Pubdate: Fri, 26 Feb 2016
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2016 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Trevor Hughes


With Pot Legal in Colorado, the High Times Might Give Visiting Families Pause

BRECKENRIDGE, COLO. - Chicago-based travel agent and mother of four 
Lynn Farrell represents a kind of worst-case scenario for Colorado's 
ski towns and resorts.

"Who really wants to ski where everybody is stoned?" asks Farrell, 
president of Windy City Travel. "It is a concern."

It's the second full ski season since Colorado legalized recreational 
marijuana sales, and the cannabis culture - or at the very least, 
concerns about the cannabis culture - remains very much top of mind 
for many out-of-state visitors. Talk to East Coasters, particularly, 
and you hear worries about pot smokers lighting up in the lift lines 
or filling gondola cars with pungent smoke, an image at odds with 
Colorado's carefully crafted and otherwise well-deserved image as a 
clean-living destination for families.

And while most Colorado residents would tell you very little has 
changed since marijuana sales began, the perception this is the Wild 
West of Weed persists.

"If you've got a family going out ... they don't want to be on a 
chairlift with someone getting high," Farrell says. "There are other 
ski resorts out there. Why put my children in a position where it's available?"

Farrell says some of her customers are instead choosing Park City or 
Deer Valley, Utah, where marijuana remains illegal and parents don't 
have to worry their kids will be exposed to a drug still considered 
dangerous at the federal level.

In Colorado, marijuana and ski industry officials continue battling 
the concerns of people like Farrell. They insist little has changed, 
especially in ski towns where recreational drugs have long been a 
fact of life, never mind the heavy presence of the apres-ski alcohol culture.

Under Colorado law, public consumption of marijuana remains illegal, 
as does consumption of any kind on the federal lands most of the 
state's ski areas lease for their runs. That means smoking pot in 
lift lines, gondolas and on the slopes is illegal, and authorities 
are out looking for it.

So will you smell pot if you go skiing in Colorado? Possibly. Will it 
bother you? Depends.

New Colorado resident Dara Maxwell says she has no reservations about 
recommending that friends come visit for ski season. Standing at the 
base of Keystone Resort as her 1-year-old son dozed in his stroller, 
Maxwell says she's looking forward to snowboarding, legal pot or not.

"It doesn't affect my mentality at all. If people are going to do it, 
they're going to do it," she says. "I'd rather smell that than 
cigarette smoke."

As he prepares to take a few runs with his two sons, Houston-based 
dad Ed Yandon says he had no qualms about bringing the boys to 
Colorado: "It's a non-issue."

That's exactly what people like Rick Holman, assistant town manager 
for Breckenridge, want to hear. Breckenridge voters overwhelmingly 
supported marijuana legalization but also strongly signaled they want 
pot shops kept off the town's historic Main Street.

Today, most of the town's marijuana stores cluster in an industrial 
area with ample parking, well away from pedestrian zones and the 
slopes. And town code prohibits them from even using the word 
"marijuana" in their signs. The sole pot-related business most 
tourists might see is a discreet sign on a store downtown for the 
Breckenridge Cannabis Club.

"We've had very little change. It's only a different experience for 
the people who choose to make it different," Holman says. "It's not 
really there in your face."

That's a deliberate effort by marijuana entrepreneurs who understand 
the town's fortunes are closely tied to the tourists who swell the 
population by more than 600% during the winter. Cannabis business 
owners say there's no need to wave a marijuana flag, especially when 
they're selling a product so many people want to buy.

On a recent weekend, the local newspaper was filled with ads for 
2-for-1 drink specials from the dozens of local bars. Only one 
marijuana store was advertising, Native Roots Colorado, and it never 
mentioned what it sells. Instead, it used the phrasing "dispensary" 
and "Rec" to signal it's a cannabis dispensary selling recreational 
marijuana, along with medical marijuana.

"If somebody wants to patronize our stores, we're there for them," 
says Dave Cuesta, a spokesman for Native Roots Colorado, which has 14 
stores, including four in the ski towns of Dillon, Frisco, Vail and 
Aspen. "We want to be good neighbors and good members of the business 

In short, families who want to avoid Colorado's legal marijuana can 
easily do so, and that's largely by design.

But for those who do want to partake, most stores in Colorado are 
bright, well-lighted and staffed with "budtenders" happy to explain 
the different cannabis strains and their effects and to advise on the 
responsible use of marijuana-infused candies, chocolates and cookies 
known as edibles.

Alpenglow Botanicals owner Justin Williams, a native of the 
Breckenridge area, says marijuana has long been around. But now 
people talk openly about it - and he employs 25 people and pays taxes.

"I don't want to be the black sheep in the community," Williams says 
from behind the counter of his sunny store as clerks stock shelves 
with marijuana strains like Strawberry Cough and Mango Kush. "This is 
a family-friendly town, and we want people to come here."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom