While considering what I wanted to share with others while the turkey and mashed potatoes get cold, I couldn't help but think of what I'm most thankful for since Colorado voted to legalize cannabis. Sure, things could always be better, but my connection with the plant has never been stronger than in the five years since Amendment 64's passing, and the nearly three years since retail dispensaries opened.
I'm fully aware that not everyone in Colorado is happy about legalized pot, but there have been plenty of advancements in society, technology and pop culture since our state pioneered this step out of the dark ages.
We've been covering some of those advancements over the past decade in stories that you can find in our archives. In the meantime, here are seven pot-related developments that I'm thankful for as both a consumer and Coloradan.
Essentially a brown paper bag for potheads, hand-held coil vaporizers that heated small balls and chunks of hash were utilized in public and social settings a few years before recreational legalization, but the real boom didn't come until 2014, when retail stores opened. Adult consumers finally had access to pre-filled hash oil cartridges that looked strikingly similar to cartridges for e-cigarettes. Compared to burning flower, the discreet technique and hash oil's subdued smell made for a stealthy combo – one I've taken advantage of many times at the movies, baseball games and trips outside of Colorado's 420-friendly bubble.
Although law enforcement agents aren't fooled by hash-oil cartridges anymore and local governments continue to restrict vape use, using a hash pen is still a go-to for any pothead who needs a rip or two when time and privacy are lacking. As concentrate companies continue to improve the quality of cartridges and extractions for potent, virtually odorless distillate and pre-packed cartridges of live resin, a Stoner can't help but be grateful.
Everyone knew about THC going into legalization, but many voters unknowingly put other cannabinoids in the spotlight that would've been much dimmer otherwise. Cannabidiol (CBD) and other non-psychoactive cannabinoids are receiving much more attention and research than before, and virtually all of that has been driven by medical and recreational legalization. Cannbinoids such as CBD, cannabinol (CBN) and cannabigerol (CBG) are beginning to be used for their medical benefits, which include sleep aid and reducing bacteria, inflammation and pain. Dispensaries have embraced the CBD rush, with at least some combination of high-CBD strains, concentrates, edibles and topicals available at every pot shop in the state.
These new cannabinoids have also helped break barriers against cannabis prohibition and the plant's social stigma. Videos about CBD's effects in fighting epileptic seizures and testimonials from patients suffering from chronic pain and skin disorders about CBD treatment have convinced formerly staunch cannabis opponents to at least consider the possibility of the plant's benefit.
Thanks to federal and state legislative moves that have allowed industrial hemp farming and research, Colorado now has the most hemp acreage in America, according to Vote Hemp, and it's a leading producer of hemp-derived CBD products in the country as well. Hemp continues to show the world how fucking awesome it is in a way that transcends industry; it's capable of producing medicine, fibers for clothes, numerous oils, food and even the base for a highly-efficient form of concrete. Smoking pot might get the glory, but hemp's putting in the real work, and I can't wait to see what it has in store for us.
It's amazing how many people come out of the shadows after they're no longer in danger of getting sent to jail for a joint. I've seen people of all ages, shapes, colors and backgrounds frequent dispensaries in my three-plus years covering cannabis, and the diversity only grows as pot shops become more prevalent. I now smoke bowls with my mother when visiting at Christmas and openly talk with my Midwestern relatives about what strains I've recently reviewed or what weird products are currently on dispensary shelves. And senior citizens, one of the fastest-growing cannabis consumer demographics in the country, according to the Society for the Study of Addiction, are some of the most inquisitive.
The New and the Weird
Underutilized cannabinoids aren't the only ways to make innovative products with legalized cannabis. Infused product makers are persistently creating consumption methods that would've made you laugh five years ago. What started with tinctures and topicals has now turned into suppositories, water-soluble powder, distillate thc and, someday very soon, even inhalers. I marvel at the pace of technology in this industry, but sometimes I forget that it's playing catch-up after America pressed pause for almost a century.
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Colorado has collected nearly $597 million in cannabis taxes, licenses and fees from January 2014 to October 2017, according to the Marijuana Enforcement Division, with over $250 million spent on public schools and over $55 million going to surveys, research and public education. The state also recently earmarked $15.3 million for affordable housing programs throughout Colorado, while municipalities are using their local tax dollars to build roads, fight homelessness and fund college scholarships.
Have you picked up a Westword in the past five years?