Health

01.15.14

Parents Come Out of the Pot Closet

Two weeks after recreational marijuana stores opened in Colorado, baby boomers are lining up to celebrate. If anyone can decriminalize marijuana in the minds of Americans—it’s them.

When Denver marijuana-scene enthusiast “Citizen Jay Daily” picks up the phone, he politely requests permission to multitask. “Hey, don’t forget your weed! Right on, enjoy,” he shouts. In the middle of fielding questions from me, the 46-year-old is volunteering at one of Denver’s biggest marijuana dispensaries—where he’s been given the enviable job of bagging people’s long-awaited pot.

“I wish you could see it in here,” he says with audible excitement. “Everyone is so happy.”

Standing at the end of the line at a dispensary that opened with a five-hour line on January 1, Daily has gotten the chance to talk to every customer. What he has found may surprise you—but it doesn’t faze him. “At least 60 percent of our clientele are above 30,” he says. “People who haven’t considered using cannabis for years are now happy to give it another—or a first—try.”

Despite what news stories (like teens dropping out of school because of marijuana use) suggest about the Colorado's current pot mavens, the people who have been standing in the snow for hours to pay $80 for an eighth of an ounce aren’t kids. They’re his peers.

“Our customers are grown-ups, adults. They’ll happily spend $80 because it’s not a matter of money, it’s a matter of access,” he says. Some of the people he meets have traveled across the world (“Argentina, Russia, Poland!”) to get here. But a large number are simply traveling back in time. Successful, hardworking parents who—with kids grown and out of the house—are ready to be themselves once more. Or, as Citizen Jay puts it, “come out of the pot closet.”

The owner of his own archeological consulting firm, Daily says he had his “coming out” moment while studying archeology as a grad student at the University of Colorado Boulder. Now, 20 years later, he spends his free time advocating for the decriminalization of the drug. “It’s all about trying to show cannabis users in a positive light,” he says of his YouTube channel, which has more than three thousand followers. “I am a father, a husband, and a business owner. I am also an adult who uses cannabis. It doesn’t make me crazy. It doesn’t make me stupid. Or lazy.” 

It’s stories of responsible adult cannabis users who are not only living well but thriving that he hopes will continue to repair marijuana’s image.

It’s stories of responsible adult cannabis users who are not only living well but thriving that he hopes will continue to repair marijuana’s image. A huge step forward in this fight came in October 2013 when a landmark Gallup poll proved that—for the first time in history—a majority of Americans favored marijuana legalization.

Now with all eyes on Colorado, there’s another opportunity to evoke change.

It’s a market that Nick Brown, 31, is jumping on. Once an equities trader on Wall Street, Brown saw the legalization of marijuana in Colorado as having the potential to unlock a billion dollar market. So he did what any high-energy, incredibly ambitious University of Michigan grad would do—he headed to Denver. After months of running test tours with friends, Brown is in the final stages of launching professional pot tours, aimed at wealthy adults. “The baby boomer cohort is massive,” he says. “It’s somewhere between 40-60 million people.”

A native of Pittsburgh, Brown suspects that many “empty nesters” are still in the pot closet. “From what I’ve found, a lot of [retired] people smoke but no one talks about it.” If he’s right, his business is likely to be a huge success. For a little more than $1000, his customers can enjoy one of four different themed “pot tours,” with activities ranging from weed cookie baking to joint rolling classes. But just as important as its entertainment value, says Brown, is its educational one. “I want to de-stigmatize this and get people access to this industry from an educational standpoint.” Clients will be given the opportunity to tour grow centers and retail sites to learn all about the process from the cloning stage to final regulation.

His magical marijuana voyage is likely to woo many baby boomers—but not all of them.

One particularly unlikely candidate is Joe Mattingly. A father in Houston, Texas who regularly takes his family on vacations in Vail, Mattingly wrote a response piece in Steamboat Today last week threatening to “boycott Colorado” should Vail and other ski resorts he frequents become havens of marijuana dispensaries: “I am around many young affluent people in Houston, and we often discuss the best ski destinations. Next year, the general conversation will almost assuredly include any noticeable changes in the pot situation," he writes.

Conflicting views of the legalization aside, for Brown, it’s the fact that an amendment legalizing marijuana in Colorado passed at all that’s worth celebrating. “Governor Hickenlooper voted no, but we passed it. He said ‘This is what the people want, this what we’re doing.’ That gives me so much pride. This is how America is supposed to work.”

When Brown says “we,” the 31 year old isn’t referring to his peers only. The group that was most influential in getting it passed is the same one celebrating: the boomers.