High in the Rockies, a Chill Marijuana Debate
Getting a feel for Gunnison, Colo., a town in the Rockies about four and a half hours southwest of Denver, takes a bicycle and a few minutes. On Main Street and nearby blocks you will pass a Wal-Mart, a pizza place called Pie-Zans, a bike-repair-and-espresso shop, the offices of The Gunnison Country Times, the campus of Western State Colorado University and Traders Rendezvous, which claims to have the state’s largest collection of antlers and mounted animal trophies. Ride long enough and you will find seven churches and five liquor stores, six if you count the Safeway.
What you will not find are any stores selling marijuana. These are not allowed.
To see the new Colorado after Amendment 64, which legalized recreational cannabis, you have to drive a half-hour north, to Crested Butte. It has three dispensaries selling marijuana buds and pipes and cannabis-infused candies and drinks. They are off the main drag; their presence is low-key, even deferential.
The towns are not drastically different. Crested Butte, population 1,550, is for skiers and tourists; its main street is more colorfully painted, more self-consciously alpine. Gunnison, population 5,854, has deep roots in ranching and mining. It’s for hunters towing A.T.V.’s, students and underpaid faculty members at the university, and high-caliber athletes devoted to the strenuous life. A classic Gunnison sight is a $6,000 mountain bike racked atop a $700 Subaru.