By no means are we suggesting you should spark up in Barcelona, but if you are looking to “levitate” in Barça, then may we recommend this private smoke club on Avinguda Meridiana in El Born.
In true Barcelona fashion, this place is all about convenience and comfort. You put money on a guest card, and then can use that at the dispensary, which has every variety of the choicest herb available. Once you make your selection you can sit, roll, and relax in their expansive lounge area, complete with DJ booth, pool table, and of course, FIFA 2018 because we are in Spain after all.
So, I moved out to Los Angeles because NYC winter. Also it was time to open an LA office. Looks good in an email signature.
So of course besides changing your address, registering your car, and joining a gym, I had to get a medical marijuana card. Cause you know, LA.
I’m not an avid pot smoker. Sure, I went to college (sure, there were a few plants grown) but I wouldn’t say I smoke on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. Pot makes me cripplingly creative, which might sound great, but its exhausting. That being said, I really just was more interested to see how getting a card worked. It’s 2015, and I have the feeling that I’m living through a pretty significant change in society. The legalization of pot may (or may not be) something my kids ask about as they eat their morning marijuana cereal. “You mean pop pop that pot was… illegal?” Thats right little Gian-Carlo… once pot was illegal.
Q: So, what does it take to get access to buy pot?
A: about 20 minutes.
After doing a paranoid amount of research on the internet, I decided to go to ECMM (the evaluation Center for Medical Marijuana… “A Professional Medical Corporation” … ah America!). Located on Washington Blvd. in Culver City this is a pretty innocuous looking business happily sharing the street with a dry-cleaner and a coffee shop. You walk in and a nice kid behind a desk, who also obviously has a serious affliction that requires (an ample dose of) pot medication, gives you a questionnaire to fill out as you give him your driver’s license (mind you I have a NYS driver’s license… DOES NOT MATTER). The questionnaire is pretty basic; address, any medication you take, and what ails you. In my case, as a filmmaker and editor, I deal with sitting and working at a computer for a long time and holding a camera in weird positions that cause muscle ache. Oh the woes. After an 6 minute wait, a nice tall man with a clipboard walks out and calls “Roberto S.?”. I walk back into the depths of the office.
He is the doctor.
I walk back to a little exam room. There is an exam table/chair so I hop up on it. The doc goes “oh, no need for that. Come sit down with me at the desk.” … I like this already. He asks me, “so what ails you?”. He actually says the word “ails”. Like an apothecary. I like this. I tell him I’m a filmmaker/editor and have headaches and pain from sitting editing at a desk for a long time. Then we start talking about films, my career and where I live (apparently the South Bay is a secret place to live and I was very lucky). We talk about that for about 3 minutes then he asks “do you use marijuana now to help ease the pain?”
“Ok. Great. Are you familiar about the laws regarding medical marijuana?” he asked… “yes. I am.” I said. I definitely was. Being neurotic also made me a very proficient student. “Great,” he said “just stay away from cops and the DEA basically. Come with me and we’ll get you your card.” – that is exactly what he said. It was the kind of warning said so cool and casually you totally disregarded it, but it ends up haunting you later. Then again, I generally stave away from activities that get me involved with law enforcement so, no prob.
That was it. 11 minutes later I was back at the front desk paying $45 dollars for a certificate stating that this doctor determined that I had one or “more of various ailments that required the medical use of marijuana” to treat said condition.
“You want a card for your wallet? It’s an added $20 bucks?” the kid asked. “What does it do?” I asked. “Not much. You can use the certificate. Some places don’t even take the card.” he said. “Then… no. Thanks.”
The up-sell. America.
That was it. While I was there at least 10 people walked in or was in the waiting room. In 12 minutes I had permission to buy pot. Is this a cash cow? Hard to say Dr. Pasteur… Hard to say. On the wall was about 60 business cards. All dispensaries. The nearest one was around the corner.
Walking into Green Dot on Lincoln was like walking into a day spa. Tastefully decorated, soothing earth tones and potted plants, I was greeted by a nice girl who took my newly laser printed certificate and my ID and put me in the system. “Oh. ECMM. You went to the right place. They’re great.” Yes. Yes Jasmine they are. After a hot minute I was being buzzed into the “safe room” where she tells me “mention you are a first timer and they’ll take care of you.” – all in all things were going smooth.
The safe room feels cool. It’s basically a small box of a room, with an L shaped counter filled with Pot. Two tattooed and cute girls greeted me.
“It’s my first time.” I felt like I was about to have sex with a prostitute for some reason.
