Ninety-seven years since marijuana became a black sheep in Colorado, the gentle beast roams free again. In January, Doctor’s Garden Dispensary in Carbondale became the first Roaring Fork Valley business to sell retail marijuana under Amendment 64. Assuming Aspen’s regulatory process continues apace, Silverpeak Apothecary, currently a medical marijuana dispensary, will have earned a license to sell to the general public by mid-February. At these stores or elsewhere, all adult Colorado residents may now legally purchase up to one ounce (seven grams for out-of-state visitors) of bud, tincture, edible, or topical to burn, consume, or apply—just not in public.
Aspen has long held a laissez-faire attitude toward pot. John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” is Colorado’s state song. NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, has held its annual seminar in town on and off since the group formed in 1970. And even if you don’t fancy yourself an admirer, chances are you’ve hopped on the Silver Queen Gondola to catch a lingering whiff of Miss Mary Jane’s perfume. Medical marijuana arrived here in 2009, and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department has long maintained that policing pot possession—or any drug possession, for that matter—is not a top priority. So apart from ease and convenience for the average two-toke Joe, does the new law change much?
“People may have had access to marijuana from black-market sources, but they’ve never had edibles, tincture, and topicals,” says Silverpeak owner Jordan Lewis. “This community is one of the healthiest in the world, but I bet if you went into most people’s bathrooms to see what they have in their cabinet, there’d be a slew of pharmaceuticals. Marijuana represents a natural alternative for people who are looking for a better night’s sleep or to manage anxiety or pain.” And for folks just looking to have a good time? Them, too.
The cultivation of diverse cannabis strains—plus the advent of reputable sellers who provide specified highs—should further define the retail market. Gone are the days of getting blitzed off of whatever schwag one could find; those for whom a cannabis sativa buzz acts as a filter through which everyday activities—hiking the Maroon Bells, catching an adventure film at the Wheeler—are only enhanced can look forward to an artisanal marketplace not unlike those for craft beer or cheese.
“Legalization has been a breath of fresh air in terms of the hypocrisy we’ve seen in the criminal justice system,” says attorney, NORML legal committee cochair, and longtime Aspenite Gerry Goldstein. As with alcohol, he argues for accountability: “Rather than encouraging the youth of our fair city to indulge, perhaps this is a rational approach to education, where we can talk to them about the dangers of tender minds being exposed to any of these substances.”
In other words, don’t expect our streets to be filled with smoke.
“Aspen is such a small community with such a high profile,” Lewis says. “If we do this right, as a community we can set an example for the rest of Colorado, the rest of the country, the rest of the world.” You’ve come a long way from Cheech & Chong, baby.