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5 things I found surprising about legal marijuana in Colorado

DENVER — After landing at Denver International Airport last month, all the familiar punch lines I’ve been hearing about covering the marijuana industry from friends, family and co-workers kept echoing in my head.

So you’re going to get a little Rocky Mountain High?

We have high expectations for this trip.

This is such a burning issue this year, you really need to weed out the fake news.

You get the drift.

As the Detroit Free Press reporter on a newly created marijuana beat, I’ve become accustomed to the giggles, the snickers and the assumptions that researching and writing about marijuana will be one big party.

Legal marijuana has already become a multibillion dollar industry that is expected to grow to $23 billion by 2022, according to Arcview, a California-based firm that tracks the legal marijuana industry. It’s not only big business, it’s a social issue, a legal conundrum and a medical phenomenon.

There are many places to go to learn about marijuana, both here in Michigan and across the country. But the best place to start is the birthplace of legal weed — Colorado, where voters legalized marijuana for adult recreational use in 2012 and the first sales were made on Jan. 1, 2014.

So Free Press photographer Kathleen Galligan and I hit the road, traveling roughly 1,300 miles for a week of cannabis discovery in Colorado. We went to grow operations, dispensaries and edible factories. We talked with entrepreneurs and cops and regulators, homeless people and tourists, who came to Denver for a little R&R (reefer and recreation).

And there was plenty we found that surprised us, including these five things:

Where’s the fire?

There may be wildfires in Colorado, but there are no joints burning in the streets of Colorado. In fact, we found little, if any, of the telltale and pungent aroma of burning weed as we walked around Denver. That’s because public consumption of marijuana is illegal in Colorado. You can’t smoke the buds or eat the edibles at the dispensaries where the products are sold and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed a bill earlier this year that would have allowed for “tasting rooms,” where people could legally smoke or eat their products in a café-type setting. A day after we arrived in Denver, the cannabis bus tour we booked — basically a party bus with stops at dispensaries and grow operations, along with plenty of pot — was canceled because the Denver City Police had busted the tour bus companies for violating the no public consumption rule.

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More marijuana coverage:

Where’s the money?

The marijuana business is touted as a modern-day gold rush by many who hope to get into the industry. But the cost is also high. Across the board, marijuana business owners complained about the federal law that still considers marijuana an illegal drug. As a result, the federal tax burden on marijuana is pretty incredible. Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Service tax code says that businesses can’t write off the normal business expenses, such as payroll, rent or utilities, on their federal tax returns if their business involves the sale of an illegal drug, even if the drug is legal in their state. As a result, the federal tax rate for marijuana businesses is roughly 70 percent to 80 percent. Most of the profits are derived from the state, where the tax burden is not as cumbersome.

Where’s the advertising?

The green crosses and marijuana leaves that signify marijuana businesses are on display, but there is not much other advertising of the cannabis business in Colorado. Even in Michigan, the billboards advertising websites, such as, which pinpoints the locations of medical marijuana dispensaries, are pretty common. But the only prominent advertising we saw was a placard on a bus that reminded people that they can’t consume marijuana in public places. Colorado’s marijuana advertising regulations severely restrict or outright prohibit ads on television and radio, the Internet and at sponsored events.

Where are the baggies?

Back in the day, I’ll admit to inhaling my share of pot. But the buds, edibles and concentrates sold in legal dispensaries in Colorado and other states where weed is legal are definitely not the stem and seed-strewn skunk weed we bought back in college. Today, some of the products are far more potent while others offer pain-relieving benefits without the high. I told a dispensary “budtender” that I wanted a product that would help with arthritis pain without getting too stoned. The gummies I bought (10 for $24.50 including tax) contained a 5-1 ratio of CBDs (cannabidiol, a part of the cannabis plant) to THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana). I didn’t get high or much pain relief, but I slept like a baby that night.

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Where, oh where, is the outrage or the joy?

Marijuana has become second nature for Colorado: Everyone seems kind of blasé about the proliferation of pot in the state. No one seems particularly up in arms about the legalization or overjoyed by the success of the business. The state bureaucrats say it’s too early to say whether the presence of legal weed is a nightmare or a boon for the state’s economy and the police say there’s not much difference — and not much of a spike in crashes — between a driver impaired by booze or one high on marijuana. The businesspeople are happy with their still relatively new industry, but plagued by the uncertainty of how marijuana is treated by the federal government.

Harlequeen THC Free

World Of Seeds presents here Harlequeen THC Free, a marijuana strain with a THC level below 1% and a CBD concentration of 18%. It is a perfect variety for therapeutic marijuana users and light cannabis lovers. It is now available in our feminised seeds catalogue at AlchimiaWeb.

Harlequeen THC Free, a THC level below 1%

Harlequeen THC Free has its origin in Harlequin clone, one of the pioneer CBD rich marijuana lines. World Of Seeds has undertaken a long crossbreeding, selection and stabilisation work to lower the THC level of this clone and make it available to the maximum number of growers all over the world.

Harlequin was crossed with a CBD Kush line. Then, after 5 generations of breeding work, the desired traits were established, in this case a THC level below 1%.

The result is a hybrid of 75/25 Sativa Indica genetics. It is a vigorous and slender plant that can reach up to 140cm. In indoor cannabis cultivation Harleequeen THC Free is ready to harvest after about 65 days of flowering, offering a generous yield of up to 550g per m2.

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Harlequeen THC Free cultivated outdoors in open ground can reach over 3m in height, with yields easily up to 1200g per plant given optimal conditions.

Harlequeen THC Free harvest, a mango and papaya flavoured marijuana

It produces large, fleshy, resin coated flowers. This plant offers a very good flower/leaf ratio which makes it easy to manicure the marijuana harvest.

Harlequeen THC Free offers a fruity flavour and aroma, combining papaya and mango notes on a sweet and musky base.

It has a cannabinoid profile with a CBD:THC 20:1 ratio, and a THC level of maximum 0.7%. This marijuana does not produce any psychotropic effects, but rather an uplifting and refreshing sensation.

World Of Seeds indicates that Harlequeen THC Free marijuana can be effective in combating anxiety, stress, insomnia, pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.