Rob Douglas: Steamboat’s widget shops


Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at

Find more columns by Douglas here.

— Don’t be surprised early next year if you’re approached by a local resident or tourist seeking assistance in locating Steamboat Springs’ widget shops. Remarkably, they might ask you even though they’re standing right under a sign for widgets attached to a widget shop. If so, please don’t conclude the inquiry is from an illiterate. After all, Colorado and Steamboat laws about the sale of widgets are intended to deceive.

You didn’t know Steamboat has widget shops? That’s hard to believe given the widget market is set to expand next year from the current medical use of widgets to include the recreational use of widgets.

Still confused? No worries. It wasn’t until I attended law school that I learned about widgets.

In law school, the word widget is employed as a substitute term for products found in the marketplace. Instead of discussing how a legal doctrine applies to soda, cars, light bulbs or other commercially available products, we’d discuss how the legal doctrine might impact “widgets.”

For example, my constitutional law professor might say, “Douglas, identify the legal and constitutional issues raised if a legislative body passes a law making it illegal for a shop owner to use the scientific or common terms for the widgets she sells on the advertising signs attached to her store.”

Of course, that’s exactly what happened in Steamboat this week.

Given the majority vote this week by Steamboat Springs City Council members Bart Kounovsky, Scott Myller, Walter Magill and Kenny Reisman to ban the use of the words cannabis (scientific), marijuana (common) or any synonym or depiction for marijuana on advertising signs attached to recreational marijuana shops in Steamboat, marijuana proprietors will have to use a widget-like term to describe all marijuana products.

Evidently, based on the comments of several council members, Tuesday’s flip-flop vote came after they were approached by the marijuana faction of Steamboat’s Flat Earth Society following a previous vote that authorized the use of the word marijuana on advertising attached to recreational marijuana shops. Coincidentally, it also came just 24 hours before Dr. Sanjay Gupta did a flip-flop of his own.

While most Americans know Gupta as CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Gupta is an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine and associate chief of the neurosurgery service at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. In short, Gupta is an accomplished physician who turned down an offer from President Barack Obama to be U.S. surgeon general.

At 6 p.m. Sunday, CNN will air “Weed: A Dr. Sanjay Gupta Special.” Segments of the special were filmed in Colorado.

During a preview of the special Wednesday, Gupta spoke about medical and recreational marijuana and, in so doing, made the following statements:

• “I’ve apologized for some of (my) earlier reporting (castigating marijuana) because I think we’ve been terribly and systematically misled in this country for some time, and I did part of that misleading.”

• “I didn’t listen to the chorus of patients who said, ‘Not only does marijuana work for me, it’s the only thing that works for me.’”

• “I took the DEA at their word when they said it’s a Schedule 1 substance and has no medical application. There was no scientific basis for them to say that.”

• “The science (supporting the medicinal use of marijuana) is there. This isn’t anecdotal. This isn’t in the realm of conjecture. … This was a drug that was used for thousands of years. … It works, and it can work very quickly.”

• “Every 19 minutes in this country, someone dies of an accidental prescription drug overdose. This is no joke. Every 19 minutes. I couldn’t find one documented case of someone dying of a marijuana overdose.”

• “Addiction is possibly real, about 9 percent. Put it in context, cocaine is about 20 percent. … alcohol has a higher rate of addiction. Smoking, 30 percent and that leads to far more deaths than marijuana.”

Anyone with an interest in the ongoing battle over the legalization of marijuana should tune in Sunday — with an open mind — to watch the CNN special or read Gupta’s editorial, “Why I Changed My Mind on Weed.”

If they do so, educated lawmakers might stop playing word games.

To reach Rob Douglas, email


bill schurman 3 years, 8 months ago

"Doobies Are Us". How's that for a sign?? Marijuana ? 'course not. The Doobie Brothers, silly.


Dan Hill 3 years, 8 months ago

But think of the children Rob! Should our little darlings see the word marijuana, or heaven help us a picture of some leaves, they will be forever scarred!

Talk about pandering to a vocal minority. A far more significant majority of Steamboat voters than you would ever get for most initiatives voted to legalize MJ on the model of regulating it like alcohol. So I suppose I'll be buying my hooch from Central Park Liquid Widgets (as opposed to the widgets you smoke) from now on.