“Ok cool. So up here is our menu…” she pointed up at the biggest sign I’ve ever seen. 60 varieties of marijuana, broken into three categories (Setiva, Indica and mixed) with prices by the gram and by the ounce. Or was it a “eighth” and an ounce. Or a gram and a parcel? Whatever, it was like 18 bucks for a small amount and 60 for a larger amount.
“Can you give me like a starter pack? Like a little from each variety of your favorites?” I asked. See back in my day there was only one variety of pot. It was called “pot”. And it was a shade of green, and you smoked it, but that was pretty much it. It was like 1978 in a wine store. Red or white?
The wine revolution was happening before my eyes.
She takes out three bell jars and starts to rattle off “This is X998 from hum bolt, definitely more nutty than your other herb. Nice after effect, and smooth head. This is Green Machine coming from Kuchoo Oregon, small batch distributor with a citrus train that brings you at a higher altitude…” or some shit like that. Quite frankly I only heard the first two words as I smelled the jar and had my mind blown. First, When she opened the jar and presented it I held back the desire to laugh out loud. She was a pot sommelier and I was going to test the cork. Where the hell was I. So I did. Hoping that’s why she opened the jar in the first place. I had the urge to tip the jar back in my mouth, swoosh a few buds in there, then spit them out, just to see what she would do.
People are VERY serious about classifying their bud. That is a sign of a higher more sophisticated practice. Don’t believe me? Check out Leafly sometime:
Anyway, I stuck with just smelling them. I’m glad I did because pot, and the smell of it IS FUCKING CRAZY. What was really crazy was that all three of them SMELLED WICKEDLY DIFFERENT and unlike anything else I’ve ever smelled. So after some nodding and “oh, yes”ing as if I understood what the fuck she was saying, she put a few nugs of each in individual sealed bags and sent this noob on his way. She threw in a hash cookie, and I grabbed some gummy candy to play with. Then she said “84 dollars all together”. Oh right. It’s cash only. I remember (vaguely) from my trip to Denver that this was a cash only business. I still don’t know why the government doesn’t want in on this. Seems ridiculous.
“Shit. So sorry. Totally forgot. Where is the A-”
“Right behind you hun.”
Right. All figured out. I’ve been to Supermarkets that aren’t this well-organized.
“Here is a free joint for happy hour. Happy hour is every day between 4:20 pm and 6:20pm. If you shop with us at that time you get a free joint. Thanks and see you soon!”
A free joint. I mean, this was amazing.
19 minutes later I was in my car with a little brown bag full of week things and a certificate that says I’m allowed to have them. Kinda incredible. I felt accomplished in a weird way, like I took part in a movement that was happening. Mind you it was an amount of weed that would seem minuscule to the adverse user, but would last me at least 3 years. That wasn’t the point. The point was that this was an excercise of freedom, of living in a country that was embracing (however slowly) change.
And it felt good. America.
Coming home I took everything out and looked at it. It was all so nicely packaged I didn’t even want to use any of it. I was amazed to see that each jelly was 150 fucking calories, like a can of coke, and thought “that has got to be a mistake” or… the diabetes council has their hands in this somehow. Regardless living in LA wouldn’t be complete without having your marijuana carry card, and I can now call the Left Coast my home.
For information on how to use pot, this was a good place to start since none of this crap comes with instructions. Honestly, there should be instructions, a nice little panflet with pictures. Ikea style. Just cartoons. Right?
So, Denver. You go away for the summer and come back a cool kid? Looks like someone discovered American Eagle and leather wrist bands. Good for you.
On our last post in a series about Denver, we take a good, hard look at pot. Marijuana. Mary Jane. Buds. Chronic. The Cheech to my Chong. I went to Denver to find out really what the deal was with dealing, how the processed worked, and if it was, at all, interesting. It was, but perhaps not for the reasons you might think.
Without further adieu, how to buy pot in Denver in three easy steps.
Step 1) Find a pot dispensary.
This may seem like an obvious step, but trust me, it isn’t. I thought there would be shops that sold weed that you would walk in and buy said weed. Not exactly. It’s not like “hey, I need a new pair of sunglasses, let me go into this sunglass shop and buy a pair of said sunglasses”… apparently it depends on what kind of eyes you have. (long way to go for a visual metaphor, but I’m the kinda guy that’s willing to do it).
First thing to do is go to your trusty ol’ smartphone and download an app for finding weed (read that sentence again, then think back 10 years and realize that half the words in said sentence wouldn’t even make sense … dear God the future is bright). I chose Weedmaps because I trust reviews. It’s a great little app, and it does the job. For your consideration:
You can see that Denver has a few more dispensaries then NYC to buy weed (my guy delivers though, so, sorry Denver, suck it.)
