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Doing a little Colorado Marijuana Tourism

When in Rome, right?  People who know me know I’m not a pot head – it’s just never been my thing.  But, since I was going to be in Colorado, I had multiple reasons why I wanted to check that whole thing out.  At the same time I’m writing this, I’ve already written an article on Advanced Mobile Healthcare‘s site that looks at effects of legalization of marijuana over in Colorado.  I’m not going to say it’s dry and boring, but it’s centered around the facts of the change.  This post, on the other hand, is centered around my observations of the environment, the process of buying product there, and well, even the product it’s self.  And, something new:  Kelly will also be contributing (I’m pretty certain I’ve never allowed someone to have input on my blog posts before.)  All her stuff is in italics so it’s a little easier to see who’s saying what 🙂

Strangers in a Strange Land

I’m from Kansas.  You know what’s not legal here?  Anything with THC.  Now, funny story:  I know a lot about marijuana, THC, and cannabinoids.  For instance, bits of trivia like: THCa is the precursor to THC.  Apply enough heat, make it dry enough, or add the right acid, and THCa becomes THC.  THCa isn’t psychoactive, but THC is.  Why do I know this?  Because the very first set of articles I wrote for my friends and customer over at AMH was a 3 part series on cannabinoids, and I had to learn all about it to write those (of course, same goes for some of the other articles I’ve written for them – I have to bone up on pretty much everything before I write an article for them.)  And, of course, over the years I’ve known some… interesting folks.

Starbuds after dark looks a little shady…

When I knew Kelly and I were going to Colorado, it was time to do some research.  I had researched places for us to stay, and we kicked the options back and forth.  Once we had a place to stay, it was time to research which of the Dispensaries to hit, what sort of products we might be looking for, what the cost was like, etc.  Yes, I budgeted pot in a trip budget.  Something I never expected to find myself doing.  And, I’m really not kidding when I say I put some research into this – I had us a place picked out in Pueblo, Co on our way to the campsite near Crestone, Co called – and I’m not kidding – Starbuds.

What I expected was something either like a liquor store, or something like a smoke / vape shop.  Neither idea was quite what it turned out to be.

When we walked in, there’s a sort of “waiting room” with a window and a door.  Someone walked up to the window, and asks us to sign in and show our ID.  Well, OK, sure.  Definitely not the thing I was expecting.  Then someone opened the door, and stopped us again – this time I was a bit shocked.  A decent sized guy with his badge hanging off a chain around his neck asked me for my ID again.  Yeah, I had a moment where my heart skipped a beat, because a police officer (off duty) was asking me for my ID as I was about to purchase some pot.  This was indeed a strange moment, but it passed.

The rest of the experience was pretty much more in line with what I was expecting:  the folks behind the counter were fairly professional (you can see the guy who helped us cheesing it for the camera in one of the pictures below.  I asked a lot of questions, Kelly asked a lot of questions, and they had pretty good answers for them all.  Even if we hadn’t have said “Hey, this is our first time here.” they would have known we were new at this. 🙂

I don’t have a gauge for pricing against what marijuana or THC based products should cost – but, I can compare it to alcohol.  A 750 ml bottle of something tasty and heavy in alcohol (such as flavored vodkas, which we tend to mix with stuff like fruit juices) costs between $12 – $18 here in Wichita.  Sometimes we’ll nearly kill off a bottle that size in one evening (which might sound like we drink a lot – normally, we have one or two drinks.  But, there’s times where I fire up the blender, probably once every couple of weeks, and make something special – that’s when we nearly kill the bottle.  But, since we have a drink or two every  other night, we’ve both got a fairly good tolerance.  Neither one of us are getting hammered, or even loopy.)    10 milligram of THC is considered to be a “dose” in Colorado’s legal terms, and Kelly bought two things that were edible gummies (more on that in a minute), each gummy being 10mg of THC and 10 of those to a container. I bought a vape that had 100 mg of THC, and each puff delivers about 2 mg of THC.

When I asked if I could take some pictures for an article I may end up writing, they not only said yes, he full on cheesed it for the camera 🙂

To get a sort of “bang for the buck” valuation on this, when we finally did imbibe (it would be a day before we did), kept track of it.  One gummy was enough to push Kelly well past the level we would have gotten drinking, and two draws off of my vape was enough for me (hey, I’ll admit it – I’m a lightweight, and I’m fine with that.  Being a “cheap drunk” isn’t always a bad thing. 😉 )  My vape cost $20, and Kelly’s stuff cost right around the same for each container of gummies.  That’s a lot of bang for the buck, in my opinion.

Even the off duty officer got into the action.  I had asked about vape juice, and vape choices (since I vape normally, it seemed like a reasonable way for me to imbibe), and the officer told me what I should actually buy is the reusable battery they provide, along with the refill cartridges because it was a better value in the long run.  I informed him there was no long run for me, since I was from Kansas and can’t take it back with me.  And, when purchasing, we had to show our ID yet again, and sign stuff yet again.

