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Monday, 03 August 2015 13:29

Decriminalize, legalize, socialize

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Day Two of the Emerald City experience was about socializing. Since we’d determined our designated driver was not going to consume on days she drove, Saturday was our walking and “cabbing it” day. After a leisurely morning with some taste-testing of cannabis flower with breakfast, we opted to explore our little neighborhood.
After an exhaustive search of dispensary aps, we set out to find the nearest place to buy more pot and survey the wares available in a legal market. We were barely out the door when a local strolled by.  Coloradans are friendly and he engaged us in conversation. We were headed a mile and some change to what we thought was the nearest cannabis shop. He suggested the neighborhood shop which was two blocks the other direction.
15_denver_lit.JPG1508_AMCH.JPGYou could walk right by Alternative Medicine on Capitol Hill if you didn’t know it was there. AMCH was clean, inviting, and provided us with plenty of information. They kept a full supply of “know the rules” materials. Katrina, our bud tender at AMCH wasn’t new to the industry. She transferred from the medical market. AMCH had a nice variety of flowers, creams, extracts, patches and some food products. We asked lots of questions everywhere we went.
After a brief lunch we were off to the Colfax Pot Shop. We were still less than a mile from our home away from home.
Every shop had a different set of procedures. In each location you had to show an ID. We definitely ended up in databases. Every store assured us the information was kept internally, but the information was critical to keeping their licenses. Interesting. Some places had an armed guard as the receptionist. Some places held our ID’s until we were done with our purchase.
I’m still not clear on all the rules for possession, use and purchase of cannabis. I do know an out-of-state visitor is limited to purchasing seven grams per day. But that is really per shop, so unless they are sharing databases, you could never track the number of shops you visit each day.
Throughout the day, we kept looking for a place to socialize with other cannabis consumers. Our reservation for “Puff, Pass, and Paint” was on the horizon, but we wanted to talk to local consumers in a relaxed environment. We all brought dress clothes, so we could find a nice club and socialize. One rule became clear. No public consumption.
So, wait a minute. What about handling cannabis like alcohol? Isn’t that what we hear about Colorado?
Attitudes towards cannabis are changing slowly. Without public consumption how do we socialize and normalize cannabis use? In Colorado, no public consumption means you don’t smell a lot of burning cannabis as you walk down the street. It also means, no bars or public social clubs. Even members only clubs were shut down in a recent crackdown.
How do we teach people responsible alcohol use? It starts early and is repeated often. We make varieties of alcohol available, food products, beer, wine and liquor. Since alcohol prohibition ended in 1933, we’ve normalized its use. We’ve made it a social lubricant, built events around its use, and used the proceeds to fund parks and roads through tax dollars.
What role does the bartender play in normalizing alcohol use? Mixing us something exotic. Cutting us off when we’ve had too much. Drinking in a group, does that help us to learn the difference between responsible and irresponsible use?
Americans have very different experiences with cannabis. Some states like Colorado removed criminal penalties decades ago. Texas, Florida, and others criminalize possession of any amount of cannabis. If you lived in Colorado, the experience of having law enforcement rip through your car on the side of the road for a small amount of cannabis is very foreign. 
Throughout the adventure in the Emerald City, we asked everyone we met questions. How is cannabis legalization impacting you personally? I’ll be talking more about later.
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