Last weekend I visited Colorado for the first time. I didn't exactly hear chimes when I rolled across the state lines, but there was a certain coppery expectation hanging in the air as I-25 opened up on a deep green landscape glowing with promise in the afternoon sun. The pristine “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” sign was framed by a scene that could easily be on one of those postcards you find in Christian bookstores—light glowing through a cloud, a quote from 2 Corinthians about “the kingdom.” (In contrast, consider the New Mexico sign on the return trip: riddled with bullet holes and slouching before a plain of shrubs and good intentions.)
Already, my mood was improving. Back in New Mexico, our legislators had managed to pass over a stack of opportunities to legalize cannabis this year. Why? Some who opposed it feared teenagers would get their hands on it while others mumbled generalities about drug addiction. None would admit the truth: That they haven't personally taken the 20 minutes required to do the most minimal amount of research into legalization's effects on teen use (The Washington Post reported last December that teen use of cannabis actually dropped in Colorado after the drug was legalized) and opioid addiction (the day after I got back, NPR reported that opioid use dropped in states where cannabis is legal for medical or recreational use and is easy to obtain). Here, however, was a place where the people had taken a stand and struck back against our draconian overlords in Washington, D.C.
The effects of legalization were immediately obvious. Each town I passed through was packed with dispensaries. Every one showed the tell-tale sign of economic progress—irritating and constant road work. Last summer, Colorado announced they had collected $105 million in tax revenue from cannabis sales over the 2016-2017 fiscal year. According to Money, for the next fiscal year, the state will be putting $15.3 million of those tax dollars toward providing housing assistance for the homeless, $9.7 million toward the state's Department of Education to hire 150 health professionals and $7.1 million toward the Department of Human Services to end “the use of jails for holding people who are experiencing a mental health crisis.” Illegal cannabis sales will be targeted with $5.9 million of the revenues. (In case you've forgotten, two of our biggest social issues in New Mexico are our shoddy schools—last month 24/7 Wall Street rated the state's school systems at 49th out of 50 states—and homelessness—last year the US Housing and Urban Development Department found that New Mexico's homeless rate went up 9.7 percent in 2017.)
I was doing good on time, so I decided to stop at a shop located right off the freeway in Pueblo. It was called Strawberry Fields (2285 N. Interstate 25, Pueblo, Colo.), and it had the distinction of being the first dispensary I've ever seen sporting red branding instead of the traditional green. There wasn't a huge difference between this dispensary and the ones I've been to at home, except the prices were a little steeper than usual and there were some tourists with wide grins at the counter.
I ended up buying a gram of Crunchberry (THC: 22.3-30.79%, CBD: unlisted—$12/gram) before hopping back on the freeway and heading north again. I was on my way to Colorado Springs, where I'd booked an Airbnb that was “420-friendly.”
Once I'd gotten into town, I was surprised to find out that although it has dispensaries seemingly on every corner, all of them were medical only. Despite pushes from the citizenry, they have laws against selling recreational cannabis within city limits. Of course, this matters little when a short drive (10 minutes from my room) will take you into neighboring Manitou Springs and its 2 dispensaries.
I kept driving past them all day, noting the throngs of people and waiting for a lull that would never come. Both shops, Emerald Fields (27 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, Colo.) and Maggie's Farm (141 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, Colo.) were smashed with customers. New people were posing in front of them for selfies each time I passed.
I finally gave up and went into Emerald Fields when it seemed to be a little less crazy (there were two whole parking spots available). Here, I ended up buying the most expensive flower of my life: Tropicanna (THC: 23.8%, CBD: unlisted—$18/gram). After taxes, the damn thing ended up costing me around $20.
That night I sat on a porch and lazily blew smoke into the air—one of the quietest moments of triumph I've ever experienced. The Crunchberry was fine, but it was nothing to write home about. The Tropicanna, on the other hand, was like some new level of flower. I suppose the constant flow of traffic keeps most flower from aging before it's purchased, because this was the absolute stickiest and most dense bud I've ever enjoyed. It was also the first time I'd ever seen a legitimate purple phenotype. I've seen photos of these beauties—images of plants topped with purple buds so brilliant that you wonder if it's been ’shopped—but I'd never seen the real thing.
I struck the flint on my lighter before I'd even noticed. Then I got excited and ran inside to inspect it under a light. Sure enough, streaks of rich purple veined the bowl. I was quite taken. So much so that I almost couldn't bring myself to smoke it.
I got over it, though. It was a bright Tangie derivative that tasted sweet and citrusy. Its powerful effects hit me with the force of a supernova, and within a puff, I was coughing and laughing and crying at the same time. My mood was at an all-time high and I was feeling no pain. “Fucking fuck this place,” I said out loud to no one in particular.
Two days later I drove home without speaking too much.