to Inhale

Pot is legal in Colorado, so Linda Yellin flew there to try weed for the first time

by Linda Yellin
Photograph: Gary Taxali

Back in my college days, when higher education meant everyone was getting high, I was that drip at the party who’d say, “Marijuana? No, thank you. I’m high on life!” Or as my college boyfriend, Dan the Pothead, told me five minutes before I became his ex-girlfriend, I was a bum trip.

Somehow, drawing hot fumes into my lungs never struck me as a smart idea. And why ruin a perfectly good brownie? Plus, it was illegal!

OK, I was a bum trip.

So when my editors asked me to fly to Colorado to report on buying legal marijuana, I said, “Groovy.” It was time to redeem myself. I landed in Denver midday, ready to shop.

The sale of recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado on January 1 of this year. Residents can buy one ounce per purchase (about $375); out-of-towners are allowed a quarter ounce ($110)—though you’re free to go from shop to shop. The protocol at all of them is the same. Your driver’s license is checked to make sure you’re 21, but no record is made.

My first destination is the Denver Kush Club. It looks like a college-dorm version of a jewelry store—except the glass cases are full of mason jars. I’m the only person old enough to have voted for Bill Clinton. I learn from my helpful budtender (yes, that’s his title) that there are two types of marijuana: relaxing indica and energizing sativa. He has me sniffing jars of different strains with names like Chemdawg and Amnesia.

I ask one budtender, “What was your job before this?”

“Website designer,” she tells me.

“How do your parents feel about you working here?”

“Cool,” she says. “I grew up smoking pot with my dad.”

Not in a zillion years can I imagine smoking pot with Bernie Yellin.

“Cool,” I say, and purchase a joint.

My second stop, the Health Center, originally sold medical marijuana. Budtender Josh introduces me to Vanilla Fire, a sativa with a mild scent. “It tastes like grapefruit on the inhale and vanilla caramel on the exhale,” Josh says.

These aren’t budtenders; they’re sommeliers.

The ingredient list on Vanilla Fire: First is sea algae; next, potassium nitrate—which any Midwest-college grad (me) knows is fertilizer. The last ingredient listed is love.

Josh explains how you get around the fact that it’s illegal to smoke pot in public or in hotel rooms. He says you can create a “Jamaican hotbox” in the bathroom by putting a bar of soap on the shower drain (for scent), steaming the shower, running the fan and blocking the bottom of the door with towels. (Even I knew about the towels.)

At a shop called LoDo Wellness Center, I pass on the elixirs. Sparkling Peach? You’ll certainly sparkle. I buy a Joyful Walnut Bite at Good Chemistry and head back to my Jamaican hotbox, I mean, my hotel room. And then: Fuzzy. Happy. Nice. But...that’s it? Why all the drama? And why didn’t I do this in college? I’d try it again, but New York State won’t let me bring back any souvenirs. So I leave an unusual tip for the hotel maid and take off for the airport, surreptitiously sampling my Joyful Walnut Bite. An hour later, I’m flying all right, and proud of myself: I’m no longer a bum trip.

Linda Yellin’s latest book is the novel What Nora Knew.

Next: Delia Ephron on Life, Loss and Blow-dries

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First published in the July/August 2014 issue

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