Denver (Guest Post)

Guest post

I was lucky enough to spend my time in Chicago with one of my best friends, Todd. He offered to write a guest blog on Denver, and introduces himself here: I have known David since 1999 when we were both studying with the Open University while living in Copenhagen. He was studying criminology and I sociology. We have managed to have fun on a number of continents and remained like brothers since. Thus I am honoured to write a guest post on David’s blog. As if by some sort of cosmic destiny, the stars aligned for me to conduct research in the US at the same time as David in a similarly topical, if slightly less gruesome, subject matter. I am currently a PhD student, my thesis is a multi-sourced investigation into issues arising from the implementation of the recreational cannabis market in Colorado. I have been published in international journals and presented at international conferences on drug policy and will speak on cannabis at the first annual Institute of Cannabis Research Conference at the University of Colorado Pueblo next year. It is a week before California and other states will vote on similar ballot measures in what David has described as a toxic political environment. I am in town to attend the Denver Marijuana Management Symposium, Cannabis Growers Expo and interview senior cannabis regulators and industry leaders including Jorge Cervantes, the legendary cannabis grower who gets mobbed by his fans after a presentation. So I have a kind of unique perspective to offer on a visit to Denver.

You’re in Broncos Country

Locals will be quick to tell you that while cannabis is part of the State’s history, it does not define the state. To get my foot in the door I decided to experience Denver for itself. That starts and finishes with a game at Mile High Stadium in “Broncos Country”.  I ended up getting a lift to the game by some Broncos fans staying at the hotel. I had intended on using Duber (its like Uber but for Doobie smokers) but that had fallen through.  They were military and offered some unique insights into some of David’s themes – militarism and US exceptionalism. I had been aware of a base in Colorado Springs but apparently there are decent numbers in Denver as well. I assume it is something to do with the altitude that offers a strategic advantage although David, with his sniper gene, would probably be better positioned to make a judgement on that. Of course their truck was an enormous monstrosity, it is the Coloradan way.  After some consultation David thought the edgier contents of those conversations breached the publishing guidelines of this platform so the details are not the story here. It is the pattern of getting pleasure from killing people, it is about racial prejudice and it is about extreme misogyny. It reminded me of last time I was in Denver at a night club when an attendee said he wanted to rape some girl there, and having seen my face, followed up with “only joking I didn’t really mean it”. However, to emphasise that no one fits neatly into any sort of box, these gentlemen were also kind and proud and very helpful to me. I did wonder if they would have been so magnanimous had my skin been a different colour. You didn’t need psychic powers to guess who they would be voting for in the forthcoming election.

Broncos game at Mile High Stadium in Denver

An essential pregame ritual in Denver is tailgating – no not following too closely behind a car, but consuming copious amounts of beer in the car park before an event. For me, I decided on some of Snoop Dog’s line of cannabis infused chocolate to assist in reaching a euphoric state although in truth a corpse could probably rouse herself in that environment. Talking of beer, cannabis and Colorado I was reminded of some of the discussion points in the academic literature regarding cannabis and alcohol being complements or substitutes, that is, if people smoked cannabis would they do so instead of alcohol or together with, and in what ratios. Several studies indicate that while cannabis consumed independently is less harmful than alcohol consumption, combining both substances into a session can have worse impacts. Until recently I hadn’t been aware of the significance of the craft beer industry in Colorado, or the royalty status offered Coors brewery, so it is a point I imagine alcohol companies considered at length as to whether to support or oppose cannabis legalisation.

They need not have worried and my reasoning reverts to one of man’s primal needs – thirst. Given Colorado has a very dry climate, beer is a commodity that is always going to be in high demand. Add to that “cotton mouth”, a common side effect of consuming cannabis and you have an almost perfect synergy of vertical integration. It’s so perfect in fact that one is drawn to contemplate conspiracy, especially when one considers the Governor’s background in breweries. Connect those dots … Indeed, statistics show alcohol sales increased in Colorado last year however the sample period also includes the Broncos winning Super Bowl 50 so that could well be a confounding factor in my admittedly not very scientific theory. Regardless, a clear observation has been a certain amount of lizard tonguery or should that be tongued lizardry?

I have been saturated by information on cannabis from insightful chats, conference presentations, inspections of industrial facilities, Uber drivers and the general openness of those involved to pass on their extensive knowledge through to personal experiments. Clearly there are a lot of smart people in the game however there is still lots of guesswork going on. Strain names and genetics are particularly hazy on credible documentation. Labelling is inconsistent and containing dubious information, while testing for both potency and contamination require highly complex sets of analytical procedures, that have yet to be standardised. Meanwhile, given the complicated steps involved in validation of cannabis testing methodologies, there is little incentive to refine or improve processes.

