Time to stop blowing smoke about legal pot

Colorado has more legal marijuana dispensaries than it does Starbucks stores. Keith Larson found that buying pot there was no big deal.
Colorado has more legal marijuana dispensaries than it does Starbucks stores. Keith Larson found that buying pot there was no big deal. AP File Photo

We were going to Denver for a wedding and a concert and I wanted to check out the pot scene. The cracks I hear about supporting Gary Johnson for president are mostly about his support for legalizing marijuana.

Colorado and I go way back, to a teenage “coming of age” camping trip with Coors, other “provisions,” and hitch-hiking girls.

It was The Seventies.

My wife and I lived in Denver after our first daughter was born. I was “becoming an Advertising guy” after my first stint in radio; a freshly-minted Yuppie pushing a stroller.

It was the Eighties.

Last week was my first time back since the 90s. A cannabis cloud floated over Red Rocks Amphitheater as the Avett Brothers took the stage, as one has floated over every concert I’ve ever attended. I braced for a night in a legal Colorado haze.

It never happened. There were occasional scattered clouds during the show, but fewer than wafted over Verizon Wireless in Charlotte when I brought my family to see Tom Petty.

A couple of days later I saw, squeezed between the upscale Washington Park Grill and Agave Taco Bar, a doorway shaded by an awning. “Lucy Sky Dispensary.” A dim stairway led to a small waiting room with a heavy, secure door.

My driver’s license was checked to ensure that I was in fact 21 years old no matter how Geezer I might have appeared to the Millennial clerk, then machine-checked to verify it wasn’t fake. The manager entered. She was friendly, clear-eyed, and business-like. She could have been running the floor at Harris Teeter.

“Come on in,” she smiled, opening the big door.

The pungent perfume of fresh cannabis washed over us. Display cases boasted smoking supplies, edibles and two dozen fancy glass jars of marijuana. Strains with names like Doobie Bird, Purple Haze, and – yes – Acapulco Gold.

What kind of high was I looking for, the manager asked quite seriously. Did I want to smoke or did I prefer edibles? How much did I want to spend? How long had it been since I’d last gotten high, because today’s marijuana is purer and stronger.

She weighed a gram of Maui Wowie into a modern cousin of the old Kodak film canisters; ten bucks for a joint’s worth. Like a pharmacist, she printed labels with content analysis and warnings, stuck them on the canister, and slipped it into a black paper bag.

“Just do one hit. See how it goes.”

I walked down the stairs into the light of day packing pot for the first time in 34 years, feeling fixed on me the judgmental eyes of The Establishment. Except, they weren’t. Diners, drivers, people strolling by, all had better things to focus on than some Baby Boomer with a bag.

At the wedding, there was a spot of rain but no passing clouds. Alcohol, however, was abundant.

As for me, the manager’s concerned advice wouldn’t be needed. I wonder if the trash haulers at the rental house found their surprise?

Legal pot in Colorado seemed no more a “thing” than legal booze here. And the possible legalization of marijuana is no more reason to fear a candidate for president than a willingness to continue a state’s legal alcohol system would be reason to fear a candidate for governor.

It’s 2016.

Sgt. Ray Framstad talks about Merced County's illegal marijuana cultivation.

Keith Larson – who has been sober nearly 34 years – can be heard weekdays 9 - Noon on WBT AM/FM.