Now you’re saying “Rob. You just said that it wasn’t that easy to find places to buy weed. It looks like it’s easier to get some El Chronico then it is to get a Starbucks Espresso.” Well, yes and no. What I didn’t realize is that there are different types of dispensaries; some are medical, some are recreational. These, for instance, are not places I cannot buy pot:
2) Get freaked out.
Number two is a fun one. Not everyone has to do it, but you’re going to want to. Once you actually find a pot dispensary you can legally purchase the goods at, it is important that you get a bit freaked out. The process is in no way what I would call refined or even enjoyable. I expected something more along the lines of my Brooklyn cheese monger, who goes over the particular characteristics of each variety, where it is from, and what wine is best paired with it.
None of that here.
Entrance into the shop is nothing less than what you should expect from an underground rebel base in Eastern Europe. You have to hold up your ID outside a generic, steel reinforced door, into a tiny camera with a key pad. You then state your name. You then wait for the longest 5 seconds of your life, and be greeted by the grating rattle of a buzz as the door is electronically unlocked. Inside the shop everything is super clinical. White on white on white. Super organized, devoid of any character or personality. It kinda looks like Phillipe Starck opened a head shop, sans oversized flowerpots. What really got me was the staff; they don’t want you in there, or at least, it seemed like that to me. Although it’s “legal” they have a hurried air about them that makes it feel like you are doing something totally shady. Mind you, this is before we got high, so paranoid we were not. This was real.
Now, there are dozens of products here. Dozens of strains. Dozen of edibles. Asking questions about them went something like this:
me: “Hey. could you tell me a bit about the different varieties you have here?”
them: “do you understand the difference between sativa and indica?”
me: “sort of…”
them: “well this side is indica, and this side is sativa.”
In the end we chose one gram of indica named Peaches and Cream, and a gram of sativa named White Truffle Hush, plus some cherry drop edibles. We paid cash, as this is a cash only industry. Here is something very interesting about legally buying pot in Denver; you see it’s totally illegal. The federal government still considers it a drug, so things like credit card companies and banks cannot lawfully take money in from the businesses. Therefor everything is done with cash; you buy goods in cash, they pay their employees in cash, they take bags and bags of cash from the store to the banks. I guess that’s why they are so fucking up tight. It reminded me of that scene in Lock Stock if Lock Stock and THX 1138 had a film baby (Ill let you all draw your own comparisons between those films. THX George? Did you know something we didn’t. No, of course not. Go fuck up another Star Wars will ya).
All in all the total was 70 bucks, which isn’t bad, but for once NYC wasn’t the most expensive place on the planet. One of the reasons is because of the tax, a whopping 28% that garnished about 2 million just in the first month for the state. Amazing that while federally the sale of marijuana is not legal, it is legal to tax it. Taxation like that would surely lead to tea party riots, save the fact that tea is caffeinated, and pot heads couldn’t rally if they were giving away free churros.
3) Find a place to smoke it like you still live with your parents.
So you’ve found a place to buy it, you’ve legally purchased your buds, and now you want to smoke it. Good luck! Denver, as far as I can tell, is a super clean, conservative city. You hardly see people smoking cigarets let alone lighting up a J on the street. We didn’t find any cafe’s like they do in Amsterdam, and I smell someone smoking weed on the street way more often in NYC then I did in legalized Denver. So, where to do it?
Yup. Like we never left college.
The thing about the whole process, besides having to find the right place, and the clinical/cold method to purchase, is that there really is no reason to smoke once you have it. That may sound weird, but I’ve been to so many other places in the world where smoking weed enhances your experience; the butterfly sanctuary in Santa Barbara. The Vondelpark in Amsterdam. The Natural History Museum in New York. For me at least, there is a recipe for life, and certain ingredients can be added to make a perfect meal. Denver, as a city, didn’t need pot. It had clean public spaces, fantastic breweries, and lot’s of great restaurants. While you can make the argument that pot could enhance all of these places, it’s kind of like adding Sriracha to any meal. You can do it… but… should you? Some things just go better together, and Denver with pot seemed like Yoga and Bowling. Sure they’re both fun, I just don’t see why you would do them together.
