My Trip to a Marijuana Dispensary, the Happiest Place in Boulder
One of my longtime friends and writing partners is staying with me this summer while we both work on various writing projects. Terry is from Florida and is fascinated with Colorado's legal marijuana, so we determined to visit a marijuana dispensary. So here's the story of Charlie and Terry's Excellent Adventure.
The first thing to do is to actually find a dispensary. Contrary to what you might imagine, many towns in Colorado have no dispensaries at all. Boulder, however, is not one of them. Even in Boulder, though, there's not a dispensary on every street corner. (But Lyons, a few miles up US 36, is a counter-example -- we drove through Lyons on the way up to Estes Park and there was one on every corner. But Lyons is where all the Boulder hippies moved to get away from the startup companies.)
A little investigation revealed The Farm, which has been voted the best dispensary in Colorado three years in a row. It's a building that I think I dimly recall was a restaurant, back when I was a Boulder undergraduate and marijuana was something you got through a friend who happened to know someone who had some really outrageous weed, you've got to try it.... In any case, it's a building on Iris Street in the new commercial part of North Boulder. That chunk of Iris is a little cul de sac. It's a nice, clean building, quiet, and has a freshly paved well-marked parking lot and an attractively professional sign out front. It could be a little boutique or some other retail store -- and I guess it really is, when you think about it.
While we were there, we saw a fair number of people going in and out of the door, and, perhaps surprisingly, they were all roughly Terry's and my ages -- which is to say, not old enough for walkers, but old enough to have noticed how short our arms have grown when reading small print. I don't know -- maybe the younger crowd doesn't arrive during the day or something, but from what we saw, legal marijuana is a drug for established-looking adults.
Well, except for us: I was wearing a brightly colored tie-dye "Magical Misery Tour" tee shirt from the 2012 presidential campaign.
Marijuana sales are a little more regulated than, say, clothes for toddlers, and you learn that instantly when you walk in the door: there is a counter at the door with at least two people at the counter, checking IDs. Young, attractive people. Happy, young, attractive people.
Now, we presented what could have been a particular challenge, because Terry's dog Scooter -- a well-behaved dog who is normally happy to sit in the car and wait -- decided this was the greatest place ever and positively leapt from the car and ran in the door. We followed, quickly, but he was introducing himself to everyone. Terry apologized to the happy, young, attractive people, but they laughed and said he was welcome in the store as long as he was on a leash. In a minute we had Scooter tracked down and leashed and we could proceed with the paperwork.
Of which there's a surprising amount. The happy, young, attractive people, or in our case one happy, young, attractive woman named Sydney, looked at both of our driver's licenses to make sure we were over 21, swiped our licenses to confirm them electronically (there's a sign by the machine assuring us that they don't record our information, they're just verifying the license), wrote down my name and handed me a poker chip with a number hand-written on it. Sure, they could just use one of those ticket machines, but what fun is that?
Then Sydney reached behind the counter and produced a doggy treat for Scooter.
Marijuana dispensaries have some particular security issues, first of all because of their very portable, very desirable stock in trade, and secondly because of the way that the federal Operation Choke Point program affected how they can do business. For most of the last three years, marijuana dispensaries haven't been able to get bank accounts, due to the Justice Department's heavy regulatory hand making banks shy away. As a result, the dispensaries ended up with not only a lot of very valuable stock, but great piles of cash.
The careful checking of IDs goes with that. The age thing is part of it, but no one was going to mistake Terry and me for being underage. But they do then have some good idea of who is coming in.
The second part of the process is that the poker chip and number is our place in the queue to go to the actual room where the marijuana lives, which is called the "bud room." When my turn came, another happy, young, attractive person led us back into the bud room; I didn't get her name, but I did find out her title: she is a "bud tender."
By the way, not all the happy, young, attractive people are female, there were at least as many happy, young, attractive males with hipster beards and man-buns. It was just coincidence that we talked mainly to the women.
So, in the bud room, it looks a lot like a really old-fashioned pharmacy, back in the days when every pharmacist was a compounding pharmacist and the shelves behind the counter contained all the materia medica. They also have a chalkboard menu like a hip bistro, and a printed menu at each bud tender's counter.
Terry and our bud tender discussed choices; I listened in complete ignorance. I never smoked much marijuana, and my extent of technical knowledge is limited to knowing there was "good stuff" and "Kansas brown." Oh, and the happy, young, attractive people have no idea what a "lid" is. We left with one gram each of two different varieties for smoking, and a package of 10 chocolate-espresso-hazelnut-marijuana truffles. Made "above 10,000 feet on the mountain above Telluride, Colorado."
This cost us $56.10.
On the way out, we looked at the paraphernalia arranged at counters around the main room. The paraphernalia counter was staffed by Amy, a happy older attractive woman who said she was "the Farm mom."
Terry bought a cunning little wooden pipe, I bought a couple of refrigerator magnets -- the Farm logo on one, and their mascot, Cannibelle the Cow, on the other -- and some iced tea glasses. There were also tee shirts, and a whole counter displaying glass bongs and pipes made with the same techniques as laboratory glassware. I've always loved lab glassware and would have loved to buy one just to display, but they were expensive.
And so, that was Charlie and Terry's Excellent Adventure.
What struck me most at the time, and sticks with me now, is that The Farm really was about the most pleasant retail experience I've had ever. I've made a running joke out of "happy, young, attractive people," but it is true. Everyone was smiling, everyone was attentive, everyone was polite, and no, none of them gave the impression it was because they were sampling their own wares. I didn't even mention that while we were looking at the paraphernalia, Sydney was playing with Scooter, rubbing his head and giving him more treats.
To go all Boulder New Age, the whole vibe in The Farm was happy and cheerful and relaxed and fun. I didn't want to leave. I was ready to ask for a job application.
Whatever the management of The Farm does to select and train their staff, I think they should take over running Congress, the CIA, and the Department of Motor Vehicles. It really is the happiest place in Boulder.
Now I think I'm going to try a truffle.