Cannabinoid extraction machine

Strain review – Jesus OG (veritas)

Bought from Peak Dispensary on Broadway in Denver. For detailed product information see image below – as you will note many contaminants are listed.

Strain was purchased on the advice of the bud tender/ health adviser to assist with sleep disorder. I had been diagnosed previously and offered prescription sleeping pills to address the issue – something that, due to fears of addiction, I was keen to avoid. The bud tenders said it was named because after you smoke it you wake up the next morning and say “Jesus what happened last night.” I had also told them I wanted a variety that didn’t make me feel groggy the next day, usually known as the stoners hang over. I was assured Jesus OG would make me wake feeling rested and energetic.

Cannabis consists of approximately 100 cannabinoids and hundreds of compounds. Little remains known about how these cannabinoids act either independently or in unison (known as the entourage effect). One such cannabinioid, cannabinol (CBN) has been claimed, at least anecdotally, to have a sedative effect and be particularly suitable for those with sleep disorders. However I did not manage to locate any dispensary that offered a product with CBN on the label. Indeed as can be seen, only two cannabinoids are listed with THC clearly dominant at 27%. Most people consider THC to be the component that correlates to disco time and 27% is an extremely high reading for flower (as opposed to concentrates). Some of the nuances on how to read a lab label can be found here.

Predominantly an Indica strain (often associated with “couch lock”), the bud itself from the container was dense, covered in crystals and very smelly – all normally excellent signs. When reviewing different varieties of cannabis it is important to try and remain as consistent as possible with baseline metrics. Ensure that dosage is the same, take note of whether before or after food, mood, and hoped for result of the medication. As mentioned, in my case it is the moderate to severe insomnia that requires treatment. The result? Yeah sure it knocked me out but I have never had trouble falling asleep, my issue is about waking up a few hours later and not being able to get back to sleep.  In this regard the strain, disappointingly, did not achieve the hoped for results. Perhaps if I had re-medicated in the middle of the night I might have gone back to sleep but I am not looking for a medicine that requires a 3.00 am dosing. Again, a more consistent baseline would have been if the experiment was undertaken in my own bed under more familiar conditions.


A homeless problem

The publisher guidelines for this piece hover around the 1100 word mark, and I have already exceeded that and tried to wedge a few more in via the author bio so there is much to tell and so little time to tell it. However there is one more theme I specifically wanted to touch on as I think it relates to some of David’s overall observations – homelessness. This is one of the issues that has been getting coverage in the context of marijuana laws in Colorado. Many people are quick to point to legal cannabis being a driver behind the large number of homeless people in the city. Others contend this was already an issue with the overall numbers down over the last 10 years. As always accurate data is needed and hard to come across, that is just a fact of any research involving homelessness. So the issue was on my radar before I hit town and I was curious to make any observations. Certainly I saw 3 or 4 large homeless communities in and around the city. I didn’t speak to any homeless people, although I did give $5 to the guy below in exchange for a photo.

Colorado Coalition for homeless

The Colorado Coalition for the homeless  established in 1984 would be a great place to start looking, however I unfortunately just ran out of time on this trip to follow that through. Undoubtedly this is another issue that includes what I think David called intersectionality, where multiple complex fields cross over. It is therefore simplistic to just blame cannabis, however we should be equally cautious of findings that singularly discount the plant as being relevant. Even just the obvious impacts of increased real  estate prices in Denver can in part trace themselves to the cash only cannabis industry and necessity for warehouse space. So that is my 2 cents worth on this matter, certainly some food for thought I hope.

Need cash for weed

So remember, Denver is not defined by pot although legal access is certainly a nice to have for a city when planning a vacation. Surveys by tourism offices demonstrate that travel to Colorado is still dominated by skiing visitors from out of state, however for the first time they are acknowledging cannabis. The Breckenridge region for example has a policy not to advertise cannabis activity but not to shy away from it if asked. It does not take a huge leap of imagination to envision a relationship of sorts between the snowboarding community for example and cannabis. But make sure to also enjoy the city for itself. Must do events include a Broncos game, a concert at Red Rocks, stand up comedy and craft beer (but those stories will have to wait for another time). If you are looking for the hard core nature experience you will need to venture a bit further from Denver into the mountains, so I will add that to my list for next time I visit Colorado.