Pubdate: Tue, 26 Jan 2016
Source: Western Star, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2016 The Western Star
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 2015-16. 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 back.

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.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom