In Parachute on Thursday, April 20, traffic off one of the I-70 exits was wrapped around the block. The cars and trucks were in line to visit the country’s first drive-thru pot shop, the Tumbleweed Express Drive-Thru.
It was hard to miss, with the orange cones, balloons and the people beside the food trucks, devouring pulled pork sandwiches.
“I feel like I’m going to Disneyland, but I’m going to the weed shop,” said one woman, waiting in her car.
April 20, or “4-20,” is the unofficial marijuana holiday. The drive thru’s grand opening felt like any other, except that the Marijuana Enforcement Division was in unmarked SUVs, watching intently from across the street.
James Seitz is a handyman in Parachute. When it was soon to be his turn, attendants walked up to his Ford 150 pickup and asked to make sure there were no weapons, THC, liquor, or children in the car.
Seitz is a regular at Tumbleweed’s main dispensary, just up the street. He marked his order on the menu that was brought to him. When his turn came, the doors opened and he drove into the building. The so-called “bud-tenders” had his order ready.
The drive-thru will operate from 4 p.m., or so, until midnight. It’s for customers like Seitz who know what they want and don’t need much hand-holding, which is why Mark Smith, the CEO of Tumbleweed, referred to it as the “frequent flyer program.”
The drive-thru was his idea. It came to him before opening the main store. One night, he stayed late staining the floor. The lights were on and people kept knocking on the doors and windows to see if he was open.
“And I’m not talking like five cars. I’m talking like 20, 30 cars. And 30, 40 people. It got to be kind of annoying,” he said.
It did start him thinking about the old car wash down the street. By law, marijuana transactions have to happen within four walls. But who’s to say the walls can’t move? And what’s stopping customers from staying in their cars?
Security cameras still record every transaction, just like at any other dispensary. No one under 21 is allowed.
The Tumbleweed Drive-Thru has been written up in places like ColoradoPotGuide.com and MarryJane.com. Also: TIME magazine, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post and Reuters. The Today Show also reported on it.
It seems part of the interest stems from Parachute. Before Tumbleweed bought it, it was Valley Car Wash. That’s when Ted Anderson ran it. He made good money from it during the oil shale boom. He remembers lines as long as the ones today.
Eventually gas prices fell and the jobs left. Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012, but Parachute banned recreational sales. In 2014, the natural gas market tanked further. Parachute expected sales tax revenue to fall and fall. Then, in 2015, the ban was lifted. Pot shops started cropping up and sales taxes have been growing by leaps and bounds ever since.
“And I’ve got lots more coming,” said Stuart McArthur, Parachute’s town manager, referring to applications for marijuana licenses.
Ted Anderson has never smoked marijuana. When Colorado voted whether or not to legalize marijuana, Anderson was against it.
“I guess you’d have to say it’s progress,” he said.
Anderson also drove his truck through the Tumbleweed Express. No need to fill out a menu, though. He bought some hats and T-shirts: His way of witnessing history.