Saturday Diary / Dumb and Dumber: getting a Mile High in Colorado

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What is it with baby boomers?

Why do we think we know everything when in fact we can be as dumb as a post?

Exhibit A: me.

It’s been more than a week now, and I am still struggling with feelings of shame and gratitude, even as people ask me jocularly, “Hey, how was your trip to Boulder?”

Fine, I reply — except for the three and a half hours a friend and I spent one afternoon in the Boulder County Hospital emergency room.

As a person who tends to live her life out loud, without much subtlety — what you see is what you get, baby — I have told this story to virtually everyone within a 100-foot radius in the PG newsroom, so I might as well go big and tell the rest of you why I am so ashamed … and so grateful.

I went to Boulder to celebrate a friend’s 60th birthday (there are a lot of those going on these days for those of us born in 1954). It was a beautifully planned weekend — great hotel, parties, picnics, hikes, birthday dinner at one of those chic restaurants where the master sommelier stands at the end of a long table and tells you all about the “terroir” of the wine you are about to drink.

What could be better?

That Friday, I met an acquaintance who was to drive me to Boulder, and as we were heading out of Denver she pointed out a nondescript building on a corner near the state capitol, noting that it was a “recreational” pot shop — one of many that have popped up since Colorado voters made it legal last fall.

“Oooh!” I said, “let’s get a picture of me standing in front of the sign that says ‘Recreational Marijuana!’ ”

After all, I am a reporter, curious about everything. I’ve written about medical marijuana and the battle to legalize it in Pennsylvania. Might as well do a little research while I’m here.

I smoked pot in college, although not voraciously. I am not a pothead, unlike so many of my fellow baby boomers — lawyers, scientists, psychologists, journalists — late 50- and 60-somethings who do spend much of their leisure time with a nice buzz on.

We took the picture, then looked at each other.

We went inside, two proper ladies of a certain age. Not a tattoo on us, anywhere. I was actually feeling a bit cocky — hey, I’m an old hand at this, I may look 59, but I am a child of the Sixties.

To the callow youth of a salesman: “I should like to buy a joint, please!” My friend bought a little packet of “Mile High” mint chocolate, like the Andes brand you can buy at Giant Eagle, feeling like wicked schoolgirls playing hooky — except it was all legal.

We drove to Boulder, parked and walked to a restaurant for lunch. On our way, she ate half of a strip of the chocolate and offered me the other half. I ate half of the half.

Thirty minutes later, we were seated outdoors, nibbling on salads, when this woman, who was very nice but who I hardly knew, gave me a quizzical look and passed out.

It took me at least a few seconds to absorb what had happened, or to realize that I had actually stepped outside my body and was watching her slump in her chair. I got up — or at least I watched myself get up —and went to her. It was like being in a bad Dennis Hopper movie. I knew my lines, though, and watched myself call out to the wait staff: “My friend has fainted! Call the paramedics!”

My friend came to, and I massaged her shoulders, trying to reassure her — and me — that “someday we’ll laugh about this.” When a buff young man in a T-shirt stopped and announced he was a doctor, I let him take over. He asked her name, what day it was, how old she was. She aced the exam, although later she told me she thought he was a surfer — “and I asked myself whether I should be providing this kind of private information about myself to a surfer.”

The paramedics arrived, tended to her, then took one look at me — dazed, manic (even more so than usual), apologetic — and said you’re coming with us. I remember nothing about the ambulance ride except that the blood pressure cuff didn’t work. Budget cuts, I thought. These poor paramedics, with non-working equipment. There must be a story there …

Did I just say that?

“Hey, this happens every day with edible marijuana,” one of the ER staffers told me, during our three-hour stay. My friend, whose condition was more serious, was tested (she was, ultimately, just fine) while I paced the room like a caged animal, trying to avoid the cracks in the floor, apologizing to every staffer, doctor or nurse, while trying to get reception on my cell phone.

I called my friend’s husband. He was worried, yes, but also slightly amused.

I called my ex-husband. After all, I might die and he is the executor of my estate. (Par for the course, he later told me: Lucy and Ethel.)

I emailed friends to apologize. They emailed back: LOL.

My friend’s husband arrived an hour later. I was shocked: he was SO non-judgmental! SO kind! Everyone was SO NICE! I mean, looking out at the ER with all those cute Boulder paramedics, it was like a scene out of “Grey’s Anatomy”!

OK, Mackenzie, you can stop talking now.


Postscript/​takeaway message:

The day after I got back, the Denver Post ran an editorial (“Dangerous Advice on Edibles When Caution Is Crucial”) citing an investigative report on television that found retail shops were recommending much more than what the state designates as a single “serving” for a marijuana edible, which is one with 10 milligrams of THC.

One strip of what we consumed — “Mile High Marijuana” — was 100 milligrams. Which meant that my friend probably consumed about 50 milligrams (half) and I consumed 25 milligrams (half of a half), way way too much of a mile high.

As one poster of The Weedist blog put it, this particular chocolate bar might produce “more of an energetic, sativa kind of high; it initially came on much stronger in the head, and a heavy body effect only really came as it was wearing off after a few hours.”

Got it.

A week later, I remain ashamed that I didn’t know better; I’m also grateful that I’m OK and that I can warn the rest of you to do as I say, not as I did.

And, hey you, Colorado:

Do something.

Mackenzie Carpenter is a staff writer for the Post-Gazette (, 412-253-1949, Twitter: @MackenziePG).

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