In four months, adults in Colorado will be able to walk into a store, plunk down cash and leave with a drug that used to land people in prison. No one, though, is sure what the future holds. Will the new industry damage the state’s reputation, grow the drug culture, spread marijuana into neighboring states, intoxicate young people and spur more crime? Or will it bring an unrecognizable change, produce needed tax revenue, drive a stake in marijuana’s black market and extinguish unnecessary prosecutions?
“It’s like being sucked into a black hole. What is going to be on the other side? No one knows,” said Ry Prichard, part-owner of a hash oil company, TC Labs.
During the first week of January, when the first stores are expected to open in Denver, the world’s media will probably descend on Colorado to document the occasion.
Lines that form in the state for everything from new doughnut shops to ski sales are expected to wrap around businesses as customers queue up for the first buds.
“You are going to have the international media here for New Year’s Eve, and they are not coming for the fireworks,” said Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown. “Then there is going to be a photo that moves across the wire that is going to portray Denver one way or another. That is going to define Denver. It will be an image changer. There is no doubt.”
Rolling Stone magazine recently called Denver “America’s undisputed stoner capital” with two Jerry Garcia-themed bars, the same number of medical marijuana dispensaries as liquor stores and, of course, the Mile High nickname.
A grower told the magazine that the Platte River Valley running through the city has the highest concentration of marijuana on the planet.
“I remember the first day that I walked into a (dispensary), it blew my mind,” said Prichard, who takes professional photographs of marijuana. “Yeah, the shock of being able to see 100 edible products, 60 strains of marijuana, and being able to talk to someone who is knowledgeable about the product. It is going to welcome a lot of new people into the fold to understand how incredible and beautiful this plant is and how it has come so far from 30 years ago.”
Already businesses that cater to marijuana tourism are seeing an increase in interest — especially after last week’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice that the federal government won’t stand in the way of marijuana legalization in Colorado or Washington state.
Matt Brown, who started My 420 Tours in Denver, said he is getting e-mails and calls from around the world from people looking to come to Denver and experience the new industry.
“The demand has been ridiculous,” Brown said. “On our end, we have done zero advertising (and) made no attempt to seek media. But we are having hundreds of people a week hitting the site and people saying, ‘Please offer us some vacation packages.’ “
If everything goes as planned, stores will open during the first days of January — about six months ahead of Washington state, which also legalized adult-use pot last year.
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