‘Weed Town, USA: How Marijuana Rescued the Town of Trinidad, Colorado.”
That’s the headline on a June 2018 High Times piece in which one local is quoted asserting that “Without weed, half this town wouldn’t be here. Literally.” The article goes on to note 23 (now 25) dispensaries in a city of around 8,000 people, citing job creation and population growth, but no “significant uptick in crime” other than a “rise in ‘transient problems.'”
Count back just a decade ago, and Trinidad’s claim to fame, which provided a not-insignificant economic stimulus, was still as the “sex change capital of the U.S.” thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Stanley Biber, carried on at the time by Dr. Marci Bowers.
Of course no town can be reduced to the single aspect outsiders best know it for at a given time. A century ago Trinidad would have been regarded as “a capital of open-range ranching,” as a modern placard on Main Street acknowledges, noting the headquarters of three major operations based here then. It’s money from those multimillion-acre grassland ventures that funded much of the beautiful architecture on display today downtown (the ornate stone First National Bank Building being Trinidad’s historical equivalent of The Mining Exchange in downtown Colorado Springs).
And a little before that, Trinidad staked its place in Wild West lore, when Bat Masterson became city marshal, for a short time employing Wyatt Earp as a card dealer at his saloon (post Gunfight at the O.K. Corral). Doc Holliday passed through; so did Billy the Kid.
Today, the truly wild part of visiting Trinidad â€” aside from the dudes cruising the streets on decked-out lowrider bicycles blasting music on portable speaker assemblies â€” is indeed seeing neighboring marijuana dispensaries door after door, on Commercial Street downtown, for example â€” an unbroken line of weed shops just like a big-city restaurant row (say, Larimer Square, Denver). Not so much competition as cooperation, a show of strength in numbers (and not just in weed strains offered).
Nearby, Las Animas Grill (lasanimasgrill.com), a hip mix of bar, eatery, mini art gallery and coffee counter with a few Airbnb rooms for rent upstairs, helps us kick off our too-brief Saturday tour through town, with a decently made breve latte, surprisingly constructed with Colorado Springs-based Spanish Peaks’ Benevento dark-roast espresso blend. We chat up our twenty-something barista, an Indiana transplant, about what she thinks of the local weed scene. “It’s really important,” she says, “It’s brought in a bunch of new business … it’s not a problem.” Although, moments later, she does note rents have gone up and she believes cost of living has, too (though current indices show the town at around 80 percent of the U.S. average). But success comes at a cost, right?
Before we actually stop into a dispensary, we stroll Main Street a bit, past public art sculptures and a tourist shop fit for Manitou Avenue with its preponderance of turquoise jewelry, fiber works and the like. We’re sad to find the A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art (armitchellmuseum.com) closed during normal hours â€” but hey, cool cowboy and cowgirl images covering the front windows to lure guests. And we’re bummed that we run out of time to make it to the Art Cartopia Museum (artcartopia.com) outside of town a bit, before it closes. We do drop into Shirley’s Thrift store that’s like a fun time-warp into the 1980s and ’90s, as outdated household offerings and clothing go. And we saunter through Theresa’s Antiques and Collectibles just doors down that feels like the same thing, rewind the decades by about 30 to 50 years.
Come lunch time: Sita’s Kitchen (facebook.com/SitasVeganKitchen) works the CBD angle of the marijuana/hemp revolution with several offerings that incorporate a housemade CBD oil. Co-owner Justin McCorkle says he extracts from locally grown organic hemp from Canadian seed. He recommends we try his CBD Mimosa (a fair $5.50), actually a refreshing, nonalcoholic concoction of orange and pineapple juices with kombucha (usually GT’s Synergy Trilogy label), plus 105 mg of CBD water per “shot,” available in extra $2 increments past the one included. We enjoy it with a barbecue jackfruit sandwich, kindly split for two for us, which places the fruit with a vibrant, tangy sauce over some veganaise with some fixings on pita bread â€” side of fruit salad for the win.
