After a week in the brave new world of legal marijuana, I am happy to report that civilization as they know it out there does not seem to have come to an end. Last Tuesday, my wife and two of our twenty-something sons hopped a plane to Denver and drove through Rocky Mountain National Park to Steamboat Springs, where the wildflowers were blooming, the aspens leafing out, and the kayakers twisting and turning on the snowmelt-swollen Yampa.
The folks who run the place decided there would be no weed (legally) sold downtown. Smoking anything in public, especially in front of young children, is frowned upon. Indeed, the only visible signs of marijuana culture in the business district were a couple of t-shirts in the window of a clothing store, one a take-off on a Coca-Cola ad, “Enjoy Cannabis / Have a Toke and a Smile” (pronounced tacky by my sons), and the droller “Herb Patrol / elev. 10568 feet / Protecting you since…we can’t remember.”
To get to the nearest dispensary, you drive north out of town, past Elk River Guns and the local Church of Christ, to a warehouse strip called Downhill Plaza (downhill being a positive concept in Steamboat). The storefront under the Rocky Mountain Remedies sign admits you to a joint (as it were) medical-recreational shop — the medical part behind antiseptic glass in the back and, in the front, something reminiscent of an old-fashioned apothecary, with glass canisters full of recreational balls of hemp behind the counter and packages of THC-laced candy on the walls.
The place opened for business January 8, a week after legalization went into effect, and business has been good. The product is 100 percent local, in line with the region’s prevailing culinary farm-to-table ideology. After checking i.d.’s for proof of adulthood, one of the two young proprietors brought out canisters for the sniffing. A couple of grams of Astroboy and
Heavenly Haze White Widow and some watermelon sours later, we proceeded to the rather brightly lit head shop a few doors down for a grinder, a lighter, and papers. Altogether, there’s the sense of a long-dry town that has just decided to sell alcohol: legal yes, but not quite proper.
As for the other forms of culture in Steamboat, they’re thriving too. F.M. Light & Sons still purveys the best array of cowboys boots in the Rockies and Lyon drugstore still serves root beer floats and egg creams at its classic soda fountain. The Chief Theatre advertises a full complement of plays and concerts.
On Thursday, Off The Beaten Path, the local independent bookstore, was holding one of its regular members meetings. Upstairs in the beautifully rebuilt Bud Werner Memorial Library, dozens of citizens showed up for “Questions of Faith Religion & Spirituality,” a q-and-a session with a panel of local Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, and Course in Miracles (but not Church of Christ) clergy.
After our sojourn in Steamboat, we headed back to Denver for the wedding that was our raison de voyager. It was what might be called a Neo-Orthodox Jewish affair, complete with groom’s tisch, bride’s bedeken, and schtick — but mixed seating and dancing. That evening, a bunch of out-of-town boomers and their millennial offspring sat around a brazier of gas-fired coals, joking and reminiscing. A joint was lit and passed from hand to hand. It seemed pretty civilized.