Rocky Mountain High in Colorado

A search for pot in the Mile High City — with my mom

Photograph by U.P.images - Fotolia

“Did you know they have trash bins at the Colorado airports to dump leftover marijuana before you leave the state?” my 83-year-old mother, Marcella, asked me, prior to our departure on a five-day sojourn to the Mile High City. We were on our way to Denver, specifically to attend a three-day theatre festival, the Colorado New Play Summit, at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. But my mom had other interests, as well.

We hadn’t even entered our room at Hotel Teatro in downtown Denver, before she asked our Ethiopian cab driver (a woman), the front desk staff and the bellman where the marijuana shops were. Our cabbie laughed, stating that she never tried marijuana, but added: “Not to worry, there are LOTS of shops in Denver!”

Her queries continued upon our arrival at our hotel. The folks at the front desk were polite, but composed on the subject. Our bellman told us the one he’d visited was underground, adding, “They are everywhere!”

We were meeting one of my mom’s oldest friends, Sylvie Drake (a former theater critic for the Los Angeles Times who commutes to work at the theater from L.A.) during our stay. They’d both attended Pasadena Playhouse in the 1950s; my mom had smoked pot back then, since she hung out with a jazz musician (my father) and an artistic bohemian crowd. It was a big deal if you got caught with weed during that time. In fact, my mom once went around for two weeks with a joint in her pocket that she forgot about. Maybe she was stoned? So the idea that marijuana was now legal understandably intrigued her.

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By day four of our sojourn, we’d heard a lot of play readings, but still hadn’t seen a pot shop until a bellman, chauffeuring us in the hotel’s gratis car service drove past one close to our hotel on our way back from dinner one night. (The pot shops in Denver close at 7 p.m., so we couldn’t pop in).

With one free day and night left, we had one mission left to accomplish. I hadn’t been sleeping well (my father had been very ill and received a bad medical diagnosis the day before our departure) and my mother told me I should smoke some pot in order to calm down and sleep.

Our hotel was non-smoking, but one of our bellman told us the fifth floor had a catwalk and fire escape that one could go out on for a puff. “But,” he forewarned, "it’s kinda dangerous if it gets windy!”

A longtime family friend drove in from Boulder on our last day to meet us for lunch — and hopefully a pot shop visit. Fanta arrived and we went to The Kitchen, a very cool restaurant near the hotel that just happened to be located kitty-corner to the “pot shop” that had been pointed out to us a few days earlier by our hotel driver.

Posted on the glass door, next to a bright green cross (like the Red Cross), were a few messages for patrons: “2 strains left, 2 edibles per person and 2 grams per person.” The Lodo Wellness Center, where pot strains are reviewed like fine wines on their website, was practically sold out! We walked downstairs (“Wow!” my mom said, “you sure can smell the pot!”) to the basement level business and into a room decorated with Asian artifacts including Buddha statues and over-scaled vases that seemed like a trip back to the 1960s. We had to sign in and show our IDs (my California drivers license was swiped). A very friendly man, Don, greeted us and welcomed us into the spacious room.

“My title is 'Husband of the Owner,'" he laughed, offering a guided tour. There were two rooms off the main room one for “recreational buyers” the other for “medical customers.” Both sold the same products. On that day all that was left were the two strains: “Death Star” — a sativa indicia variety to calm one down at $22 per gram; and Dragon — the sativa strain for those wanting more of an “up” feeling. There were marijuana-infused hard candies ($19 per bag) and pre-rolled joints for $15.00. Glass pipes and T-shirts were also for sale. I took a sniff of the Death Star.

Don, who told us he bought “the first legal joint in the state” gave Fanta and I a tour of the growing rooms, showing us the “mother” plants blooming under grow lights, as well as those about to be harvested from the “flowering table” before they would be sent to the drying room.

“How are sales?” I asked.

“Far exceeding our expectations,” Don replied with a Cheshire Cat smile. “We have customers ranging from guys in business suits staying at the Four Seasons to kids with skateboards and backpacks. Our motto is: professional, discreet and secure,” Don noted, as he pointed out the security cameras and told us they take buckets of $20 bills to the county to pay the taxes.

You may be wondering if my mom and I bought some legal pot and smoked it. We decided against it, as our flight would be taking off in less than 24 hours. Besides, we were used to the days when a person had to be Sneaky Pete to smoke a joint.

Somehow, it just didn’t seem the same. Which goes to prove that legalizing pot hasn’t made pot fiends out of everyone. Some old habits die easy.