For an extra dosing of chillax â€” I can’t say I had any notable pain to alleviate at the moment, so a calming effect was all I was after â€” we nab a couple tacky-in-texture CBD Energy Bites from a pastry case, a matcha and strawberry chocolate flavor, each excellent. The former incorporates the tea with blended dates and walnut, while the latter mixes those same two ingredients plus the fruit, almonds, coconut and cacao; each hosts 15 mg of CBD oil (which they sell in half-ounce, $60, and ounce, $10, tincture bottle sizes with 1,500 mg CBD per half-ounce), which isn’t really discernible in the flavor. McCorkle tells me something about the oil lasting longer in my system than the water, hence the price differential between the number of milligrams in the drink; he also notes how mango and a couple other fruits can boost the effects of cannabinoids in the body. I later look this up and find some articles relating to mango’s inherent terpenes, including myrcene, also present in hemp and marijuana, that purportedly increase one’s high (in relation to THC) and reduce the time before the high kicks in. Something about it all feels like urban legend or something a stoner said to another gullible stoner to evoke an “oh, really, bro… wow!” (shoves fruit in his face) but A) a scientist I am not, B) the internet sometimes lies and C) McCorkle has just the right guru-bearded-health-food-hippie-nice-guy vibe that he at this moment really seems to be a credible source.
Up next, we do drop into a dispensary, actually an Indy advertiser that was recommended, so in the interest of not appearing to favor them over the many other shops in town I shall leave them unnamed. We go through the security/check-in routine before being ushered back to shop. It’s only my second time in a rec outfit, and I must admit the experience is damn fun â€” kid in a candy store-like. Our 28-year-old budtender’s plenty knowledgeable and helpful and doesn’t wish to be named in this article, but guides us well through some tough decisions through a multitude of strains that all offer some unique appeal. Well, to someone. The ones that note increased heart rate and paranoia as effects can pretty much eff off for my taste, as I lean toward strains that impart relaxation and de-stressing over buzziness.
We end up selecting an Indica called Purple Nile that blends Magic Jordan with Gupta Kush, which, as described, does taste notably fruit-forward on an inhale (from a 1.2-gram pre-roll for around $6 â€” we sampled everything in the following days, once home). It’s also super smooth â€” no cough when I almost always do â€” and produces a lovely body high punctuated by a little pressure behind the eyes. Even at 20.86 percent THC, it feels gentle after a few puffs before bed, and causes no real cerebral effect like time-delay or that feeling certain strains impart where, yeah, you do feel dumb and groggy and slow and hope that weed doesn’t make you stupid forever.
We also take home a gram of Tangerine Power ($9). It’s a hybrid of Blue Power and Agent Orange, weighing in at 26.6 percent THC with no CBD and only minimal amounts of other cannabinoids listed, like CBG. I’m hesitant, worried it’ll knock me on my ass, but the budtender assures it won’t send me toward anxiety, but instead toward a strong body high â€” printed descriptions note “paralyzing euphoria” and “full-body relaxation.” We smoke some through a vaporizer, which on the first inhale or two seems to strip away all the advertised aromas and flavors. All I taste at first is an almost metallic vegetal note, but subsequent puffs seem to strike pay dirt and suddenly a wash of citrus comes over my palate. “I’ll be damned, I do taste oranges!” I blurt out, feeling at once sophisticated, like some sommelier or oenophile who’s pegged a vintage and varietal in a blind tasting, and silly, like every other tourist smoker who’s detected an obvious strain characteristic and allows it to validate the whole wonderful world of weed. Like, if this be true, surely every medical claim about each strain must be genuine. Not so fast, Chachi, remember what we established about info on the internet. For example, Leafly lists anxiety as all the way to the top of a chart under Tangerine Power’s negative attributes, and yet I feel none. I feel, just… good. A bit sleepy but it’s a late night after a long day, anyway. I sleep like a champ, and the only major negative I discern is waking up with a strange, not exactly dry mouth, but a gross taste like I’d somehow sleepwalked during the night and gotten into some wet dog food (based on the smell of a can that morning when I’m feeding my pooch). Ick.
Anyway, because we can’t resist some edibles during our shopping, we load up some of the common commercial products (available in most dispensaries from bigger growers and distributors): a Koala Edibles cookies-and-cream-flavored cannabis chocolate bar (100 mg THC total for $15); TasteBudz green apple-flavored 5:1 CBD-infused gummies (10 mg CBD and 2 mg THC per serving/20 mg total for $22); and Canyon Cultivation’s Suck It blue raspberry hard candies (100 mg total THC broken into 40 2.5 mg pieces for $20). A small nibble of the chocolate (aiming for a 5 mg bite) tastes white-chocolate synth-sweet but quite delightful, and in that moderation produces a nice, level, nonspecific high that makes some bland housework somehow more appealing. The tart green apple gummies smack super mild, and even as a lightweight THC consumer, I imagine I could achieve just about anything in my day with full lucidity after consuming one (no, I do not, and don’t advise heading to work high). The key word for the Suck It candies for us is “nice,” as they’re again a quite mild dose but leave us feeling generally happy and de-stressed and ultra relaxed and engaged while we re-watch episodes from this past Game of Thrones season in preparation for the new episodes now underway.
