Marijuana isn’t just a stoner’s story

Karina Wetherbee
Special to the Daily
"Weedgalized in Colorado," by Johnny Welsh.
Special to the Daily |

It is often said that bartenders are good listeners, and thus they know everyone’s dirty little secrets. They watch the best and worst of mankind come and go and can bear witness to the latest trends and rumblings within their own microcosm of the wider world. Summit County local Johnny Welsh, who has worked for almost 20 years tending bars in Frisco, has “seen and heard the finest people doing the poorest things and the poorest in character doing the finest things.”

Not only has he watched the world change as seen through the machinations of the patrons of the bar, he has also seen how trends in the wider world have impacted those living in and visiting the Colorado community. Now, in his recent book, “Weedgalized in Colorado: True Tales from the High Country,” he shares with readers his observations on what has driven the recent upsurge in this bustling state’s popularity — the 2014 legalization of marijuana.

Thrill of Legalization

When Colorado voters approved the recreational use of marijuana, the subject of pot was a big topic of discussion at the bar, and Welsh became intrigued by the stories on all sides of the issue that was capturing the country’s attention. Now, with more states following Colorado and Washington’s lead, much of what Welsh has observed in his state will trend across the country.

Though not a frequent cannabis user himself, Welsh admits he was caught up in the thrill of the legalization celebration. After all, so many of his patrons were close to being giddy about the momentous vote, and Welsh felt there was a captivating story to be told.

Historical Perspective

In his highly engaging book, not only does he walk the reader through the recreational marijuana landscape, he includes a bit of historical perspective, noting that marijuana has numerous recorded moments throughout history, from Ancient China to Queen Victoria to Jamestown in colonial Virginia. It was in the 20th century that the crop’s reputation shifted and in the 1940s, in particular, when it was deemed “a harmful and addictive drug.”

‘Green rush’

Now, with marijuana back on a legal playing field with alcohol, Welsh takes the reader along for a ride through the Colorado cannabis world. As a starting point, he includes the complete wording of the actual question that voters faced on the 2012 ballot, and he outlines the very clear legal parameters, — which are significant — which means, as marijuana is illegal outside Colorado’s borders, entering into the business of marijuana production and sale can feel daunting.

But, as the Gold Rush inspired intrepid pioneers willing to take on a challenge, so, too, has the “green rush” now taking place in Colorado. Most individuals diving into this fledgling industry are determined to set the tone early, hoping that the establishment of a professional and serious atmosphere will discourage buyer’s remorse on the behalf of voters. Given that revenue from cannabis is closing in on that garnered from ski tourism, there is no lack of attention being given to the success of the first two years of legalization.

Welsh points out that not only have pot growers and dispensaries shared in the massive financial boon, but so too have the countless “ganjapreneurs” who have sprung up around the cannabis industry. What is most evident is that nearly every aspect of Colorado’s economic pulse has been profoundly impacted and the practical realities of the booming industry will continue to be tied directly to the state’s path forward, for as Welsh fittingly says, “This is not just a stoner’s story; it’s a Colorado and national story.”

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