lit, and welcoming dispensary, two armed security guards asked if I was there for recreational or medical use. Medicine Man is divided into these two sections.
On the day I visited, a weekend afternoon, the recreational line remained a steady 10 people deep. The medical side of the shop only had four clients.
As I nervously awaited my turn, I observed a diverse range of people coming in and out: young people, old people, couples, different races, men and women. There were about five to six employees behind computers and a counter, explaining options to newbies including loose marijuana, pre-rolled joints, and a variety of consumables like lollipops, chocolate, and beverages.
But don’t be mistaken, walking into Medicine Man is not like walking into your local market and picking up milks and eggs. There are no aisles to browse. It is not a grab and go situation. You have to speak to someone at the counter who will ask for your ID to check your age (21 and older only) and residency. Colorado residents can legally purchase more recreational pot than out-of-staters. Residents can purchase up to one ounce of marijuana. Non-residents are limited to one quarter of an ounce.
Dressed casually, with a wealth of knowledge and very professional, Medicine Man employee Peter told me about the products meticulously bar-coded behind him. Peter, as every other employee there, had to be licensed and offer his thumbprint during checkout. He could explain what kind of high every item would give you and offered helpful recommendations. As he went through the inventory with me, fellow shoppers were sniffing vials of the fresh bud.
There was quite a bit of sticker shock though. A Denver local told me that Medicine Man was significantly pricier than another nearby dispensary. A 100 mg Sativa chocolate bar ran about $25, as did a 70 mg Sativia Sparkling Peach flavored beverage. Recreational marijuana is heavily taxed by Colorado, at a rate of 10 percent tax per sale and a 15 percent excise tax based on the average market rate of the drug.
So, whether you are a cannabis connoisseur or just want to check it out, Colorado is the place to visit. But save your money, shop around; mind your dosages and how much you buy because you cannot take it with you.