Out the door, we spent around $75 for our goody bag after all the taxes, which includes $2.98 for the city of Trinidad plus another $2.37 in sales tax â€” just a minor glimpse into how even a relatively small sale to one customer adds up to be significant local revenue when you ponder all the sales happening daily at 25 stores.
Our budtender also shares a bunch of town recommendations for cool things to see and do (see final paragraph below) â€” so many that we’re intent on returning for an overnight or two in the area.
Tackling what we can in limited time, we drive just a few minutes to an overlook above town called Simpson’s Rest that hosts the iconic TRINIDAD sign. The bluff gifts a fine view over the Purgatoire River Valley and the city, and the commanding Fisher’s Peak across the way. Other locals we speak to in passing later mention wide excitement that the mountain and surrounding Crazy French Ranch have just been acquired for public land (in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land and other entities), and relatively soon hiking and biking trails will appear, along with other outdoor recreation opportunities. Certainly the area won’t be as big a fiscal contributor as marijuana, but locals are confident it will draw more attention to the town and still significantly aid the economy in coming years.
We descend back toward Main Street, rolling down the mountain through neighborhoods of mismatched and mostly dilapidated houses, noting many commercial vacancies yet to fill back near downtown. We make our way to Trinidad Smokehouse (trinidadsmokehouse.com) and post up on a back patio to soak up late-day sun. The spot only opened this past January, born out of an existing Redneck Smoke food truck (parked on-site, used as its kitchen) and another spot in town called Redneck Grill. Perhaps owing to the power of suggestion, we end up ordering a Redneck Riviera Whiskey Mule, served proper in a copper cup, sweet and well-balanced between the booze and ginger beer. A couple catfish fillets, well-breaded in cornmeal betray their frozen origins, but have a fine texture, delicious dipped in a simple house tartar sauce; crunchy then gooey fried okra and smoky, notably sweet beans play well as sides. We also try a daily special of pulled pork-topped nachos, complete with truly hot jalapeĂ±o coins and a ballpark-familiar, thick Gehl’s cheese sauce. The crew smokes with apple wood and makes a Kansas City-style brown sugar/molasses sauce spiked with cayenne and a chile oil for a spicy version, which we get and find flavorful but still pretty mild. Sweetness pervades the whole meal â€” not bad if that’s your thing, and locals appear to love it.
Heading back toward the Springs on the way home, we drive a few highway exits north and pull off onto an industrial stretch parallel to the highway, with all its streets clearly named by someone who really loves ‘Merica. We drive Freedom Road and pull onto Democracy Drive, past These Colors Don’t Run Boulevard (OK, made that last one up…) and into the gravel lot of Dodgeton Creek Brewing Company (dodgetoncreek.com), Trinidad’s sole brewery. We nab a beer sampler paddle and sip through a red, pale ale, cream ale, extra pale ale, double IPA and Russian imperial stout. I wish I could say really great things about the beers on the whole but actually we dislike the majority of them, finding faults ranging from flatness and malt sweetness being overbearing to a lack of bitterness where expected, too much bitterness sans real flavor elsewhere, and in one case a lame leanness to the texture. The Coal Miner’s Canary Cream Ale (was supposed to be Canary in a Coal Mine we’re told, but someone wrote it on the blackboard wrong â€” if that’s any indication of attention to detail, here) might be the most drinkable, and I like the Russian stout the best, and would happily nurse a pint, but at 12.2-percent ABV I don’t feel comfy taking more than a few small sips since I’m about to drive.
Back out on the highway, before we’ve made it far from town, we agree an afternoon’s not near enough time to spend in and around Trinidad, even if it suffices to fill out a weed-buying expedition. So, food for thought for potential future voyages: The Southwest Chief Bicycle and Comedy Festival (southwestchieffest.com), May 2-5; of course the popular Trinidaddio Blues Fest (trinidaddiobluesfest.com), Aug. 24; the surely colorful ArtoCade ArtCar Festival (artocade.com), Sept. 13-14; a stop by the Ludlow Monument to mourn a terrible event in American history; a visit to Trinidad Lake State Park (cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/TrinidadLake), not too far from town; catch a show at the Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre (scrtheatre.com); and drive along the Highway of Legends (colorado.com/articles/colorado-scenic-byway-highway-legends) between Trinidad and Walsenburg, for everything from wildlife viewing (elk, bear and bald eagles, we’re told) to a stop in Cuchara to recreate around the abandoned ski resort, in the San Isabel National Forest.