John Fielding 3 years, 8 months ago


In the State of Connecticut they use the euphemism "Package Store" for alcohol retailers. This is mandated by law. Perhaps the regulators here should make the decision of what pot shops must be called, not simply list what they cannot be called.

In Connecticut, at every alcohol retail dispensary, (bars, restaurants, packies), the permit holders name is displayed, usually over the door, so everyone knows who is responsible for complying with the regulations that are intended to minimize damage from the use of this substance. Will similar accountability be required here, and if so will it treat alcohol and marijuana on a similar footing? What is the basis for treating the two differently?



Cresean Sterne 3 years, 8 months ago

Well this might be the dumbest ruling yet..I can understand names like stoney maloneys, rocky mountain high, the need for weed or joints R us but not being allowed to use the word marijuana, cannabis or picture a 5 leafe plant is just plain silly. We are not Utah, Texas or Conneticut which have some pretty dumb ways of doing liquor business by trying to keep it hidden but legal. Its obvious that Colorado is a lot more open minded which makes this state one of the best nationaly to live in.( and thats on record). But C'mon city council. Havent the few of you made enough silly decisision in this town without approval of the majority. Trying to hide something that has been approved by your voters or keep it on the down low is not the propper way to conduct business.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 8 months ago

The existing dispensaries didn't oppose the rules because none of them plan on a name or sign in conflict with the rules.

So the joke of the situation is that the rules have no practical effect because those potentially able to violate the rules already had different plans. But since the rules are obviously unconstitutional, they are unenforceable if the city were to believe a violation occurred.

The ordinance doesn't even provide a list of prohibited synonyms. So apparently we could decide to create a local slang term of "RMR" for pot which then would cause "RMR" on a sign to be a violation of the ordinance. Just another indication that the city isn't worried about writing the ordinance to be able to stand up in court.


maynardshort 3 years, 8 months ago

Sure ~ ~ first marijuana, then condoms, and tampons, and depends diapers, and where will it end.


bill schurman 3 years, 8 months ago

Will council (the 4 in charge) set up a marijuana store (oops, there I said it) naming board ??? I'll volunteer.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 8 months ago

When Oak Creek made similar rules, I offered to Jacob that I'll put a sign on my building saying "Medical Marijuana" and a big arrow pointing across the street. But he didn't want to further annoy the Town.

But a lack of accurate signage is an annoyance because there were people coming to me looking for Mary's Dispensary

Joke is all of the loopholes for rules like that. The mj business could purchase a truck and paint a big mj leaf on it. And park the truck in front of the business. Government simply cannot control things like appropriate advertising. Bad advertising should be self correcting by not attracting customers.

This sort of thing has been far too consistent for this City Council for it to be a coincidence. It looks to me like our civic minded council is encouraging downtown by creating so much material for Pirate' Theater for their performances.


bill schurman 3 years, 8 months ago

What if the store owner's name is "Bud" ? Guess "Bud's Store" is out ? The 4 need to get a dose of .... reality.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 8 months ago

Or if a couple of women wanted to open then they could not use their names as Mary and Jane's Shop, but maybe as Jane and Mary's Shop would be acceptable.

Just move on how that ordinance is more useful as comedy than something enforceable.

Or have, the first letter of each row "happens" to spell a forbidden word read vertically. So



Tweet SHOP

is legal until the City figures out to read vertically. Or test the government's botanical skills and show the leaf of the American Sweetgum.

And isn't the dispensary on Hwy 40 called "Golden Leaf" already in violation? Pretty obvious that is selling mj.


Matthew Stoddard 3 years, 8 months ago

MJ leaves are usually green, not gold, correct? Building's green, though.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 8 months ago

But "Golden" is presumably not describing the color, but the quality of the leaf. So it is a synonym for special or great leaf which is referring to part of the marijuana plant.


rhys jones 3 years, 8 months ago

Oh - My - God. Now the Wiz is a pot expert. Presumably.

Somebody tell him about color, he's apparently never seen any.

The City can restrict the trade however they want, we don't care, they just won't get their cut.


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