Pubdate: Mon, 01 Feb 2016
Source: Labradorian, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2016 The Labradorian
Author: Russell Wangersky
Page: A4


A pall hangs over Denver, Colorado. Lawlessness stalks its streets,
while stupefied potheads loll on every corner, stoned senseless on
legal weed.

Well, actually, no, it's not really like that at all. Really, it's
just another day.

Denver's like any other big American city: on the 16th Street Mall,
there are vagrants on the corners, Broncos and Patriots fans spooling
around while they wait for the start of the AFC final later in the
day. Coffee shops are setting out chairs in the unseasonable warmth,
and a robot street performer, painted entirely silver, is making plans
with friends for after the game.

At lunchtime, the bartender at the Rhein House is wrestling with the
beer lines: the cooling system has run amok, heating the lines
instead. Cold beer is spraying out of the nozzles as foam. It's going
to make for a hard afternoon selling a different kind of recreational
drug. And as far as legal weed goes? It hasn't had much of a mark,
beyond, well, money.

"Tourism and cash." That's the bartender's take as he dumps out
glasses of foam. "The federal government could come in and shut it
down at any time, but they're just watching the money." And money
there is. The taxes Colorado's collected so far? Well, the
government's own numbers show US$12.2 million in taxes, licences and
fees for December 2015 alone - $72 million in the first nine months of
this fiscal year, on track for close to $100 million by the end of
2015-2016. More than taxes on alcohol.

The kind of money that Canadian governments must be thinking about,
especially because the federal government has promised legalization,
and, with the current economic downtown, there's not one province that
couldn't use a source of cash. Especially a source of cash that's
brand new, on a product that is currently virtually the sole preserve
of criminals. There probably won't be weed tourists, not if the
legalization is nationwide - but there would be taxes, and weed stores.

The Euflora Cannabis Dispensary is like any other store on the 16th
Street Mall.

Its pixillated electronic sign, as big as any other retail store's,
lights up at 10 a.m., right around the time a man spins his wheelchair
to a nearby corner, carefully positions the stump of his leg, in plain
and bare sight, bluntly amputated above the knee, and starts his
patter: "Got any change for a one-legged man?"

Inside, the store is as sparse and clean as a cosmetics store:
marijuana on display in plastic jars you can crack open and smell, $20
a gram for different strains with names like Cherry Skunk and Joker.
Beside each jar, an iPad with a touch-screen menu for the different
effects of each strain - the side-effects, the different types of
high. With the exception of the security checking everyone's
identification at the door, it could be any store, anywhere.

Weed dispensaries have popped up all over the city, growth mirrored,
fittingly, only by the number of craft brewing operations: "It was a
church yesterday, now it's a brewery," the Rhein House bartender quips.

One street over, it's simpler commerce: "Wanna buy my all-day bus
ticket?" a woman shouts.

"I just got back from selling mine," her intended customer calls

On the street, there are a handful of people outside smoking. Most of
the time, it's the sharp, familiar smell of tobacco smoke.

Other times, the heavy, pungent skunkiness of marijuana.

And in both cases, the smell of taxes rolling in.