Just like that, poof, my first year in Colorado is up in smoke! Last fall, I left behind all of my friends and family to move here for a career in cannabis. I have been a cannabis user my entire adult life and never felt like there was anything wrong with it. I never believed I was an addict, a drain to society, and certainly not a criminal. Yet my whole life I have been perceived as all of these by society and a criminal by law. Moving to Colorado was my liberation from these unjust social and legal constructs. Oh, I was naive! My Colorado cannabis experience has been far from topshelf. Coloradans still face many challenges as medical marijuana patients and recreational marijuana users.


Like so many who move here, I came on a hope and dream. Fortunately for me, hard work and perseverance have made it a worthwhile experience. Considering all of the world-class cannabis I’m surrounded by, it's funny to think back on my first recreational purchase as one of my worst. I won’t name names, but this story begins in Boulder at a huge retail chain. The transaction itself was not memorable, and in fact, was quick and easy. The only problem was the Deadhead O.G. I bought was definitely not Deadhead O.G. I pulled it out of the container and it had a chemically smell, like Trainwreck was created from DuPont terpenes. Still, I was willing to try it out. It’s not like I could return it.


Naturally, the next thing I wondered was where to spark it up. I heard there were cannabis lounges in Colorado, although I wasn’t certain what that meant. After a few minutes on Pearl Street, I betrayed myself in believing I found one. To my disappointment, it was only an oxygen bar, and the owner explained to me that there were no cannabis lounges in Boulder. In fact, he said that there were only a handful at all, and they operate in a state of legal limbo. My best bet, according to him, would be to go home and smoke. This was easy enough for me-we were growing marijuana where I lived-but what about everyone else? I was puzzled.


I got home and my fully roommate agreed: we weren’t smoking Deadhead O.G., and it was ridiculous that the only place in Colorado I could legally dispose of this bunk was his house. That day I made up my mind I would get my medical card and only shop at places I could trust. The process of obtaining a card was painless. The kief on the bowl, though, was signing up at my favorite spot: Natty Rems.


Around this time, I began to need a second job. My plan was to maintain a job in cannabis and get second one to keep me afloat. As a law graduate, I pursued a few compliance and contract review opportunities. I was elated when I finally got a request for an interview. But elation sank to grief as soon as my interview prep revealed a 5-panel drug test.


Here I was a college graduate and a law-abiding citizen, yet I wasn’t a candidate for gainful employment at many companies where I hoped to work. I suddenly felt like I was back in Kansas. Someone get Oz on the phone! The biggest reason I came to Colorado was to start a career without cannabis holding me back. A grim reality had suddenly become plain: in Colorado, like Kansas, I would be marginalized for using marijuana. Tolerance of the status quo was not an option anymore than defeat. I had to take action. But where could I find this source of empowerment in the community? A voice in the state legislature?


Last spring, I decided I would go to a Denver NORML lobby day, and that’s where it all began for me. I hope this year it will all begin for you and be just as memorable! Please join Denver NORML as we continue to educate our legislature on social consumption and begin a conversation about employment screening for marijuana. If you’re like me, you’re fired up. If you’re fired up, you need to join. We’re making history in global cannabis reform right here in Colorado. Come and help us write it!

Spencer Ward