I had never seen so many people so happy to stand in line for two and a half hours.
When I arrived at the Northern Lights Cannabis Company, just across from Sloan's Lake in Edgewater, around 2:45 p.m. on New Year's Day, I found about 100 people there ahead of me. A quick poll of those in line told me I'd actually arrived at a pretty good time -- the line was longer earlier, and got longer again after I arrived. My brother and I settled in to wait.
And wait. And wait.
To pass the time, I walked up and down the line polling people. No one in line when I asked was from out of state -- those folks either chose a different location, or came earlier in the day. Most, but not all, of us didn't exactly need the weed -- 80 percent of the people I asked had weed at home, or had a guy who could supply it (illegally) if so desired. No, these people were here to make history, with the simple, revolutionary act of buying 100 percent legal weed.
Despite the long wait, these were some happy would-be stoners. No pushing, no shoving, not even any dirty looks at people joining friends in line. Everyone was just happy to be there, even as they froze their asses off, because it was goddamn cold. Around 3:45 p.m. it started snowing, and by 4:30 the snow had turned into a full-on blizzard. Luckily, there was a Dunkin' Donuts across the way to keep us all caffeinated and donut-sated.
I popped in for a cup and asked the franchise owner, Josh Blanchard, how the festivities affected his business. Not surprisingly, it had helped: By his estimate, half the people in line had stopped in for coffee and/or food, making up 40 percent of his business for the day.
I finally made it inside around 5 p.m., and the experience was pleasant and professional. One employee took a look at everyone's IDs from my group (they let us in ten at a time), then pointed us back at the two retail rooms -- one for prepackaged "quick" sales, another for those with more time who wanted more options. I chose the latter, because after three hours in the cold, I was in no hurry to get out of there. Not until I could feel my feet, at least.
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The cannabis room had a nice selection of strains for sale (I didn't count, but by my not-connoisseur standards, the number of options was around "too damn many"), along with a small selection of edibles (a much larger selection was available for medical users, but apparently the edible manufacturers are still working out their own licensing issues). The employees were gracious and polite, if a bit harried (my request to get some sales numbers and other data was met with a polite request to "call tomorrow afternoon," which I could understand considering the day they'd had, and were still having), and every customer I saw was all smiles, despite the high prices and ridiculous wait. As one guy pointed out to an employee who apologized for the wait while bagging his weed, "Yeah, it was two and half hours ... plus the twenty years before it."
I watched three or four people made their selections, most of them dropping upwards of $100 on material, while I waited. Finally, it was my turn. "Give me a gram of the trippiest, headiest, most melt-my-brain weed you've got," I asked my budtender. He took my request for the smallest possible amount of weed in stride (I was one of those people here for history, not supply; I still had a bag half-full of gray-market weed at home and a guy I can call for no-hassle service at half the legal price) and he offered up something called Chernobyl, which seemed a likely suspect to fill my request. He rang it up -- the total was $16.02 for a smidge over a gram -- sealed it in a sweet mylar baggie and thanked me for my patronage. I thanked him back, dropped the change from my $20 in the gratuity jar, and headed out to see a line just a few people shorter than when I started the day, nearly three hours earlier. Seems "waiting until the lines die down" would have to wait for another day.
So, how was the weed? I have no damn idea. I'm a full-time dad first, part-time writer second and very, very part-time stoner dead last, so it may be hours, or days, before I can sample it. In all honesty, I'm not even too worried about how good it is. I'm just glad it's legal, and that I was there to be a part of history.
From our archives: Buying recreational pot in Denver at the Clinic.