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There Goes The Neighborhood

Medical marijuana becomes legal in ski towns.

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The pain comes quickly after you feel the pop in your knee—that distinct snapping of an ACL. Or the tree comes from nowhere, and you only have time to close your eyes before you smash your nose into little pieces. Ski injuries have been around as long as people have been skiing. And when it comes to killing the pain, self-medication has traditionally consisted of a couple of beers, a shot, and a fistful of ibuprofen. But with 13 states—including skiing hotbeds such as Vermont, California, Montana, and Colorado—having approved medical marijuana, a new form of pain management is in the mix: the evil weed.


Of course, you can’t just spark up a joint if you’re sore. Patients first need approval from a doctor and have to get their “medicine” from an approved dispensary or caregiver. One of the newest dispensaries is Medical Marijuana of the Rockies in Frisco, Colorado. Located within an hour of seven ski areas, it’s in the heart of ski country, a region populated by broken and bruised bodies. “I see a lot of pain-management patients,” says Medical Marijuana’s Jerry Olson, “anyone who is an athlete or otherwise healthy and who doesn’t want to use harder, mainstream pharmaceuticals to get out on the mountain.”


“I’m allergic to codeine and other things,” adds Anthony (not his real name), who runs Tahoe Herbal Care, a Truckee, California, medical-marijuana delivery service that counts local skiers and snowboarders among its clients. “Cannabis is an anti-nausea drug and an anti-inflammatory, and you can remain clearheaded. It can work like ibuprofen.”


But the news has some people concerned, including the Colorado Department of Health, which has recently tracked a dramatic rise in approvals for men in their 20s to combat “chronic pain” with medical marijuana.


“It’s a crock,” says a Vail real estate agent who asked to remain anonymous. “We’re seeing the growth of this business, but let’s be honest. Their customers are like I used to be. They just want to get high, and this is an easy way for them to do it.”