So off in our room we smoked our weed and got high. The weed was good and did the job, and riding around on bikes all day was a pleasant experience. I personally really liked the edibles, because you’d have one in the morning and all day you just floated through the city. I guess what I missed was stimulus. Pot, for me, always makes me hyper aware; my mind works faster (at least, different…), I run down streets of thought versus stroll down them. Denver is a pretty laid back town, spread out, with a pretty common pallet of culture and color. Maybe I’m used to NYC, but it wasn’t frenetic enough to energize me, nor was it laid back enough to sooth me. Pot just seemed out-of-place here, and while it was legal, I don’t think one person spoke about it, smoked about it, or even bothered about it.
I asked one kid at the bar what the deal was with legalizing pot; if they noticed any change in the city, or the people. She said, “you know, it seems like its been legal for a decade, because you could get medical marijuana for so long. Making it legal “recreationally” just was another day in Denver”. I guess that’s what I didn’t expect. In another city, the possibility to capitalize on a new market would be evident; new restaurants that were pot-centric, special pot-head movie nights, and of course, pot mini-golf. From the outside Denver looked like any other quiet city in the world, who’s mini-golf had 9 holes just like it did in the Bible. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but if you’re looking for something different, the only thing that is really different about Denver these days is how much it was like yesterday.
P.S. Upon leaving we threw out our pot, most of it unconsumed, and we felt horrible about it. We wondered how much pot goes wasted for travelers who cannot bring their goods home with them. Our cabbie (who was ethiopian, and apparently, so are most of the cabbies in Denver, which I found super interesting) told us that we should have brought the pot with us back to New York, because, if they do find it they just take it away, no harm no foul. Of course this is not a recommendation under any circumstances, nor do I know if that is even remotely true, but he said that it happens all the time. He also said that most people give it to him before they leave, to the point that he is planning to open up his own shop outside the airport for people that are laid-over or snowed in. Now that is the American Dream if I’ve ever seen it and I wish Abdel-Alim the best of luck.
Continuing on our series about Denver (sounds so very 60 Minutes right?) we come to a very important segment (for an Italian)… foods. When someone says Denver, the first thing I think of is John Denver. The second thing I think of is John Denver eating a Denver omelet. The third thing I think of is him ordering it saying “Bring me my omelet!” and the waitress rolling her eyes, and Cookie, the fry cook saying “is that Denver acting a fool again?” and them having a good laugh, perhaps wading in each other’s eyes a bit too long, and in that precious moment living a life of love together unreclaimed, only to go back to the steam and grease that binds them to this unfair world. But the food in Denver is actually really good.
The first night we hit up Williams and Graham, a dope little speakeasy with a simple, delicious menu and a vast libation selection. Just like we like it. When you arrive, you are greeted by a dandy pair, that pushes a faux bookcase aside to walk into the back room. Kitch and fun, this place is designed within an inch of it’s life, but done perfectly so you feel like you are having an experience, rather than experiencing something at Disneyland. Our barkeep was a fine gent, who used ice that was seemingly mined by an Eskimo Michelangelo, hand-picked and polished. Usually I tend to like my drinks liquid and in a glass, but do appreciate the care taken here. What’s more I had the Pork Chop, and when done right, juicy and full of flavor, it is a magical thing. We were certainly off to a good start, so good in fact, we didn’t take any pictures. Those ice cubes went right to our heads. I did take one shot, in the bathroom, which was of the wall of comments; basically a very lo-fi version of Yelp which I adored.
W&G is up in the Highland section of Denver, which is, as far as I can discern, the Williamsburg of Denver. Yes, as a New Yorker I have the right, and the duty, to compare every city to my own as a point of reference. What I guess that means is that you will find chic, hipsteresque places and well-funded artistic types in your ranks when traveling these streets. We did. On our way back we got a fine view of downtown as Highland lives up to its topological name, and stumbled into a swank rooftop bar named Linger which, again, looked like we were in a Edward Hopper painting…
The next morning, feeding a well deserved hangover, we went to Snooze, which is a bit of an institution in Denver. It’s the kinda place that bellmen hate to recommend, and you know you’re there a block before you’ve arrived as there is a healthy line for pancakes. I will say this – it’s worth whatever wait you may have to endure. Having lived in both LA and NY I can say with certainty that I have a PhD in Brunch, and this brunch would have been a Breakfast Rhodes Scholar. May I offer exhibit A to the jury: their pancake menu.
Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes Buttermilk pancakes with caramelized pineapple chunks, housemade vanilla crème anglaise and cinnamon butter
Sweet Potato Pancakes Our signature sweet potato buttermilk pancakes topped with homemade caramel, pecans and ginger butter.
BanaNutella Pancakes Our Buttermilk pancakes filled with a molten, Nutella center and topped with caramelized banana cream and candied hazelnuts.
