Weed Isn't All That Scary

At pot dispensaries the people you really have to watch out for are the drinkers.



DENVER—It's 8:30 in the morning, I've just left a recreational marijuana dispensary, and I'm desperate for my regular fix. Luckily, the waiter is quick to deliver it: Coffee. Black. No sugar.

Weed? Never had any interest. I managed to get through four years of college in the 1970s without once trying it, and I'm a little old to start going to Phish concerts.

In the meantime, columnist Maureen Dowd of The New York Times recently showed the dangers awaiting middle-aged scribes who sample the local specialties. She had a scary paranoid reaction after scarfing a cannabis-infused candy bar in her Denver hotel room.

I get my paranoia naturally, from the National Security Agency. So even though it's been perfectly legal to buy and consume cannabis here in Colorado since January 1, I'll stick to caffeine today.

I traveled to Colorado to indulge a more expensive and pointless escape than drugs (fishing), but as a journalist I feel some obligation to investigate important developments wherever they occur. After an old friend and I arrived in Estes Park one afternoon, we looked for a dispensary on our stroll down the main street.

Seeing none, I asked our dinner waitress, who said she didn't expect the town to ever get one. Why not? "Estes Park is pretty conservative."

The next evening, in the funky college town of Fort Collins, I figured my chances were better. But when I asked a young man on the street for directions to the nearest outlet, he regretfully informed me, "There aren't any yet. Denver is the closest place you could find one."

Fort Collins, it seems, is in thrall to another mind-altering substance. It produces 70 percent of the state's beer.

Not that pot is unavailable even back in Estes Park. After recounting my Fort Collins experience to friends over dinner a couple of nights later, I was stopped at the salad bar by a bearded guy with a resemblance to Johnny Manziel. "I couldn't help overhearing your conversation," he said softly, "and I just wanted to let you know I can provide whatever you need." Come to think of it, maybe it was Johnny Manziel.

But for a legal source, I had to go to Denver, which has dispensaries that open at 8 a.m. on Sundays, early enough to let us visit without missing our flights home. In Chicago, they don't let liquor stores open that early.

Once in the door, we got a warm greeting and a request for ID to confirm that I am at least 21 years old. "Come on in," said the smiling employees. "Take all the pictures you want." Really? People have been asked to leave Wal-Mart for doing that.

Inside was a small room with glass cases, where a tall salesman with scruffy whiskers brought out jars of cannabis, explained their different effects—"This is more of a heady high than a body high," whatever that means—and held them up for us to smell. (A sign says, "Please do not handle the jars or bud.") A couple of whiffs was enough to make my head hurt.

The staffer also showed us a small jar of Blue Kudu Chocolate, whose label says, "Semi-sweet chocolate with orange flavoring. Warning: Extremely potent. Do not eat all at once." Dowd must be one of those people who refuse to read food labels and never comprehend that corn chips are high in sodium.

I asked the clerk whether the shop ever has problems with the police. "The cops are our best friends," he replied. "They want this to work." He assured us that people drive better, not worse, when they're stoned, and predicted that marijuana will be legal nationally in a year. Whatever he was smoking must be really good.

We went out and into the "Garden Viewing Corridor," which afforded a view of rooms full of plants under lights that cast a faint lavender glow. To me, it resembled an ordinary nursery. But of course this is not an ordinary establishment. It's a legal outlet for a recreational drug that has long been the target of prohibition.

An affable security guard dressed in shorts and a T-shirt told me he likes working there. "I worked in a psych ward before, and this is a lot easier," he said. Ever have trouble with customers? "The only problem we have here is people coming in drunk."

Got that? At the cannabis dispensary, the people you have to watch out for are the drinkers.

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  1. At the cannabis dispensary, the people you have to watch out for are the drinkers

    Some drinkers. When I was in college, I came up with the theory that everyone has their own drunkeness equation that can be plotted on a standard Cartesian grid with four quadrants: happy drunk, horny drunk, angry drunk, and sleepy drunk.

    Mine is pretty much a linear y = mx + b for sleepy.

    1. You forgot the Maureen Dowd category of drunk, dingbat drunk.

      1. The results are only valid for human beings.

      2. seriously, HM could you be more precise?

        are you saying happy-horny is an axis and angry-drunk is an axis?

        also your equation is shit. maybe you meant y=x? m and b are left undefined in your post. m could be 1 or -1. those lines pass thru different quadrants.

        If you mean to construct an idea the least you could do is communicate it in full.

        I want to tell you a very special thing about yourself and how you always

    2. You may want to retake linear algebra. You’d need 4 different grids, with each one having “degree of intoxication” on the x-axis for all of them, but with the y-axis being, happy, horny, angry and sleepy.

      You also couldn’t really have 4 quadrants, as it’s basically impossible to have a negative degree of intoxication, so there would be no negative x-axis.

      If you allowed the plot to expand into higher dimensions, you could put degree of intoxication on the x, sleepiness on the y, and happy on the z and account for two. You’d been a 5-dimensional hyperplot to account for all your axis though.

      1. *you’d *need* a 5-dimensional hyperplot.

        We also *need* an edit function.

