Weedgalized in Colorado is a self-published work by local Johnny Welsh
December 13, 2015
Longtime Frisco bartender Johnny Welsh appreciates the storyteller's oral tradition but also recognizes the importance of documenting social change.
Known to many locals as Johnny Bartender, the native of Atlantic City, New Jersey, this month announced the release of his new page turner, "Weedgalized in Colorado: True Tales from the High Country."
Welsh headed west in 1997 after his brother, who was building homes in the Rockies, lured him with the promise of construction work. Perhaps there were other reasons for his departure from the East Coast as well.
"I had to leave New Jersey," he joked. "I just kept driving until I saw mountains."
Having already tended bar for a few years before landing in Colorado, in addition to the building trade, Welsh began working part time bar backing at Kokomo' s. With previous experience and a winning personality he quickly transitioned to manning the taps at the Copper Mountain watering hole. The difference in clientele was instantly tangible.
"It was way friendlier and laid back compared to the East," he noted.
Having served up adult beverages for the last 22 years, Welsh has well earned the moniker of professional bartender. At this point he likely qualifies for a doctorate in mixology.
"I've heard it all and seen it all," he said.
The written word holds a special allure for Welsh, who obtained a BA in Italian language, literature and culture from Syracuse University prior to relocating to the Rockies.
"Which I thought was the perfect fit for a bartender," he quipped.
In fact Welsh did utilize his educational pursuits after graduation when he worked in a 12th century castle, Castello di Spannocchia located outside Siena, Italy. During the day he toiled in vineyards and olive groves. At night his brain got a workout while translating a book from medieval Italian to modern English.
"It was like a dream," he recalled.
Prior to completing his cannabis-themed volume, Welsh started and failed to complete five books on other topics.
"Masterpieces that were never finished," he laughed.
Although he admits to being a moderate cannabis consumer these days, and hesitated to publish a book on the topic at the risk of being labeled a "stoner", after Colorado adopted full legalization, Welsh quickly recognized the state was living through a social experiment.
"You mention cannabis just once and the whole bar would chime in with stories," he said.
With the usual influx of tourists and guests from out of state now seemingly obsessed with the topic, Welsh realized the timing was ideal to launch his next book project. His assertion was reaffirmed whenever he left the area.
"When I traveled, the minute I mentioned Colorado people would giggle," he said. "They all wanted to hear the cannabis stories."
One modern day vestige of the oral tradition is the neighborhood barkeep, listening to, as well as sharing, tales of woe and wonder.
"As bartenders we're storytellers," he said. "A good bartender extracts stories."
Through his many years of serving up drinks and interacting with patrons, Welsh has learned the importance of bartender-client privilege, and his book only contains willing participants.
"I wanted to keep it light hearted," he said. "I'm fascinated with everything that's been happening."
When out of state, anytime Welsh mentioned where he lived he noticed how people became intrigued. News coverage of cannabis legalization in Colorado has sparked a global conversation.
"It's an icebreaker," he said. "They all want to talk to the Colorado guy."
Once the seed was planted, Welsh began jotting down notes on cocktail napkins while behind the bar. Crumb by crumb the elements combined to produce "Weedgalized in Colorado."
"It's such a captivating story, it took on wings of its own," he opined.
The process of writing a book, which took more than a year in total, was a longer process than anticipated, Welsh said.
"At times I hated it, but I learned a lot about myself," he said. "I wrote 286 pages in ten months."
After delving knee deep into the subject, Welsh recognizes the snickering surrounding legalized cannabis is being countered by a burgeoning industry which is pumping new tax money and creating increased employment opportunities in the state.
"What's helping is the people creating the new businesses are extremely professional," he noted. "If anyone's going to do something for the stigma it's these people."
Although the official publication date of Welsh's book is Jan. 26, 2016, early runs of the self-published book are selling briskly. He's already shipped a few books to Switzerland and a handful to Italy.
"I've sold 200 books in 13 days," he shared. "It sold out twice in ten days."
The feedback from industry insiders has been phenomenal.
Jessica Catalano, author of The Ganja Kitchen Revolution, said the book places readers at the center of cultural change.
"It's like having the best seat at an Apres-ski bar, where everyone around you knows first-hand something different and fascinating about what happened during the great historic Colorado ganja experiment," she said.
Jerry Olson, owner of Medical Marijuana of the Rockies, said it's obvious this is the work of a local resident.
"A book this insightful about cannabis culture could only have originated in Summit County, Colorado," he said.
Philip Wolf, founder of Cultivating Spirits, which offers educational cannabis experiences and tours from Breck to Vail, said he has been a first-hand witness to a crazy period in history which resonates in "Weedgalized."
"Johnny Welsh has done a great job capturing the wild ride of an emerging cannabis industry," he said.
Filled with interviews with a range of characters, including the "Town Stoner," the Summit County Sheriff, dispensary owners, dealers, growers, entrepreneurs and even movie producers, the book provides an insiders view on the legalization movement.
If you are still searching for the perfect holiday gift for the cannabis lover(s) on your list, Welsh's book is on the shelves at a number of local retailers. In Frisco, Next Page Books and Nosh, Native Roots, Rivers Clothing Store and the Smok 'N Bra are stocking copies. Also, High Country Healing and the Bud and Breakfast in Silverthorne, along with Ole Man Berkins Bookstore in Breck are retailing the volume. Anyone who wants more information or would like to order a book should visit Weedgalized.com.
If you would like a personally autographed copy, Welsh has a number of upcoming book signings which include the following dates and locations: Dec. 17 at Greco's Pastaria in Frisco, Jan. 15 at the Ole Man Berkins Bookstore in Breck, Jan. 22 at the Denver Press Club and Jan. 31 at the Boulder Bookstore.
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