That harried, Friday-evening moment when you’re switching gears from work brain to party mode, gathering what you’ll need for a fun night out — keys, phone, bottle of wine for the dinner party you’re attending — has changed quite a bit in post-legalization Colorado.
Some are adding a vape pen or infused tincture to their date-night clutches. Others will pre-pack a bowl or one-hitter before heading out — or they’ll chew on a 10-milligram edible on their way to the party. And those running low on supplies can swing by the pot shop on their way to the dinner and maybe grab a pre-rolled joint as a gift to the evening’s hosts.
Think this sounds exaggerated or made up, some amplified version of what’s actually happening on Friday nights all around Colorado? Think again.
Coming Sunday: Pick up a Denver Post on Dec. 28 for our 24-page special report A Year Of Legal Pot, dissecting Colorado’s first year of legal recreational marijuana sales.
In the meantime: Watch Cannabist editor Ricardo Baca get grilled by Stephen Colbert one year ago
A year in the life of the world’s first marijuana editor — that was the working headline when I first started this essay a few weeks back. Every story needs a beginning, and this one started 13 months ago when The Post appointed me the paper’s marijuana editor.
Has my life been all buds and flowers ever since? In a way, yes; I think and write and talk about marijuana daily as I edit The Post’s culture-of-weed site, The Cannabist. In other ways, no; I’ll snack on an edible to relax after a long day at the office or before a night out at a rock show, but it’s hardly a daily occurrence for me.
All that said, I have learned and witnessed a lot in the past 12 months, as we all have since recreational sales started in January. And our stories of the past year are the historic record of Colorado’s first-of-its-kind legalization.
But taking a quick step back: Remember that Friday night, the dinner party? That was real. My fiancée and I were running late for her friend Alissa’s birthday party. “We need to bring something — do we have enough wine to bring a couple of bottles,” I reminded Melana as she came downstairs. She shot me a knowing look as she opened the kitchen cabinet where we keep our stash.
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“I think she’ll appreciate this more than wine,” Melana said, holding a store-bought, still-in-its-wrapper joint between the tips of her fingers. An hour later when we handed Alissa the weedy gift, she threw her head back and laughed and hugged us both, holding up the joint to the rest of the party and said: “This is the best! And you’re not even the first people tonight to give me weed for my birthday!”
Surely some of you are questioning the integrity of this story or assuming it took place in some gritty neighborhood. But I assure you every word is true, and this party was in the lush backyard of a beautiful Cherry Hills home.
Alissa Joblon is our friend who was celebrating her very fun birthday that night. “Oh, my god, that was the best,” she told me when I called her in December. “At least 10 people brought me a joint or edibles that night. … I have one friend whose sister owns a dispensary, and she gave me five joints and a big thing of Cheeba Chews and some other edibles.”
Could that moment have happened in 2013 Colorado, or even 2010? Absolutely. But for Joblon, it didn’t happen until the year Colorado started recreational pot sales.
“It was the first birthday that that happened, people bringing me weed,” Joblon said. “Now everyone can go get a joint on their way to the party instead of stopping at the liquor store. People were bringing my sister booze, and everybody was bringing me weed.
“And that’s the perfect gift for me.”
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For Denver resident Lucas Dean Fiser, this year’s legal sales have opened up a special door between him and his mother, Donna. When he drives north to Fort Collins to visit his family, he’ll often get a sweet note from his mom: “Hey, I’m low on tincture. Can you grab me some?”
“The person I get high with the most is still my mother,” said Fiser, who used to freelance for The Cannabist. “I had gotten high with my mom before legalization, maybe twice. But now that it’s legal, this is our very own ritual.
“On Thanksgiving we ate turkey, and then we drank some tincture and played (card game) Apples to Apples. In the summertime we’d always go out and sit by my dad’s firepit in the backyard. It’s our special time together.”
When Fiser first started writing for The Cannabist, his mom asked him about the tincture he kept referring to in his pieces.
