September 8th is in sight, but what’s in store?

Colorado retail dispensaries vary from slick corporate style storefronts to shops that retain the “hippie head shop” motif

By Ben Tomkins

It looks like Ohio will be opening up medical marijuana to the public this September 8th, and it’s about time. For those of you who are getting antsy about the streets of Ohio turning into a glass and green wellness cross wasteland of dispensaries and paraphernalia shops, after the first week of September you can head on down to your primary care physician and get hooked up with something to take care of that anxiety. Everything will be fine, and very little if any consequence to the average person
will change.

You can feel comfortable taking my word on the subject. I just bought a house a year ago that is two blocks off of Colorado’s Green Mile, a short section of Broadway south of downtown Denver that has the highest density of dispensaries anywhere in the world. At one point, there’s eleven in two blocks, but keep in mind that just north of there is Antique Row, which has seventeen dusty antique stores packed into a small geographical area—a much greater hazard to health of the public’s lungs, if I do
say so myself.

When I write about legalization in other states, I find my first impulse is to waylay fears of diminishing curb appeal. The reason is that storefronts are about the only evidence of legalization I ever see on a day-to-day basis, and for a drug, that’s incredible. Before legalization in Colorado, when I walked my dog down the street in the evenings a few houses smelled like weed and most didn’t. After legalization, it was the same houses.

The only consumer-side people for whom medical legalization made any tangible difference were the ones already using it. The rest of us simply soaked up what they paid in taxes and had slightly better schools. On the supply end, property values and rents will probably go up noticeably in warehouse districts because marijuana growers can utilize those spaces very effectively, and marginally in some retail spaces as dispensaries open. In Colorado, these have been non-concerns compared to what upscale townhouse communities, craft breweries and gentrified coffee shops have done to those same markets.

But to the point: if you fancy ingesting THC, then you will spend the final few weeks of summer starring in a real-life version of “The Candy Man” song from Willie Wonka and the Super Lemon Haze Factory. Legalization—even within the limits of medical marijuana—creates a parade of options and the quality standards the regulated competitive market brings with it. Doctors may prescribe THC for your medical condition (“I know it’s a hangnail, Doctor, but I really think weed would produce the kind of solution I’m looking for…”) but how you get it into your system is between you and the creative geniuses at work in the marijuana industry.

If you prefer to smoke, you may no longer be shackled to whatever your idiot friends get that’s cut with compost. The medical stuff is good. There are three broad categories of weed that have been systematically…um…“tested and refined” by producers. Indica is generally soporific, Sativa (not Stevia) gives you a buzz and then there are all kinds of hybrids. I have lots of friends who use THC to help them sleep at night, and you probably don’t want Sativa for that. If you’re using it during the day to alleviate pain, you probably don’t want to fall asleep. Indica might not be the best choice.

That’s the beauty of legalization: you have a much, much greater ability to customize and control your experience, or if you prefer a more FDA-approved term, “side-effects.” I think it’s pretty obvious that most people don’t want to get accidentally blitzed out of their skull because today’s plastic bag didn’t contain the same stuff as last week’s. They want pain relief, a come-down at the end of the day, or a little bit of fun without getting sloppy and ruining everyone else’s Thursday night.

That’s one of the reasons a great number of people who use medical THC aren’t even smoking it. The THC oil extraction industry has exploded here in Colorado, and it’s in all sorts of products from drink additives to potato chips. The nice thing about oil is that it’s very easy to break products down into doses. The average edible has either five or ten milligrams per piece, and for the first-timer, one or two of those should be more than enough to get the desired effect.

I think Ohioans will really appreciate how chilled-out medical legalization really is. If you want to use, jump through the hoop and get your medical card. Nobody is deluded enough to make getting a card a real obstacle anyway. Besides, it’s cheaper than recreational weed, so when it does come time to open that door it won’t be the locals who are paying the bulk of the taxes. Legalization is about people calmly and quietly doing what they want to do with their lives without bothering anyone, and everyone else not concerning themselves with things that don’t concern them. That’s a pretty healthy way to live.

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Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at

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