There's no way to really tell how much Colorado's recent population surge has to do with legalized cannabis. But some locals see a connection. One of the lead articles in the May 31 Denver Post is about the huge recent spike in property tax, up to 89% increase. Also, Colorado now boasts the distinction of having the second-highest rental increase rate in the nation. The building boom here is nuts. The sharks have moved in for the kill, and keep coming as big money people smell blood in the pot business. One of the sharks has declared his intention to be "the Bill Gates of marijuana." And that ain't all. The whole socio/economic spectrum is represented, as itinerant trimmers come to work cheap and get stoned for free, and chronic multi-substance abusers with legal problems in other states figure what the hell, at least pot, like booze, is legal in Colorado. One less thing to get busted for. Beggars with cardboard signs everywhere, competing for busy corners. Anything helps. God Bless. And of course there are the large-scale buyers hoping to get away with taking the stuff out of state.
I'm told that Denver has changed radically in the past couple of years. Our editor used to refer to "Mendo Mellow" and indeed the folklore of marijuana is about relaxed, "mellow" humans, and that prime buzzword of post-60s New Agey-ness, consciousness. The omnipresence of pot here has produced nothing of the kind. It's all high pressure business. The ubiquitous pot shops are not yet allowed to take credit cards -- there is apparently some residual fear of the stuff in the deeper levels of the establishment -- and must deal all in cash. As with casinos, there is an inherent tension with all that money to deal with.
On the roads, as a veteran of Boston, New York City and L.A. freeways, I've never experienced such aggressive and angry driving. This state is most emphatically no John Denver song. The great national meth epidemic is here as well, even if the espresso craze hasn't caught on much. I do recall, some forty years ago, people trying to come down from crank by smoking weed. This didn't seem to work too well for them. It seemed not to be a compatible combination, rather, a chemical conflict.
Admittedly, the west coast is, generally, more experienced, better equipped to deal with eventual legal pot. Let's face it, an awful lot of people came to California to escape wherever they were from, and sure enough found a more liberal atmosphere, at least personal if not always political. One of my daughter's ex-boyfriends, from Poughkeepsie N.Y., believed that in the San Francisco region, any random person one meets is more likely to be smart and/or interesting than in any other American place. Whatever the reason, marijuana is old news and mostly regarded as no big deal, not at all a dangerous drug if you don't count the guns and booby traps involved in outlaw grows. But like the insane proliferation of vineyards and wineries on the north coast, huge legal pot farms would certainly increase the aggravation factor, not to mention traffic and the ecological issue. Pot snobs are as annoying as wine twits and I can just see the crossover effect, with well-to-do sybarites crowding the roads from wine tasting rooms to pot sampling venues. Is the criminal factor keeping such people away? One might think - or hope-so.