Honestly, I don’t think it could have been a much better first-time buying experience.

But I Got High, But I Got High…

The Inside of High Valley Recreational Cannabis in Moffat, Colorado
The Inside of High Valley Recreational Cannabis in Moffat, Colorado

So, yeah, we bought some.   That means it’s time to do the obvious thing… a day later.  You’d think we’d be all over that, but that night we had to sleep in the car because we got to the camp site way too late (that’s the subject of it’s own blog post).  Then there was other stuff going on, and eventually we got around to well… getting stoned.

Kelly had gone with two different strains – Sativa and Indica, one bottle of each.  I went with a hybrid in my vape.

Sativa is supposed to be a “mental high”, while Indica is supposed to be a “body high”.  The mechanism behind this isn’t currently know (particularly since marijuana research in the US is mostly taboo, and is based on self reporting rather than actual scientific study, or is studies done by groups who aren’t following scientific practices.)  I figured with the hybrid I’d get the best of both worlds.

Now, we tried our stuff two nights in a row.  The first night I had about 12 – 14 mg of THC.  Kelly had two Sativa gummies. (K: Tried one, but was impatient with how long it was taking effect. After about 15(?) minutes, I took another one. Come to find out, the first one WAS working. So when the second one hit along with the first, the effect was… intense.) How’d it affect us?

Well, we decided to play Gin-Rummy, something we do quite often.  An entire game of Gin-Rummy might take us about an hour and a half to two hours. One HAND of Gin-Rummy took us an hour and a half.  It wasn’t just me or her, it was both of us.  I was completely disassociated from time, and I’d describe part of the experience as “hyperfocus” (I have ADHD – I’ve had a few hyperfocus moments, but not a huge number of them.)  Everything seemed to take forever.  I’d notice the texture of the cards, or something in the room, or start calculating the odds of Kelly having a particular card, and just lose track of everything.  There were even a couple of moments I forgot Kelly was there.

Kelly: Davis got really quiet. Not moody or anything, but anyone who spends any amount of time in Davis’ presence is aware of how verbose he is. Chatty, descriptive, and laughing often. After 12-15 mg of THC? TOTALLY different aspect. Still Davis, but the silence was impressive.

To be honest: I really don’t care to repeat that level of stoned again.  It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t as fun as I’d hoped it would be.  I did end up with one of the side effects that some people have: heart racing.  It wasn’t super bad, just an accelerated heart rate.

We did get a lot of laughs out of it.  We played through the entire deck of cards (if you play Gin-Rummy, you know that’s hard to do), and Kelly discovered she had sat 4 or 5 cards aside at some point in the game, and didn’t notice until we had gone through the deck. (K: I had set down the cards I had in order to pick up the discards, and totally forgot all about them until I realized we went through the whole deck and were missing a few cards.) It was beyond a doubt the most insane game of Gin-Rummy we had ever played together.

After that, we crashed the hell out.

Kelly: I had what I would best describe as an eternal flipbook going on in my skull. The images were surreal, but only lasted anywhere between 2-5 seconds before morphing into some other strange image. Also, when I later went out to pee, I had a moment of panic trying to find my way back to our tent because I not only lost absolute track of where to turn, but had no sense of which universe I was in. Also, it seemed the entire endeavor from leaving the tent to getting back took two hours. Interesting point of note: once I had something in reality to focus on, the high took a back seat. But once the activity/perception got processed, I would drift back into the high very easily.

Speaking of that:  when she went to pee, I was aware of it.  I figured I’d give her a couple of minutes, and if she wasn’t back, I’d go out and look for her, just in case.  And then I stared off into space, and became disassociated with time again, and would slip in and out of that time disassociation thing, making it hard to decide if she was gone for a really long time, or if my since of time was bad.  That was probably the first moment where I finally got a handle on the idea I was disassociating, and started to be able to come to terms with it.

A couple of other effects occurred: Not only did I jerk a lot while drifting off to sleep, but after my little adventure breathing was an issue: in a rush to inhale more oxygen, my diaphragm would spasm somewhat.

The next day, we did it again.  This time, she only had one gummy of Activa (body high) and I only had 4 mg of THC.  The effect for me was much less powerful (duh), and more enjoyable, but we still crashed out after a bit.

