The United States of Amerijuana

Don't call it pot; it's "medicine" now. Dealers are caregivers, and buyers are patients ...

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Jeff Riedel for TIME

I've always been passionate about food," says Jenelise Robinson. "And I've always been passionate about marijuana and the things it can do for the world."

The Denver woman is 35 but looks 20, with heavy loop earrings distending her lobes and an enormous bracelet to match. From her clavicles southward, her body is a riot of tattoos—the usual skulls and anchors as well as a large circle with a squiggle inside it on her right arm. (When a visitor points quizzically to the squiggle, she replies politely, "It's a baby in a brain," though the tone of her voice says, "Like, duh.") We shouldn't be misled by the biker look or the faux-'60s talk of changing the world. Robinson is all business—a consummate tradeswoman. In the past 16 months she has found a way to combine her passions for food and pot and make the combination pay, as founder, owner and head baker of Nancy B's Edible Medicine, one of the most successful start-ups in Colorado's newest "industry": medical marijuana.

Robinson's muffins and Rice Krispies squares are getting raves. "I have a very high tolerance," said one food critic in the Denver Chronicle, a medical-marijuana blog, "and a 2-dose lemon bar will put me on my ass." "I loved the buzz, which lasted 8 hours," wrote another. "Very functional and social." The growth of Robinson's business has come with the explosion in the number of Colorado's medical-marijuana dispensaries, or centers. Coloradans who are recommended by a doctor and approved by the state go to the centers to buy their pot, either in traditional bud form or as an "infused product" like Robinson's lemon bars, which are 100% organic and laced with a marijuana concentrate. Her success is reflected in the Mile High Macaroons and Cannabis Cups stacked in the new commissary-style kitchen she's rented in the gentrifying neighborhood of City Park West in Denver.

Even with a decent supply of high-grade pot in her walk-in freezer, Robinson can scarcely keep up with demand. She and her two employees (a third is soon to be hired) work six days a week to refine her menu, revise recipes, taste-test hash oil and manage inventory—and still squeeze in time every day to medicate.

"For my ADD," she says. "And some shoulder pain."

Medicate? The medical-marijuana industry relies heavily on such genteel euphemisms. To medicate is to smoke pot, and no one in the industry calls pot pot anymore; it's medicine now. Dealers are called caregivers, and the people who buy their dope—medicine, medicine—are patients. There's no irony here, no winks or nudges to signal that someone's leg is being pulled. "After work," says a counter clerk, or budtender, at Briargate Wellness Center, an upscale dispensary serving the tony north side of Colorado Springs, "I'll just go home, kick back, take out the bong and medicate."

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