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Rocky Mountain High: My first experience buying recreational pot in Colorado

The Giving Tree is a pot dispensary.

The Giving Tree is a pot dispensary in Denver. (All photos by Ben Reilly)

I’m going to preface this with the fact that I had not smoked weed in nearly 13 years.

When I did, I was a casual smoker, so this will not be a review of strains and their effects, but rather an account of the Colorado legal experience and what to expect if you plan on going.

Colorado became the first state in the U.S. to allow the first regulated retail sales of marijuana on Jan. 1.

Buds are sold in pill bottles.

Buds are sold in pill bottles.

There are two types of marijuana dispensaries in Colorado – medical and recreational – and each requires a license. The medical license allows dispensaries to sell pot to authorized patients. The recreational license authorizes anyone 21 or older to buy marijuana.

In both cases, the growing and selling process is closely monitored from seed to sale.

Before choosing a dispensary, I asked around and found one that was highly suggested – The Giving Tree. It was founded in 2009 and located just outside downtown Denver in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood. It is flanked by a liquor store and a florist.

Walking in, it looked like a waiting room in a doctor’s office with black plastic and steel chairs wrapped around the room. There were coffee tables and end tables with magazines, advertisements and menus for the store. On one wall was a bookshelf with a lot more literature, including “Do you have a problem?” pamphlets.

But something sets this apart from a doctor’s office – a bullet-proof service window where they thoroughly check IDs. Once verified, customers are buzzed in and greeted by bud-tenders.

Walking through the door, an overwhelming aroma of marijuana and candy greeted me. This was not your behind-the-dumpster drug deal, and the bud-tenders, who were helpful and polite, were far from your average dealers.

One gram of Pineapple Express

What started as a “Wow, this is real!” moment transformed into the average retail experience.

The Giving Tree boasts a large selection of edibles and a massive selection of pot strains. You can even buy pre-rolled bullets – a short, stubby joint – infused with hash oil. The bud-tender was quick to answer my questions and pointed me to Pineapple Express, a mild sativa that he said would give me a mellow high without much risk of paranoia.

Check out their extensive menu.

Cookies and Cream treat

Cookies and Cream treat

He boasted that all the weed they sell is organically grown in soil, which they prefer over hydroponics because he said they have better control over what goes into the growing process.

I purchased a gram of Pineapple Express for $20, and my friend, who joined me for the trip, bought a mellow chocolate called “Cookies and Dreams.”

The sugary buds came in a green childproof pill bottle, and the chocolate was in a plastic package. You’re also required to buy a child-proof, zippered, foil-lined bag. This way you can safely and legally transport whatever you buy. The bud-tender assured me the cops will need a warrant just to open the bag. While I was unable to verify this in my research, the fourth amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

Everything from entering the shop to ID check to purchase was smooth, professional and friendly. The staff was knowledgeable and willing to talk. The dispensary was clean, well-lit and well-displayed.

These zip locks are required for transport.

These zip locks are required for transport.

The weed and cookie were both great, just as described. I rolled two joints of Pineapple Express, and we cut the cookie in quarters. I smoked one of the joints with another friend who was with us, and my buddy who bought the cookie had half. We watched some movies, ate pizza and had a good giggling time. We all had not smoked or partaken in awhile, so the mild sativa treated us well – no paranoia, just a great buzz.

If you plan on taking a weedcation, be sure to do your research on which dispensary is recreational, medical or both.

It’s also important to remember not to cross state lines with your stash. Surrounding states are cracking down on people who cross lines with their pot.

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