“So I introduced her to it,” he said. “She wanted to know what I was writing about in the column, ‘ What is that tincture?‘ I told her how it’s good for your nerves and muscles, and she wanted to try it. We don’t like smoking as much, and edibles often kick too hard. But we do like tincture — we live by it. The tincture’s so easy to monitor.”
There are hundreds more anecdotes of the surprisingly substantial social changes seen in Colorado in 2014, some from my own dining room.
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We’ve always loved to entertain, to have friends old and new over to our 110-year-old Victorian home for dinner parties and happy hours. Sometimes we’ll host two or three dinners a week; it’s the height of quality time, sharing food and drink in an unhurried and unpretentious environment.
Of the hundreds of dinners we’ve hosted, marijuana started to come into play in 2014. Sure, maybe a friend would ask if they could hit their pipe in the backyard. But people actively bringing pot as a gift or a to-be-shared aperitif? That’s pretty specific to the first year of legal sales.
A colleague brought over a package of joints rolled with G6, one of his favorite pot strains. A friend showed up with a bottle of wine and a 100-milligram infused chocolate bar, which was split up and sent around the table. Another friend, Zack, brought over a couple grams of his favorite strain, Bubble Gum, which was shared around our outdoor patio table on a temperate fall evening.
“Ah, that was such an awesome night,” my friend Zack Armstrong said.
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Armstrong, who hails from Colorado Springs, says he got high only once in 2013, but he’s been a bit more liberal since recreational sales started this year.
“Legalization, it’s 100 percent of why I’m smoking weed every single day now,” said Armstrong, who is (full disclosure) working on an independent documentary on The Post’s coverage of marijuana called “Rolling Papers.” “I went from smoking whatever pot my girlfriend’s brother-in-law had once in 2013 to smoking pot every single day in 2014. I am Mr. Normalization.”
Armstrong struggled with reconciling his new connection to marijuana. “I don’t know why it is,” he said. “I break the law all the time, so it wasn’t that.”
Without knowing it, he then compared the pot-shopping experience to the advantages of visiting a record store. “There’s a lighter vibe around the whole thing now,” he said. “And now there’s so much information out there. You can go to a pot store and talk with somebody. You get there, and everyone’s talking about the different strains. ‘Oh, you get paranoid? Why don’t you try this.’ It’s cool!”
Yet another sign of our ever-changing relationship with weed in Colorado? Those quotes above. Joblon, Fiser and Armstrong are all friends of mine, sure, but they’re still talking about their love of marijuana under their given names in a major metropolitan daily newspaper — something they might not have felt comfortable about in years past.
(Trust a marijuana editor on this one: Getting people to talk pot on the record isn’t always a simple process.)
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Perhaps one of the most unexpected outcomes of the normalization of cannabis in Colorado is the elitism and undervaluing of our new freedoms.
Is marijuana becoming uncool to teens who hear their parents talk about their “rad, new vape pen”? Are we all losing historical perspective on how huge this whole thing is? Have adults become so accustomed to having immediate, almost-thoughtless access to pot that they’ve forgotten that it’s still illegal in more than 99 percent of the world?
“People are, myself included, a little too advantageous (of cannabis) sometimes,” Kayvan Khalatbari, who co-owns pot shop Denver Relief and runs stand-up collective Sexpot Comedy, said while sitting at Rooster & Moon coffeehouse in Denver. “It’s amazing how much public perception is shifting but also how people act.”
Less than a year after recreational sales started, we already are taking legal pot for granted. And it’s only natural, especially when you pass multiple pot shops every day on your commute and vape pens often seem as common as cigarettes.
Sometimes we need our friends and colleagues in other states and countries to set us straight, something they’re often quick to do. “Remember, it’s still not legal where I live,” is a familiar sentiment seen on social media.
And we do remember that — well, most of the time. And “remembering things most of the time,” my friends, is simply part of a marijuana editor’s job.