These notes form part of the series of conversations I have been having around here about how things are changing; conversations about the legalization of marijuana and the questions surrounding its commercialization in the United States. In a nutshell, I am talking here about the movement in Colorado but at the core of it all, I guess I hope it is about a bit more; this new chapter in American life.
Once one starts at it with those whom are around, one quickly realizes how perceptions in America regarding earlier defined fringe ideas are all askew. One also starts to get the feeling that as much as things seem to be swiftly progressing in terms of systemizing the unknown, they could just as soon be unraveling.
They all seem to say, BUT it can be helpful Baby…
Tiny is lying in her pajamas on the brown couch in her apartment. Her hair is to her butt.
Your hair is to your butt, hey I say.
Is it? She says smiling and touches the ends with her hands. She looks like Sissy Spacek, mousey and pale, like her muscle mass must be minor and her pals call her Whitey or Gosty or Pale Baby Blue. All the blinds are drawn and in the kitchen there are jumbo protein powder containers everywhere and a bunch of finessed cereal boxes that cheer, Be smart Eat smart. I come over around 10 a.m. and she is heating up a rig with a blowtorch to do a few dabs. Dabbing is when you press a piece of cannabis extract known as Butane hash oil and inhale the smoke. She dabs in the a.m. to get going she says. It’s really reeling right now in Colorado she says, it’s a way bigger high, it’s like a new high. She continues, “A Good high is a mellow high. You just don’t want to dab out.” In the bedroom to the right is a pitched tent that houses their grow – Tiny and her boyfriend, Kutti’s. Their mattress is on the floor next to it with these sunny yellow sheets and a purple sleeping bag that looks like the length of a small child and there is an American flag hanging in the room, a memory from Kutti’s time, serving. He is a veteran. Together they are also growing medical grade marijuana.
His Instagram reads PlatoonBuds4Life in the about section as well as #skunk #superskunk #cannabisheals #medicinal #maryjane #710 #420 #cannabissociety #dank #holistic #ganja #growyourmedicine #smartpot #cococoir #weed #stoned #weedfunny #lifted #baked #high4lyf #bubbakushy #sweetas and #HELLAhigh. When I look on Tiny’s Instagram, she has posted 169 pictures since last July of the tropical fish they have as pets over at theirs. The images are all up-close and bugged out.
On closer inspection of their home grow operation in their bedroom I come across the gun on the floor, next to the yellow sheets in their room. There is also a pair of pink reflector sunglasses and some food wrappers left over from Panda Express. The gun is Dougie’s, they say very casually. And who is Dougie? I ask. Oh, he just crashes with us sometimes, they say.
There is a hammock on their small balcony that is woven and tricoloured with a sort of Rasta cheer. It overlooks the pool and the plastic furniture and the sprinklers that decorate their suburban apartment block’s compound. Five bongs line their fireplace and they are clear and scientific looking and the carpet is beige and the lights are off – never on. They don’t want to blow their grow. The Girls! The Precious Babies, they sing song. “They give us purpose. People tell us so. It’s kind of word of mouth.”
I ask them if they consider cannabis a cure.
“It helps muffle the pain,” they say, as they put down their dabbing utensils and look up at me.
But does that make it clinically relevant, I ask them.
To which they pause for a considerable amount of time before responding. “Well don’t you think mellow should matter?”
Somebody said that if I wanted to meet some of the purveyors of what they called the Denver Flow Philosophy I should get to Cheesman Park and head towards the rotunda where people will be juggling. Go near 4:20 p.m. You will see. So I do and we meet there; kids called Brian with dreads and Nate who works at the Pickle factory and a long lean girl called Emily, the massage therapist and the others too, all 35 or so of them, all hula hooping and stretching and dancing with ribbon around the park, without music, without chatting much, without snacks or picnic paraphernalia. They are all wearing versions of exactly what you would imagine them to be wearing; hessian pants and tie dye and they still all have bellybutton rings, both sexes do and they have Om tattoos and yin yang’s and it’s earthy and all but there is something that doesn’t feel light or bright or as blissful as it would appear, but then again there is something that kind of does, feel light, that is.
When 4:20 hits, they all spark up and it feels like some homage of sorts.
