In terms of actual news value, the first week of legal cannabis sales in Colorado has been a yawner.
On Day One, at 10 a.m. inside the Denver Kush Club, the staff was professional and the intent clear: Look around, ask a few questions, buy an eighth of an ounce, pick up a couple of edibles and move on. I didn’t feel hurried, but there were only five strains available, all at the same price ($50), and we were out of there in 10 minutes.
But beyond the lines outside the door, there was nothing unusual. The only thing notable was the uneventfulness. About as exciting as standing in line to buy concert tickets at Cervantes a few doors down. One guy walked out while we were in line and asked if anybody had any papers, and a couple held up their paper bags in triumph as they left, but that was about the extent of it. Not even a lot of high-fives. If you had come from out of town to cover it, except for a bust of an illegal grow in Kiowa County on Jan. 3, there was little to report.
I missed the 7:30 a.m. press conference based around the first legal purchase by Iraq veteran Sean Azzariti, but I joined a media tour at noon organized by Todd Mitchem of O.Pen Vape, a Denver pen vaporizer business, and Matt Brown, who runs marijuana tourism company My 420 Tours, that included a ride in a bus that looked like it could have been used in Boogie Nights, pass-around vaporizers and stops at an Edgewater dispensary and a Denver grow facility, an experience recounted by Josiah Hesse in Westword.
The day put a fine point on the still lingering hostility toward legalization from state officials. Neither Gov. John Hickenlooper, who opposed Amendment 64’s passing, nor Mayor Michael Hancock, who loudly opposed legalization, attended any opening-day festivities. There was no ceremonial first pitch for this industry.
And it even goes a little deeper than that. Original plans for the afternoon included a Cannabition celebration promoted by several business, including O.Pen Vape and My 420 Tours, based around a five-hour, adult-only private party, with DJs, food trucks, prizes and shuttle buses to retail stores to ring in the new year.
On Dec. 27, after plans had been publicly announced, the city of Denver delivered a letter to the club hosting the event, threatening its license if the show went on. Brown and Mitchem organized this tour as a replacement, and like everything else on the first day of retail sales of marijuana in Colorado, it went smoothly, and we were back at the O. Pen Vape headquarters south of downtown only 15 minutes later than the original schedule said we would. (Who says stoners have problems with time?) The governor’s official statement about the historic moment was notable for how little it said. “We have taken up the challenge to create a regulatory structure consistent with the guidance we have received from the U.S. Department of Justice,” his press release announced, with a suggestion of distaste and disgust for the entire procedure.
Hancock back-handedly praised dispensary owners and patrons in a press release, thanking them for behaving themselves.
“I am proud of Denver’s responsible and balanced implementation of Amendment 64,” Hancock announced. “I want to thank the businesses and consumers alike for acting responsibly and with great accountability today.”
What was he expecting? Owners throwing out free pot to the masses to get them hooked? Mayhem as people stormed dispensaries after having to wait in line too long for their fix? A headline like the one in the Daily Currant that said, based on a story in the Rocky Mountain News (hint, hint) that hospitals were filling with casualties and that 37 people had died on the first day of sales? Still, it was encouraging, I guess, that he even bothered.
And actually, according to a Denver Post story, some officials were expecting altercations outside shops from long lines of people perhaps desperate for cannabis. Which is pretty funny if you think about it. I doubt anybody who purchased ceremonially on New Year’s Day did so because they actually needed to buy some.
There was chatter in the national press about the first day’s high prices — $50 per eighth ounce was about average. It’s not that hard to figure out that no outlet knew exactly how much it would need or that all strains would be priced the same on Day One.
But the national press has already moved on to its next meme. And as more stores open and outlets get to know their inventory needs and begin to concentrate on obtaining regular, returning customers, you can expect prices to come back down and become more competitive with the black market. (If not, the black market that Amendment 64 was passed to eliminate will continue to thrive.)
This week repeats the story of legalization in a microcosm. Officials and prohibition groups oppose, balk, pontificate, snort and stammer. Health officials essentially tell parents to lie to their kids about cannabis. Everybody — except the cannabis users, who just want out of a black market — expect the worst, and, and … nothing happens.
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