Published on January 7th, 2014 | by Thompson2
I Drove 1,400 Miles to Colorado and Didn’t Even Get High
I got to work early on New Year’s Eve so I could make the long drive from Livingston, MT to Denver, CO for the country’s first recreational sale of marijuana in over 75 years.
The Leaf Online agreed to pay for my gas in return for the scoop on Sean Azzariti, an Iraq War veteran suffering from PTSD, making the first purchase of recreational marijuana under Colorado’s spiffy, new law. This is the Gonzo story behind that story.
My boss wasn’t too happy when he found out I’d be leaving early to work for someone else, but he got over it after giving me a written warning for violating two company policies upon my return: 1) creating a conflict of interest by working with a competing publication, and 2) putting the company in a detrimental position.
I vehemently denied the violations in my rebuttal. Since I offered some of the photos and a localized article to my boss, there was no conflict of interest, and since all my work was completed when I left, there was no detriment to the company…but I digress.
I had never seen the roads so clear. I’d done this trip many times before, mostly to obtain drugs, but I always seemed to run into a storm. This time, all I nearly ran into was a Honda driving on the wrong side of the Interstate 90 in Wyoming. The car looked very similar to mine, and I wondered if it was a sign screaming, “Turn back!” I mostly ignored it.
I tried to limit my stops and made the trip in just under 10 hours – pretty good time. I pulled into a liquor store, picked up some beer, and made for my friend’s house. I had around $7 in my checking account, but luckily my credit cards weren’t maxed out.
After reading the Denver police would be enforcing the law against smoking weed in public, we decided it would probably be best to make it a house party. There would be no “Great American Smoke-out” like we hoped. Worst of it was, none of us had any weed, so it was a good thing we’d be able to buy it in the morning.
We thought spending New Year’s Eve at the house would be uneventful, but boy were we wrong. After midnight, a dozen cop cars showed up on my friend’s block, and since I had my camera I figured I’d do some work. I ran down the block to take some photos and ask some questions. Apparently, a domestic dispute escalated and a man was stabbed. The cops weren’t too pleased with my presence and threatened to arrest me for being “hammered,” so I went back to the house.
Then, as I was smoking a cigarette on the porch, a woman came running down the street, screaming, stopping in front of my friend’s house. She was being chased by a drunk Mexican, and when he caught up he started grabbing her despite her screams. I yelled at him to get away from the girl, and he basically told me to fuck off or he’d beat my ass, so I walked down to the fence, camera in hand.
I tried to take his picture, but I was so drunk I forgot to take the lens cap off. This didn’t make him too happy. He opened my friend’s gate and stepped onto his property. He grabbed for my camera, but I told him to hit me and leave the camera out of it. While I kept him busy, the girl ran into the house next door.
After I told the man I was calling the police, our confrontation ended, and he left. I did call the cops. It was the first time I had dialed 911 in my life. They arrived in about 10 minutes, and I told them I just wanted to make sure the girl was alright. They knocked on her door, but no one answered.
I decided that was enough excitement for one night and passed out at about 3 a.m. I had to be at the dispensary in a little over four hours to catch the press conference.
I woke up at 7:36 a.m. The press conference had already started, and I still didn’t know where I was going or how long it would take to get there. I drove down to the McDonald’s, got a few breakfast burritos, and used the Wifi to figure out my route to the dispensary, only to find that I had forgotten my camera. So I drove back to the house, grabbed the camera, and hit the road.
Luckily, the dispensary was only a few miles from the house. I didn’t even have a chance to eat my breakfast burritos, but I got to the dispensary at 7:58 a.m. – just before the first purchase was to be made. There was already a line of customers around the building.
I signed in and made my way into the retail shop which was packed wall to wall. There must have been nearly a hundred members of the press there. It was the biggest press event I’d ever been involved with in my young career. I did my best to get a good photo, but it was virtually impossible. I did get to ask Sean a few questions, though. The owner of the dispensary then repeated the transaction to appease the press that couldn’t see.
I told Sean rather loudly, “You should just buy some more, Sean!”
Sean and the entire press corps shared a laugh. I left to take a few photos of the grow room and then went outside after I finally got a good photo of Sean being interviewed.
I went into the parking lot and yelled, “Anyone from Montana out here?” I got no reply, but one man told me there were folks all the way from Alabama.
I noticed Art Way, Drug Policy Alliance’s Marijuana Senior Drug Policy Manager of Colorado, ordering some breakfast at a food truck in the parking lot, and I figured I’d interview him. I’d met him at DPA’s Drug Policy Conference in Denver a few months ago. We were eating lunch and having a few beers at the pub across the street from the hotel, and he actually remembered my face, not my name, but I didn’t remember his name either, so I didn’t take offense.
Art gave me absolute gold as cheers erupted from the crowd when the doors opened to the public, and I left for McDonald’s to write up the story and finally eat my burritos, which were now cold. Though we weren’t the first publication to release photos of the event, we had the story up around 10 a.m. and were one of the first to have photos published. My editor said I earned every dollar he paid me, and I was pleased with my work.
I went back to the house, but no one answered the door, so I figured I’d go try to buy some weed. I went back to the dispensary, and the line of customers was roughly the same length when I left over an hour ago. I wasn’t about to stand in line, nor did I have much money to spend on weed, so I went back to the house hoping someone was awake.
My friend let me in, but everyone else had hit the road. We discussed the event, and I took a shower before hitting the road myself. I nearly forgot my camera again but only got a few blocks before turning back. I got on the Interstate around 11 a.m. and didn’t plan on stopping until Casper, WY.
I wasn’t surprised when I ran into blowing snow and then a small blizzard that slowed my roll, but what really slowed traffic were the shitty roads of Wyoming. They don’t even need to be covered in snow to be the worst in the nation. They just have bad rock in Wyoming, but it also seems the state is knowingly and willingly supporting the auto repair and tow industries because the plows only clear one lane at a time, and they alternate, so when the lane you’re in suddenly goes from clear to snow-packed, you have to swerve to the other lane. It’s fucking ridiculous.
I didn’t stop until Casper, though, despite adding two hours to my drive time and a hangover that had lasted far too long. I got some gas and McDonald’s and hit the road, but when I nearly shit my pants I had to stop in Buffalo, WY, and I’m glad I did.
Buffalo is the best place in Wyoming I’ve ever visited. They have the coolest bar/restaurant/hotel called the Occidental Inn. It’s all dressed up in 1800’s furniture and the bar has probably 50 mounted animals on the walls. The bartender made me two bloody Marys, and I sucked them down while I talked to Don, a gentleman from Reno, at the bar. They both loved my “Fuck Pot Legalize Cocaine” t-shirt, so striking up a conversation didn’t take long…really friendly people in Buffalo, WY.
They told me the next time I go through I should stay the night at the hotel. Don said he could get me a rate around $65 for the night, so I said I would, and I meant it. Don lent me a cigarette, as I was down to my last one, and I knew I’d need it for the road. I guaranteed him as soon as I hit the Montana state line the roads would be clear the whole way, and they were.
It was smooth sailing the rest of the way. I got home a little before 11 p.m. and had work at 8 a.m. the next morning. I went straight to bed.
So I drove 1,400 miles to Colorado the day recreational pot sales became legal and didn’t get high once. I did get silly drunk, though, and witnessed the aftermath of a stabbing, saved a girl from potentially being beaten or raped, and got the scoop on a pretty cool story. Oh, the things journalists will do when they care about a story.