Sunday, April 17, 2016

Colorado Marijuana Tours: Evidence of Cultural Change in the USofA?

Alan Feuer reports on a 3-day pot tour of Denver and environs (NY Times):
I found the options dizzying: In the two years since the state first permitted the sale of weed to recreational users, an intricate economy has rapidly sprung up. Dope-smoking ski buffs can ride to the slopes in weed-friendly charter S.U.V.s, and arriving potheads can schedule pickups from the airport through dedicated livery services like THC Limo. There are stoner painting classes, stoner mountain treks and stoner chefs who will cook you a four-course marijuana dinner. Visitors can avail themselves of mobile apps like Leafly and Weedmaps to track down nearby vendors or book their bud-and-breakfasts through websites like TravelTHC.
You can learn to cook of marijuana oil:
I noticed a similar phenomenon at the Stir Cooking School in the Highlands area, a very Martha Stewart-looking outfit — exposed brick walls, wide-wale wooden floors — that had recently embarked on a sideline teaching tourists to cook with marijuana oil. Our class that morning was led by a graduate of the Johnson & Wales culinary school, Travis French, who instructed us in the preparation of weed chicken tacos, weed guacamole and weed-infused jicama slaw. The students were another motley crew — in an upmarket, foodie sort of way: a husband and wife who owned a weed dispensary in California, a pot-loving lesbian couple from Fort Lauderdale and some married academics on a secret holiday from their small Catholic college in the Midwest.
mean, I got it: It was cool getting high without fear of being hassled by the cops. But was that really something around which you could plan a whole vacation? I understand that people go on wine trips, but generally speaking, they’re not popping bottles of shiraz the minute they leave the baggage claim. When I thought about it later, it occurred to me that what I might have been reacting to was the hard sell that Denver’s ganja-preneurial class was putting on these poor, weed-repressed out-of-towners, the way in which their stifled desire for pot was being commodified.
And then there's the high tech marijuana lab:
When we reached the lab, my tour mates stumbled off the bus and stood for a moment in the parking lot gazing at the 40,000-square-foot structure as though it were the Vatican. “Oh yeah, dude,” the cattle rancher murmured with a slow-motion nod as we stepped inside. There, we met Meg Sanders, the chief executive of Mindful, the company that runs the lab. Ms. Sanders, knowing her audience, told us that the site housed 8,000 individual plants of 50 different strains. This elicited an awe-struck silence from the potheads, into which she added, waving us on, “All right, let’s head back to Disneyland.”

The technical aspects of the lab were pretty interesting: cryogenic freezers, low-temp ovens, lots of fluorescent lights — like something you might find at a pharmaceutical plant or in crime scene photos. Ms. Sanders informed us that every seedling in the building had been tagged at birth with an RFID chip so that the state could monitor its progress from cultivation to retail sale. She was pretty interesting herself: a former financial compliance officer who, like many others, saw an opportunity in pot. “I had a passion for the plant,” she said as we made our way past a giant indoor copse of marijuana, “and” — this seemed especially important — “there was no glass ceiling. ...

There, on the shelves before the spellbound heads, was Mindful’s entire product line: transdermal pot patches, marijuana taffy, pot bacon brittle, all-natural vegan pot capsules, Incredible Affogato pot candy bars, CannaPunch cannabis drinks, a Bubba Kush strain of root beer, Wake and Shake canna coffee, Lip Buzz lip balm, Apothecanna pain creams, and, of course, a wide variety of hashes, extracts and smokeables.
In the larger scheme of things, however:
“For most travelers, marijuana is a ho-hum issue,” said Cathy Ritter, the director of the Colorado Tourism Office. “It’s a very small segment of our travel population.” When I spoke with her by phone, Ms. Ritter acknowledged that she hadn’t used state money to promote pot tourism because most of the funds would, by definition, be spent outside of Colorado and, as she explained, “It’s pretty clear that that’s a federal offense.”

Recently, the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce pushed a bill in the state that would allow producers and sellers to open tasting rooms, as wineries and breweries have, and yet the real work of turning Denver into a pot Napa Valley may in the end rest with people on the ground like Mr. Schaefer or like Pepe Breton, whose greenhouse lab we visited after brunch. Mr. Breton’s story was, by then, familiar: He was a former stockbroker who had gone in search of profit as a marijuana farmer.

But it seemed to me that he had a different — and slightly darker — take on the future of the industry. “The big boys are coming,” Mr. Breton said as we walked through his lab. “And when that happens, I won’t be able to compete anymore. I just hope I can sell at the right time and get a good price.”

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