Brian and I go and sit under a tree and he takes his sandals off. He works at a head shop in Colorado, called something like Urban Rippy. He has been into weed for a long time, he says, largely for its medicinal properties; that are 'what’s goody', but he uses it recreationally too. At the head shop they sell stuff like pipes, water pipes, e-cigarettes, detox drinks, synthetic weed, incense, papers – blunt papers – any type you can imagine, posters too like Hendrix posters and pot leaf posters, the classic stuff and weed of course, hash, oils and concentrates. Brian says, weed is just like drinking cups of coffee. That’s pretty much how we see it, he says. “You know, it’s on the same level as having a cup of coffee in the morning. You wake up; you smoke a bong in the morning – same kind of thing. I go to work and then I’ll probably smoke on all of my breaks and my lunch. I have like a little vape thing. I think it’s pretty discrete, so I can just go out to my car, real quick and hit it.” I ask whether he feels it has affected his clarity or ability to make decisions. He says “Oh no, not all. No, I’m fine. As long as you’re active – you know we juggle a lot, a lot and I mean that really activates your brain. As long as you’re staying active and not just sitting there watching TV all day, it won’t really matter how much you smoke. I mean, at least to me, it doesn’t really affect me at all. I mean do I seem that different? You know it’s like, once you’ve been smoking for so long it doesn’t really affect you the same way it affects someone that doesn’t smoke. Maybe that’s more it. It’s just like… Yeah, I don’t want to say it changes how I act or feel. I mean it changes how I feel maybe a little bit, but then I’m so accustomed to it, so I’m not sure. Does that make sense?”, he laughs.
The cannabis industry itself is referred to as The Wild West, I am told by key entrepreneurial minds that are placing the Colorado legalization at the core of their analysis. I get their cell numbers from some friends who live in the hills and are ripping their way through the west coast Art alumni. One of these think tankers, Dick, agrees to chat, off the record, for 15 minutes as he drives downtown in Los Angeles. He likens the cannabis industry to the vast potential of the Internet in the early 80s.
“Go to some place like Colorado. So hear; you know who Malcolm Gladwell is, right? So apply that thinking to Aspen, Colorado. It is the epicenter for luxury cannabis. Before anyone was doing high end, these guys were crushing. You look at a place like Aspen, where there are the nicest accessories in the world; hands down, it is a luxury market. They have done a great job there, putting together a superior program. The really great collectors live there. It’s just got great access to easy cannabis – Colorado feels good. Legitimate. Accessible. Luxurious. You know Hollywood isn’t there. Their dispensaries, the decoration – it isn’t there. Everyone in California thinks the dispensaries are gross. Gross! I look at Aspen. I want to hang out there. It is a new era for cannabis. We are smart enough consumers now, you know. We want proclaimed wood and mid century everything alongside our cannabis experience.
Ok I say and then after some time he continues.
“Look”, Dick goes on, “if you are finding this confusing, compare cannabis to post Internet art – how we rip art off the Internet as a medium now – compare cannabis to that. See cannabis and think about Richard Prince.”
Ok, I say, and I write this down in my book to remind myself. RIPPED = R.Prince. Later, the note doesn’t make much sense, but at the time on the phone to Dick, it very much did.
Nate only moved out here to Denver in June, left Oklahoma with his brother right out of high school because he didn’t want to drink beer and have a girlfriend or listen to country like all the other people he grew up with. At the moment, he is really into Bassnectar whom he considers the king of the electronica movement and is into smoking weed to open up and chitchat with people that aren’t shitty. When I ask why he feels good here in Colorado he says, “It’s not just the weed that brings us together, but weed helps us speak our minds in different ways. I used to be more, like secluded. I don’t know, in high school I didn’t make friends as easily. Once I started to open up a bit more with weed I felt less depressed, less alone.”
I ask Nate how he sees his future. I ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up and what he does now.
“Oh I don’t want to think about that”, he says. “I just want to think about today. It is such a beautiful day.”
The first time I smoked weed was down in this alley at the steps of Rangers Avenue in Mosman, Australia in the mid 90s. We had done a cab runner down Holt Street. I was wearing one stars and terry toweling all over. I can’t remember whom I was with. There used to be a park across, down near the BP Gas station and we sat in that for a while. Although I can’t remember whom I was with I recall trying to count how long it was going to last for and also telling myself to loosen up. Relax. Chill it out. Chill out now. It was pretty potent. Rash eyes and all that stuff like craving Nachos and Swedish fish, Magnums whatever else. It was budget. It was skanky. When I went home later I remember trying to use the water dispenser in my family’s kitchen and missing it about 500 hundred times which I found hilarious and also so stupid. I felt that way for a while and didn’t smoke much after that, I think because I wanted to move more. Plus I didn’t like the waves of anxiety it rolled with.
