Life in cloud city: Somewhere between 12,000 to 15,000 people exhale as the clock hit 4.20pm at the University of Colorado on April 20, 2010. Photo: Reuters
So you want to get high in a high-end way in the Mile High City.
You could call Dale Dyke and his wife, Chastity Osborn, a massage therapist, who run Get High Getaways. They gutted their brick house in Bel Mar and let it go to pot, refashioning it as a clothing-optional, or as Dale calls it, "textile-optional" bed-and-breakfast.
They're still waiting for their first big booking, but Chastity says they're busily adding amenities to create a "resort environment", including a stone labyrinth with a tether ball, a camera in the living room to Skype your friends stoned, an outdoor swing "where you can have a good time and catch a buzz", and "maybe a nerf horseshoe court".
They charge $199 a person a night – you have to be over 21 – and offer two rooms, 24/7 car service and a hot tub. They can give, rather than sell, their homegrown pot to guests.
Chastity will even serve her marijuana-infused "yummies" textile-free, if you like. (The couple are proud members of the American Association for Nude Recreation.)
"We want the higher-end clientele," 38-year-old Chastity says. "Comedians. Adult film entertainers. Musicians."
Dale chimes in: "We're trying to keep stoned tourists from getting lost in Denver and causing mayhem. Our motto is 'Don't come on vacation and leave on probation.' "
The blooming pot industry here is still more seedy than glossy. Yet the budding bud growers are eager to help Denver elude the stigma of Rocky Mountain Low, a shadowy place overrun by "The Dude Abides" hippies and Jeff Spicoli stoners.
"People are learning not to be ashamed," the 45-year-old Dyke said. "No more talking in whispers. We're moving away from the image of dumb stoner teenagers to older successful businesspeople who can admit they're stoners."
They want it to be a better Amsterdam. "That whole city," Dyke said, "smells like pot."
Some relatives are still leery. "My mom won't befriend me on Facebook," Chastity says.
But they are thrilled to be part of the huge social experiment transforming Colorado as jittery politicians press on the gas and brake at the same time, state government builds a regulatory system from scratch, entrepreneurs deal in Breaking Bad cash, and towns decide if they will allow retail pot stores (Aspen) or not (Vail).
"We want to be the Napa Valley and the Silicon Valley of weed," says Matt Brown, who co-founded My 420 Tours, which will shepherd guests to marijuana-friendly hotels and host special events like Stoner Bowl and a Valentine's weekend tour that includes a "Threesome With Mary Jane" party and a trip to glass blowers, where couples can design their own bongs.
Could there be a Facebook effect, where young people lose interest as older people rush in?
"There is something not cool about a 22-year-old," the 31-year-old Brown admits, "who has to wait in line for an hour with people his parents' age." Much less his grandparents' age.
Now that Coloradans can buy recreational pot, the mood has shifted from self-consciously therapeutic, medicating "patients", to self-consciously scientific and capitalistic, serving consumers. "Education managers" in white lab coats and marketing executives in suits are swarming in. Many use the more formal term cannabis and refer to themselves loftily as "the 420 [referring to cannabis consumption] community", so intent on setting a good example they could be Shakers.
"I don't want to use the word 'pot' or 'weed' or 'smoke' or 'joint'," says a pretty 37-year-old event planner who uses the nom de pot Jane West and owns a company called Edible Events. "If we redefine it as consuming cannabis, then maybe people will be more open to that. There are only so many hoodie-wearing stoners in town. This needs to be opened up to other demographics." West is especially interested in wooing women, getting them to equate cannabis with a glass of wine.
"Many women think it's something that makes you dumb," she says, arguing that women should leave the Valley of the Dolls – anti-anxiety pills and [insomnia medication] Ambien – and switch to "the Napa Valley of cannabis".
She wants to arrange corporate events, but concedes she may only attract cannabis corporations for a while. Her first big party, aptly held at the (non-smoking) Space Gallery, was Friday night. Guests could "blaze", as West put it, in a bus parked outside, which she had decorated with peacock feathers so it would look less "cheesy". They could smoke, vape and nosh on savouries soaked in sauce and cream to alleviate dry mouth. "Munchies for foodies," she calls it.
At a warehouse under construction in a spot that used to be a bakery, Dixie Elixirs is cooking up edible, drinkable and topical pot treats, trying to become the Coke of toking. With a big foil-covered Willy Wonka machine, they extract the THC from the plant and whip up products from chocolate truffles to bath soaks to massage oil, all in modern silvery packaging meant to scream "safe".
Nonetheless, Denver is the Wild West of weed. And things will be confusing, evolving and dicey for some time. As Dixie Elixirs chief operating officer Chuck Smith tells his team, "We're building the airplane while we're flying it."
New York Times