        1. or proofreading.

  2. Let’s face reality here. Maureen Dowd is the same type who would, after one fruity drink, hit on every guy at the party, fall down, and then puke all over.

    So her reported experience with MJ is meaningless, and also, much hyperbole.

    1. If she hit on me, I would puke on her.

  3. Dowd must be one of those people who refuse to read food labels and never comprehend that corn chips are high in sodium.

    I’m one of those who learned so much crap from reading warning labels that I stopped believing warning labels.

  4. “I get my paranoia naturally, from the National Security Agency.”

    Steve, may I recommend a few strains which actually reduce paranoia, and are useful medically to reduce anxiety and stress:

    Sage X Blue Rhino
    Holy Grail Kush
    AK-47 (doesn’t sound like it but it’s a VERY MELLOW strain)
    Chocolate Thai

    Here’s a few you’ll definitely want to stay away from:

    Anything Afghani! (except for the Holy Grail Kush, which has no paranoia at all)
    Anything Kush! (except for the HGK, see above)
    Skunk (this strain is probably itself responsible for over half of all marijunana-induced paranoia episodes. I hate that strain.)

    1. I’ve never had anything other than minor paranoia and usually am pretty good at reasoning myself out of it. While I wish I could chose from any number of strains of organic locally grown weed at the Saturday farmer’s market, I live in a state where I gotta take what I can get.

  5. He assured us that people drive better, not worse, when they’re stoned…

    Um, no. Maybe better than being really drunk, but that’s a given unless you’re Johnny Fever.

    1. There are studies which show stoned drivers to be only about 1/3 as likely to be in an auto accident than a sober driver – the same studies show drunk drivers to be between 3 and 8 times *more* likely than a sober driver to be involved in an accident.

  6. He assured us that people drive better, not worse, when they’re stoned, and predicted that marijuana will be legal nationally in a year.

    Not necessarily better. But it’s proven that driver’s on marijuana drive slower and this to some extent negates the diminished reaction time to at least to the degree that marijuana influenced drivers get in fewer, lower speed accidents than even unimpaired drivers do.

    1. To me it’s like putting on dark sunglasses while driving at night. With this reduced perception I’d drive more slowly and carefully, but it’s certainly worse than not having this limitation. Plus, it’s not fun.

      1. I agree it’s not fun. I don’t smoke and drive not because I can’t do so well enough, but because it makes me hyper-aware of everything around me, which I don’t enjoy.

        I certainly don’t think stoned drivers will be scourge that the LEOs make them out to be. There’s no reason to assume they would be when we consider experimental and statistical evidence to the contrary. Typically stoned drivers’ biggest failing is to drive annoyingly slow or be too hesitant to drive through a yellow light.

    2. Minor paranoia due to pot also leads to more cautious driving. You may not be paranoid at all and having a great time but when you get behind the wheel, a healthy amount of paranoia kicks in which causes you to drive more slowly AND very cautiously.
      Or so I’ve heard.

  7. Driving too slow for conditions is dangerous, and that’s what pot makes you do, so, no, not safer.

    1. And yet impaired driving related accidents decline in jurisdictions where pot smoking is tolerated.

      And in the case of regular users, they drive with lower speeds and fewer accidents and fatalities than sober drivers on a per capita basis.

      Insurance industry studies do take interest but the numbers tell a story that flaunts conventional wisdom.

      1. It even seems that regular marijuana users are better drunk drivers than those drunk drivers who never smoke pot.

      2. I know it seems counter-intuitive but while the position that stoned drivers are a scourge of death has a logical basis, it has of yet very little experimental validation.

      3. Even peer-reviewed experimental studies have concluded that not only is impairment of marijuana minimal, but that experienced users are safer drivers than most.

        It wouldn’t let me post more than 2 links at a time. Sorry for the numerous posts

    2. Driving “too” slow can be dangerous in some situations. Usually when someone behind you gets impatient and gets road rage. But if the roads are not crowded, there is no harm in driving 32 mph in a 40 mph zone.

    3. You must be one of those people who ride my ass because I am doing ONLY 5 miles above the speed limit, like every goddamned driver down here in the hell hole they call Oklahoma. Seriously, I listen to the traffic report in the mornings, and I can’t believe it. OKC is one third the size of Denver, and has at least three times more accidents, all because everybody here thinks they know how to drive REALLY GOOD, so they can just zip along at 20 over the speed limit, half a car length behind the person in front of them. I don’t even remember the last time I saw an accident on the interstate in Denver (barring snow), and I see at least 3 every morning here. Slow the fuck down, people. If you drive 10 miles an hour faster than me where its posted 60, you would have to drive at least 30 miles before you even saw a 5 minute difference in arrival time.

      1. that was supposed to be in response to Acosmist

        1. Oh, and stop tailgating me. The norm down here would get your ass shot in Denver. If I can read your lips while you cuss me out, you are toooooo close, and I bet my brakes are better than yours…

          1. I know most of you are not in OKC, its just late at night, I had a stressful week, and I am venting. Thank you for your support.

  8. As someone who has been in a psych ward, I think pot would have helped more than medications.

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