Literally cakes made in a pan. and you can get all three. On one plate. All three in your mouth if you want. Yes. Have your pancake and eat it too. They have an entire section entitled “The Art of the Hollandaise”. Finally, someone gets it. I had the Havana Benny which is shaved ranch ham and slow roasted pork served over a savory Swiss cheese bread pudding, topped with poached eggs, Dijon hollandaise and diced house pickles. After I finished slowly rubbing my face in it (as I was making out with my brunch), I ate it, and was in heaven.
That evening, looking for something a little more posh to see how eclectic Denver dining went, we checked out Beatrice and Woodsley (what is with the double names Denver? Everything sounds like a hipster folk band. Mumford and Sons much Denver?). We went down to the Washington Park area of town which harbors lots of cool vintage shops, bars, and tattoo parlors, which made me feel like we were in the right place, although, we couldn’t find it to save our lives. We walked up and down the block, three times, once through an alley, and nothing. Finally, we realized the place we passed 4 times was it; a yellow windowed restaurant that we didn’t even notice. Inside, past the Hunter S. Thompson window treatment, is a wood and linen dining experience that would be more akin to South Beach then Denver, save the amazing chainsaws stuck in the wall.
The service was impeccable and the food fit the service. Pimento Cheesecake (have you ever?) and Crawfish Bignets (have you ever?) were followed by Butcher’s Steak and fresh Chicken Pasta. A fine meal, and great wine to boot.
After this delightful dining experience we cruised down the street hitting up all the bars and finally ending at a place called the Punch Bowl. What to say about the Punch Bowl…. hmm… its like a 20-year-old with unlimited funds built a place to hang out with his closest 500 friends. And yeah, there is a doorman, at a bowling alley. Gigantic, full of games, bowling, darts, archery, video games, hidden bathrooms, several bars, and Jägermeister comes out of the walls. It’s a mecca to making poor choices. And no, there are no pictures from this portion of the evening.
The next morning (afternoon?) we needed some greasy spoon surgery, so we headed over to Sam’s No. 3 which is like a Denny’s on steroids. Not sure what happened to Sam’s No. 1 and 2 but I have a feeling Sam’s No. 3 beat the shit out of them, stole their woman, and their car, and came to Denver. This place was epic, the wait was a bit long for a greasy spoon, but the pot edibles were kicking in so all was good. Besides, they had crayons. Score.
When we got to the table we ordered the thing in the middle of the menu with a big starburst around it. After years of professional drinking I have learned that whatever is in that starburst is the answer to all our problems. It was basically a wave of fried, fatty foods meant to numb and comatose your problems, and yes, they did. Of course the Bloody Mary had a full plate of food in it as well. Seriously in heaven.
One of the highlights of the morning was when I told Tom, who had all the pot we bought earlier in his pocket, that there were two big cops right behind him. Brilliant. In my head it went something like this:
To go out with a bang for our last supper, we decided to find a fantastic steakhouse and just be men about it. We settled on the Chophouse, which could not have been any better. Of course, like any other business in Denver, the Chophouse brews their own beer, which was delicious and cold, and helped sooth the amazing cuts of meats down our gullets. One of the highlights was the onion rings, which required scaffolding to serve to the table. Like any fine steakhouse the service was amazing, and it made it a perfect last meal in the mile high city.
With bellies full, and hearts open, we left that night 12 pounds heavier but with a spring in our step. Denver, our stomachs thank you.
Beyond just going to the mile high city to get stoned (yep, dodged the pun. You’re welcome) it was my yearly boycation with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Mr. Tom Taddeo. Tom and I lived with each other in a slick little Hell’s Kitchen apartment back when you could still smoke in the city. Since then we’ve been married, and some of us divorced, but every year we set a long weekend aside to check in and check out a place we’ve never been. The choice to go to Denver went something like this:
Tom: “So where do you wanna go this year?”
Me: “Donno. Preferably somewhere with good food and beer. And pot.”
Tom: “So. Denver it is.”
And it was.
It’s important, perhaps more than anything, to make the time to take the time in life. The younger version of me would be proud that I do that now, cutting out a few precious days to reconnect with an old friend who’s seen you drink your share, make a decent amount of bad decisions, and has become a ring in the trunk of your existence.
So I crossed the great divide to meet up with ol’ Taddeo and watched the fabric of the country roll out its quilt 30,000 feet below me. 29,000 feet later I was on land, but frankly it could have been the moon.
Denver, I would find out soon enough, is a very strange place.