By Julia Purdy
Governor Shumlin has been quoted saying that legalizing recreational marijuana is entering “uncharted territory.” Other supporters have claimed that Vermont will legalize marijuana “the Vermont way.” The governor’s statement is completely disingenuous, since we do not lack for a crystal ball (now five, in fact). And the jingoistic notion expressed by optimists that we will do it “our way” shows an astonishing naiveté, as if Vermont “exceptionalism” will prevail and we will not be subject to the forces that operate wherever the street drug industry—legal or illegal—flourishes.
In the deliberations of the Senate Government Operations Committee, the immediate question should be: are any of the regulations proposed actually enforceable—and at what cost?
One very sticky wicket is the proliferation of new ways to partake of weed—or, more properly, its many potent byproducts, at least some of which are concocted to make it difficult to identify as a vehicle for the marijuana high, and all of which will require setting up a toxicology lab to test contents, potency, and “purity” of the product.
The Sept. 10-16 edition of the tabloid Westword out of Denver (westword.com) gives an authentic picture of the high-octane commercialized marijuana culture that is headed our way should we legalize.
In a section of Westword titled “The Stoner” a user seeks help finding a variety that doesn’t cause paranoia and anxiety:
Question: “Dear Stoner: I love the variety of strains in the dispensaries, but haven’t found a good head/body combination. I don’t like to become a zombie, but the sativas are making me a little too paranoid. Is there any pot that will keep me active without the anxiety?–Linda Lou”
Answer: “Dear Linda: They say that once you get the yips, it’s almost impossible to get rid of them. You wouldn’t be the first toker scared away from the mind-bending strength of super-sativas like Durban Poison, Green Crack or Sour Diesel, but you still have plenty of options, thanks to the boom in cross-breeding. Because of the psychoactive properties in cannabinoids, you can never fully predict how strains will affect an individual, but it sounds like you want a hybrid. Hybrids come in all flavors and indica/sativa ratios. If you aren’t a big fan of the indica comedown and subsequent nap, then you probably want a sativa-leaning hybrid or a fifty-fifty split, at the very least. I just reviewed a fantastic hybrid for this week’s StrainGang (see page 88). But Casey Jones and Girl Scout Cookies are two readily available sativa-dominant hybrids that have given me clear highs with almost no hangover, and Flo and Pac-10 are some near fifty-fifty splits that start out extremely cerebral and end with very manageable aftereffects. If that doesn’t work, then maybe cannabis isn’t for you.”
In a column in Westword called “StrainGang” the author reviewed marijuana products in much the same way that a connoisseur would review a fine wine or a craft beer. The reviewer made his purchase at a medical marijuana dispensary, Mile High Green Cross, that now purveys recreational cannabis as well. After describing one strain of marijuana buds (flowers) as “a vivid green blasted in a shroud of white trichomes, with small hints of purple inside the calyxes and a few orange hairs sprouting at the tips,” he made his choice. “I inhaled two Volcano bags at around 300 degrees, and each one tasted like spicy bark. It wasn’t a foul taste, but I’d hoped for more soil and diesel notes considering how skunky my car smelled. But the high was great nonetheless. I blew through preparing a chicken Caesar salad for lunch, ate it with measured ferocity and went back about my day with a stoney bliss that lasted into the late afternoon. Those looking for sativa effects and some appetite help without the paranoia need look no further.”
The ads for marijuana products and purveyors in Westword look like the pictorial equivalent of the garish strip malls strung out along the approaches to almost any Western city. Eclipsing the usual thumbnail classifieds are display ads, competing for attention and the consumer dollar with the same come-ons we associate with the old-time snake oil salesman.
One common category is the medical dispensaries-turned-retail-outlets and promoting themselves as MMDs (medical marijuana doctors). They offer bargain prices on such products as “Over 50 Strains Of Flower–Huge Variety of Concentrates and Edibles.” Nature’s Kiss (“Medical Only”) offers “Over 40 Varieties of Hash,” buds, joints, glass bongs and dab rings, “Mt. Medbar,” “Live Resin,” “Shatter Grams,” “Wax/Budder,” “Wana Sour Gummies,” “Charlottes’s Web,” “Apothecanna,” “Mary Janes Medicals,” and two free joints on the first visit. Options urges clients to switch caregiver and take advantage of their specials, which include flowers, concentrates, shatter. They also offer accessories such as vape pens and other paraphernalia and even special organic or hydroponic product.
Marijuana for beginners
Functioning like any other tourist industry publication, the Colorado Pot Guide offers a handy primer for visitors to Colorado, including where to stay, what to buy, where to buy it, and an illustrated encyclopedia of the cannabis pharmacopoeia, together with descriptions of their properties.
Concentrates are derived by extracting the potent psychoactive ingredient THC from the plant, using a hydrocarbon solvent such as propane or butane (lighter fluid). The butane extraction process has led to devastating home fires and even though it eventually evaporates, butane tends to leave a toxic residue in the product. For this reason CO2 extraction is gaining favor.
Butane hash oil, “honey oil.” So called because its consistency resembles thick honey. Used in vape pens. The Guide: “Forget smoking flowers. Let’s buy some hash oil and go for a hike.”
Wax. The end product of butane hash oil. The substance has a soft, waxy consistency and contains highly concentrated THC. Packed into an over-the-counter skin salve container, it’s easy to carry and use without arousing suspicion. It can be made at home, adding to the risk of contamination and unexpected side effects, including hallucinations, paranoia and psychotic reactions. The Guide: “It packs a big punch of THC.”
Dab or budder. A type of hash oil that contains about 70% THC. The Guide: “I took a budder dab and watched QVC for six hours.”
Hashish, hash. Resin extruded from the glands of the marijuana buds (flowers) and smoked as a powder. Afghanistan has perfected the process. The Guide: “I really want to try some hash from overseas to see how it compares to what we have in Colorado.
Clearly, recreational marijuana is a genie that will not be put back into the bottle. The wide-open spaces of the Wild West may be able to absorb it, but for a geographically cramped little state whose entire population equals that of Denver County alone, Vermont may well be biting off more than it can chew.