By Camilla Webster

It was my last day in Colorado. I had caught up with an old friend who is a healer in Aspen over a vegetarian tofu breakfast at the Spring Cafe. She’s considering selling marijuana at retail and has been using it topically with success for years. We had thirty minutes before my ride collected me from The Little Nell. “Do you want to go for a walk by the river?” Donna pondered. “Sure,” I replied. As we headed to the Roaring Fork River, I stopped and turned around to look at skiers swishing like black birds in a gigantic cloud that is Ajax Mountain. I remembered the marijuana I smelled wafting off a ski lift. “Actually, I’d like to go to a dispensary.”

“There’s the Silverpeak Apothecary on East Cooper Avenue in the little mall. It’s not open for retail business yet, but it does do medical.” Donna’s response was surprisingly low key.

I expected some sort of festival of celebration, a word-of-mouth shuddering through these small western towns, given that –within days–you could buy pot in a mall without showing a medical card. What seemed really wild to me was apparently just another day in Colorado.

%name Because it Matters: Inside The New Rocky Mountain High
Image courtesy of New York Natives, Photographer: Camilla Webster

So on a bright, shiny Aspen day, off we sauntered like two girls on a fascination tour after prohibition. We descended the stairs to a shop that reminded me of a small Kiehl’s or a section of ABC Carpet and Home in New York. Silverpeak Apothecary was elegant. Far away from Manhattan, I found myself in a virtual Willy Wonka weed wonderland, founded and owned by former New Yorker, Jordan Lewis.

%name Because it Matters: Inside The New Rocky Mountain High
Image courtesy of New York Natives, Photographer: Camilla Webster

Pipes, soaps, and Victorian style jars were displayed fashionably in a space across the hall from a coffee and snacks bar. Hipster t-shirts were on sale. We dove into the books area to admire tomes on the medical application of marijuana, and the beautiful set of recipes in Baked for items like Dreamy Raspberry Bars, Peanut Butter Cup Cookies and Mint Chocolate Bundle. Then we met Helen. Helen Roche, who also hails from New York, had recently finished what she described as a “required eight-hour training course” with the Silverpeak Apothecary to sell marijuana at retail. She was not a stoner. Helen was committed and serious. She was studying dosage, edibles and strains, and talking about store design and display.

“We do training courses for our new hires.” Zoe, the sales associate who calls herself a “guide” told me later. Zoe and another girl, Sarah, put the course together based on trial and error and personal research. “We definitely weren’t targeting stoners to hire, so most of our hires need to know about strain knowledge. When the public comes in – they won’t have that knowledge. We wanted to gear our program about educational knowledge. We have people from every walk of life. They used to smoke back in the 70’s and they’re curious about what’s going on. They have lots of question.”

%name Because it Matters: Inside The New Rocky Mountain High
Image courtesy of New York Natives, Photographer: Camilla Webster

Zoe, a former waitress and bartender from New Mexico, is dedicated to the rebranding of pot itself. Silverpeak calls its tools accouterments rather than paraphernalia. She prefers to be called a sales associate rather than a budtender, the new popular name at dispensaries.

“There is a definite misconception that people who use marijuana products are irresponsible,” Zoe shared. “The whole stoner image is changing. They are over 50, they are doctors, they are professionals and they are people who don’t sleep well at night.”

With so much misinformation flying around on the sale of marijuana at retail, I asked Zoe a lot of questions so that we could at least get a sense of the activities of the soon-to-be-popular dispensary.

“I help people on a daily basis” says Zoe. “We’re making history here and we really want to help the community and be safe and keep it out of the hands of kids. We’re building it, we’re raising the bar.” The Silverpeak Apothecary is expected to open in mid-March 2014.

%name Because it Matters: Inside The New Rocky Mountain High
Image courtesy of New York Natives, Photographer: Camilla Webster

Zoe shares what you need to know about legal marijuana:

The Marijuana Source

“Our property is in Basalt, when you drive from Holland Hills. Right now it’s a big pile of dirt. We will be building a green house there. We got approved for a 2,500 square foot greenhouse. They were in support of that to bring agriculture back to the community and they will be planting trees and you won’t be able to see it. Our actual farm is down in Carbondale and we have another one in Durango.”

The Red Tape

“The next county commissioner’s meeting is in early March. It’s a legislative thing. Its standing room only — 50 to 60 people. The county commissioners meetings address all types of issues — this is just one of them. They last a few hours. Normally, they address a few issues like a building permit. This has generated a lot of work for them. Most of them are in support and it’s been cool to see everyone voice their opinion.”

 The Law

“You have to be 18 years old to get a (medical) card. When we go recreational, it’s 21 or older. There’s no public consumption. You are not allowed to drink in public; you are not allowed to smoke in public. They will DUI you. It should be taken very seriously and that could be a big problem: There are tourists who are coming here. We’re going to have some problems with that for the first couple years.”

The Business

“In Aspen, recreational sales will be taxed at 34%. Medicinal sales in Aspen are taxed at 9.3%. Retails sales are expected to increase ten fold. We operate off of one POS (point of sale) system. We also have the shop next door. Most of these dispensaries, we have a line out the door. We get a call every 10 minutes to ask if we’re retail yet, I think at least 15% of the community will pop their head in the door.”

Zoe on the new and old popular offerings:

Concentrates

“Concentrate is hash. Our concentrates are sent out. A lot of the vaporizers have an oil cartridge, so you’re not getting all the carcinogens in your lungs. We also use a Rocky Mountain remedy called RMR. We have everything from butane extractions, from CO2 extractions and B extractions, which are called flake or a wax. They are clean and delicious.

Because it is a concentrate, you only need a tiny bit – and it’s the quarter of a size of pinky fingernail. Bubble hash is less potent but it’s definitely more natural and there’s more butane. Ours are $35 a gram – I would say it should last you a week or two, some people sprinkle it on a cigarette.”

Dabbing

“You use a blowtorch and a concentrate bubbler like a bong. You heat up the nail until it’s red hot (where you would put the bowl piece on the bong), and you have a dabber tool; it instantly touches the nail and turns it into smoke. It’s really blowing up. Roche clips are becoming null and void. The times are changing.”

Vaping

“It’s definitely becoming more popular; they’re putting more and more research to your health. It doesn’t have a smell, and people will vape in public and nobody knows and it’s more incognito.You can’t tell it’s tobacco or hash in the vaporizer. A vaporizer for flower, concentrate or oil is anywhere from $25 to $300. The Atmos at Silverpeak Apothecary is $125.

Edibles

“There’s everything from Swedish fish to cookies to brownies, they’re sprays for under your tongue. Chiba Chews you eat like a tiny Tootsie roll. That’s why we want to educate the public – some of these are very potent – you can’t overdose – you can feel really bad. For the person that is experimenting with edibles – eat half a gummy bear, take notes like, I ate it at that time and I started feeling like this at this time.

We have a truffle. We tell them do not eat this all at once. THC sticks to fat cells, you need to eat some cheese and some milk. There’s all these factors that go into the proper dosing.

We buy our edible products like Chiba Chew, Edipure, Rocky Mountain Remedies. There’s Gaia’s Garden, they put Phoenix tears in all of their products, it’s a high CBD – it is one of the products in Cannabis that helps people. There’s Simson oil, which is named after a man who had cancer and was using the products to heal himself. CBDs are extracted with different methods.”

Thank you, Zoe.

Meeting some New Yorkers at dinner, I asked about their dispensary experience. “It felt so strange to just walk in there and… the edibles. Wow.”

It’s expected that edibles will be the most popular at Silverpeak. I didn’t try any, but I did get a taste of history in the making. The buzz in Colorado at dinner tables and at the bars focused not on the purveyance of pot but on the future of legalization in New York. With news in the New York Times that taxes from legal marijuana sales would produce as much as $134 million dollars in the coming fiscal year for Colorado, all eyes were on the Empire State, our liberal attitudes and our own legal high…the smell of money.

 

Featured image courtesy of New York Natives, Photographer: Camilla Webster

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