Today, people buzz about how the experience of using cannabis is far more curatorial.
I log onto silverpeakapothecary.com – the website Dick tells me is really where the future is at. It reads:
Socially responsible from seed to sensation
Move over merlot. Cannabis has arrived!
Whether for medicinal purposes or personal enjoyment, your safety and happiness are always our top priority. The art and science of cultivating cannabis is as complex and fascinating as making wine and brewing craft beer. Our horticulturists are focused on refining the genetics of our plants to produce proprietary strains with highly desirable attributes. It all begins with selecting prime seed and clone strains according to the desired traits. Throughout the propagation phase, we are constantly evaluating our chosen “babies” for health, volume, scent and cannabinoid levels. We hand harvest our mature flowers, meticulously trimming and artfully curing our blossoms for maximum benefit, a socially responsible approach to cannabis. We invite you to experience a new way of thinking and feeling about cannabis. We are here to turn apprehension into appreciation, sharing our knowledge with those who want to learn.
//Step into the light.//
One of the days I am in Denver, I meet up with Brett, through Tim who Baby and I know from back in the city. Brett says, “The thing about cannabis is you’ve got to be specific. It’s not about smoking whatever is available. You gotta look for something for consistency. You gotta look for something that doesn’t make you freak out.”
We are standing in his grow house on the outskirts of the city and it is hailing. It hails so hard we have to reverse our way out there on the highway, which somehow feels relevant. Brett is 27 and he has been in the business for 8 years. “I mean, almost half of our workforce came from out of state to work in this industry, housing occupancy was up 10% last month and they said it’s attributed to marijuana. A lot of people are moving here from all over the country and we see that in our traffic and we see that in what everybody talks about. I mean, marijuana is ALL anyone talks about.
I ask him about how he defines medicinal marijuana use.
“This survey broke down the medical side statistically to being 70% male, between the ages of 21 and 38 – so that tells you about how medical it is.
I write this down.
“But I mean it does cure pain and anxiety, and things that even 21 through 38 year olds might have. You can’t take away the fact that it has healing properties and alleviates pain. I don’t want to claim that it can cure cancer, but I’ve seen it. I use it as such and I feel I am a healthier person for it. I don’t get sick much. I just hit the bowl, or the new nectar collectors are pretty cool.”
What’s a nectar collector I ask? “They’re like a nail and you heat them up and you press it onto some concrete, and basically it looks like a hummingbird.” he says.
We walk into his dispensary, which sits above the grow house. It is a small partitioned industrial office space with one green hanging plant and a Tupperware container full of Snickers.
I ask him what he likes to smoke.
I love Chemdong, Sourdiesel… It has a really piny flavour to it, and it’s like diesel – that’s the flavour profile I like. It smells like fuel. It makes me feel less nauseous.
Less I ask? Yes Brett says, “I started smoking to help with my GIRD. Gastrointestinal disorder.”
I ask him if his family know what he does for a living?
Brett says, “My father works out here with me. We are all out here. We are all out here because we believe in this frontier.”
I get Sharon on the phone. She is 38 and is an entrepreneurial cannabis activist, helping build the trail for industrial, medicinal hemp. A mutual friend who lives out in Greenpoint and works in landscaping introduces us. We chat about the new moon first and the planetary energy for the month before delving into her ideas on the plant at hand.
Sharon says this, “Let me start by saying I can see how society uses cannabis as a tool to connect to one another but more to the point it is medicine. It is a product we should never have been divorced from. It’s not technology. It is something we have been using as a society for tens of thousands of years and it is reemerging into society, as we need it to. Since I was a child, I knew that things were a little off, but I couldn’t quite place it. How do we make wrongs, right? I used to write all my papers on how hemp can save the world throughout my developmental years.”
She goes on, “I want to explore medical cannabis. I don’t want to stand up for people getting stoned. There are 85 so far discovered cannabinoids in this plant that are essential for maintaining health in our lifetime. This plant has benefits to offer. You don’t need to get high from it per se, or as high as people have. I can’t say it can cure, cannabis that is, but I can say it can positively touch illness. We will get there.”
Do I think we will get there? I’m just happy you got to here, to the end of these notes. As we digest the notion of legalization – the Denver Flow – it is really about us all asking ourselves what is lesser evil in the modern world. And in facing that conundrum we must also inevitably consider if healing hands can outweigh irresponsible usage without encouraging mediocrity in us all.