I’ll note one huge difference:  when I vaped, it hit fast.  With the gummy, it took her quite a bit longer to feel the effect. K: I learned my lesson! The reason why I purchased two different types was to glean the difference between the two types of highs. The one previous time a hit worked, it was from a 50 mg piece of “black bar”, and had a hybrid effect. This time, it started to slowly affect my sense of balance, as I was progressively losing my center of gravity. Davis and I are standing around the fire pit, and I jokingly keep him updated on how many degrees I feel like I am off center (even though my actual body is actually standing perfectly straight.) Later that night, as we were getting ready to go to sleep, we notice how close the candles we lit to warm the room were to the mattress. Wanting to move the mattress back further down away from the candles, I had another moment of panic: sitting upright on the mattress trying to remember exactly how (and in what order) to move/arrange my limbs in order to get up, walk around to the head of the mattress, and move it. The jerking happened again, but not as often; still had the breathing issue. Davis also had it. Since it only happened when we were high, I doubt it had anything to do with the altitude. Once I was up and moving, I could easily focus on the task at hand like it was nothing; the second it was done, I was immediately submerged in the high again.

I’ll agree with Kelly here – performing a task wasn’t a big deal, and I could focus on what was being done while active.  Once inactive, well, I was my quiet, loopy self again.  If I drink too much, I may be functional, but it’s going to be a serious struggle (unless I have a big burst of adrenaline – if that happens, I’ll snap out of a drunken state in a heartbeat).  With this, however, slipping in and out of it wasn’t much of a problem – I’ll be honest, I much prefer being able to slip in and out of it.

Round Two

High Valley Retail Cannabis in Moffat, Colorado

Driving from the camp site to Crestone to check the place out, we ran across another cannabis retailer, High Valley Retail Cannabis.  Now, Starbuds was inside a city, but High Valley was kind of in nowhere land.  Moffat, where it’s located (this one – come to find out, just like Starbuds, it was multi-location company) has a population of 114.  Nearly across the street from High Valley Retail Cannabis was another dispensary.  Since it was in the middle of nowhere, Colorado (seriously, there’s very little out there) we decided to check it out.

The experience was almost the same as Starbuds:  walk into a foyer, sign in through a window, show ID, get let in, show ID again and sign for any purchases.  The two guys working there were pretty friendly and knowledgeable, though they had a lot less of a selection than Starbuds had.

At Starbuds, we had to pay cash.  I didn’t think about it much – I considered it a one-off part of the experience.  At High Valley, we had to do the same thing.  I had to ask about it, and we talked about one of the financial issues:  banks don’t like their money.  Since banks follow federal rules, and marijuana isn’t federally legal, they don’t want to deal with “drug money”.  Makes sense, and it suddenly makes even more sense to have an armed, off duty officer acting as security:  there a potential for there to be a shitload of cash in the drop safe at the store, and at some point, it’s got to be transferred.  It also brings up a question in my head that I’m going to have to eventually research:  if you can’t bank it, where’s all that money going?  And, are they paying all their bills in cash, or is it being “laundered” somewhere along the way?

 

It Must Be Everywhere

The idea of legal pot makes it seem like it’s probably being smoked, eaten, or drank everywhere you go.  That’s part of the debates I’ve heard against it.  But, while we didn’t run into a LOT of people at the campsite (see the post on the campsite I’ll throw up later), only once did I run into someone who was smoking it.  And they were stoned outta their minds.  But, in Crestone, in Pueblo, or any of the other places we went, I never smelled it (well, one other exception;  at Valley View Hot Springs, they’ve got a “smoke shack”, and that’s the only place you can smoke.  That includes vaping, so I had to visit the shack a couple times – it smelled of pot in there, but not hugely so.)  I never ran into someone who was obviously high as a kite.  It just didn’t seem to be that sort of a thing around there.  Of course, it’s been recreationally legal for a few years now, so the concept is slowly normalizing there.

But, nearly every town we saw along the way had a dispensary in it, including a town with a population of 114 (which had two.)  It’s definitely selling.

Was It Worth It?  And Why Document it All?

No, we’re not high (well, we are at about 8,000 foot elevation here.) In fact, while I’m all about selfies and stuff, there exists not a single picture of us stoned on the trip. It never occurred to me until I started writing the blog post and the articles. 🙂

Yeah, actually, the experience was worth it.  I’d probably imbibe on a more regular basis if I lived in Colorado – I’m not sure if it would replace alcohol for me, as even a small amount (currently) ends up knocking me out.

But, one of my motivations in describing it – along with it being on my blog, so it’s part of my permanent memories – is that I could share it.  I’ve had a number of conversations with people over the last year after I wrote the articles on Cannabinoids that could be boiled down to them saying “I should go to Colorado and try it for my (insert medical issue) since it’s not legally available in Kansas.”  For those who keep saying things like that, I decided I wanted to bring the “first time” experience to them – both what it’s like to buy it, and what it’s potentially like to use it.  Now, here’s the thing:  each person’s experience is different with product like these.  For instance, there some people (around 5%) who may develop paranoia issues when using marijuana.  Some experience negative reactions such as racing heart, allergic reactions (yes, some people are flat out allergic to it, though not many), and more.  On the other hand, the majority of people don’t have any such reaction.  For most people, it’s smooth sailing.  Don’t expect the experiences put down here to be exactly what you’ll get, but a sample of what it MIGHT be like.

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