A soft, fresh snow is falling on the city. I’m holed up in my Airbnb in the RiNo district, an exuberant young art community that has sprung up in Denver only in the last few years.
It’s not yet 9 a.m., but I’m smoking two healthy bowls of Banana Kush on the balcony to get in the proper state for the unique massage treatment I’ve planned. I’ve also swallowed a 10 milligram capsule of solventless hash crafted by extract artist Nikka T.
Donning both a thick sweater and heavy coat, I walk a few blocks through the snow, observing the contrast of white upon colorful swaths of graffiti art installed as part of an annual street art event called The Crush.
I was born and raised in California, so when I step into LoDo Massage Studio for my “mile high” treatment, I’m wearing black leather tennis shoes now partially coated with damp snow.
Receptionist and yoga instructor Shawnee Lowe doesn’t seem to notice.
“Feel free to take your boots off,” she says, and offers me a glass of water.
The studio is a homey, no frills space primarily reflecting the purple accents of the business’ branding. As a visitor I’m partially out of place: California just legalized the adult-use of cannabis through Proposition 64 in November, but still has steps to make towards the normalization of cannabis use. Colorado, a state that legalized adult-use in 2012, is years ahead.
Business owner Ed Rich explains that a massage that includes a cream infused with cannabis, whether it be with THC or CBD, is a great way to explore the medical applications of marijuana.
“[Colorado] legalized it for all these other reasons and this is one of them,” he says. “I feel like it’s great to be in that area where it’s being utilized for something that’s definitely needed without the stigma associated with it.”
My massage begins in a typical fashion, but I soon feel the coolness of the CBD-infused Apothecanna cream. The combination of the cream and the deep tissue massage I receive from my masseuse, 29-year-old Sarah Flack, feels like its penetrating my skin on a deeper level.
Throughout the hour-long experience soothing music plays as Flack uses her integrative style of sports massage combined with a bit of Thai massage, coupled with the cream to send my body into a deep state of relaxation.
“It’s really cool working with that lotion, for sure,” she says after the treatment is complete. “It’s really nice for me too, my hands don’t really hurt like I used to before.”
Cannabis topicals work by interacting with the endocannabinoid system receptors that appear all throughout the body, including our skin. When using topicals, one does not get the psychoactive “high” typically associated with marijuana use, but can still receive healing benefits such as a reduction in inflammation and pain.
When I ask Flask if people ever show up for their massage treatments super stoned she laughs and confirms that, yes, sometimes her clients do show up to the studio pre-baked.
“I don’t really see a problem with it, I really enjoy getting a massage stoned myself,” she says. “I feel like I can really let go and receive the healing work a lot better. I think cannabis is amazing in that way.”
Her co-worker confirms that customers often ask about what exactly a “mile high” massage might entail.
“People usually want to know, ‘So first thing’s first, you have the Apothecanna cream, am I going to get really high or do I need to smoke before I come in?’” Lowe says. “I think it’s very rare that someone comes in and doesn’t want the Apothecanna cream. We’re signed up with 420 Tours in Denver so we get a lot of people coming in from out of town because of that.”
As a first point of contact for the studio, Lowe often finds herself explaining the benefits of cannabis topicals to curious would-be customers.
“I get to educate them a little bit,” she says. “Which is nice because I feel like they get to go home to whatever state it is that they’re from and they can educate their friends and family and just kind of get the word out that marijuana’s not a bad thing.”
Rich tells me although he initially thought there might be pushback from his older customers when his business — which began as a chair massage copy that now includes over 700 corporate clients and two massage studios in Denver — decided to embrace cannabis massage.
“I’ve found no pushback whatsoever, everybody embraces it because this is one of the reasons why they legalized it, to be utilized in an environment like this, where it’s truly medically beneficial,” he says. “I would love to bring it into our corporate chair massage business but I am concerned about the pushback on a corporate level.”
In addition to the normality surrounding the cannabis-infused massage at the business, the employees also seem to embrace erasing the stigma in admitting their own cannabis use.
When her clients ask her if they can smoke, Flack always tells them the same thing.
“Don’t smoke it in here. Do what you do just don’t tell me about it, I’m not going to judge. I like to do it too,” she says. “I think that there is a way to be responsible with [cannabis] and there’s a way to be irresponsible with it and I think that because it’s been legalized it makes it easier to be responsible with it. I’m not going to come completely stoned to work just because, I mean, I do a lot of deep tissue and neuromuscular and I need to be focused on what I’m doing.”
To complete my experience Rich tells me I should make the journey to the Apothecanna headquarters, which is about two blocks away. He assures me someone will answer if I knock on the door hard enough and his assumption is correct.
When I arrive at the headquarters, a bright industrial studio that fits in perfectly with the hip vibe of the neighborhood, I’m warmly greeted by the employees.
Office manager, Jazmin Dukes, says the headquarters is where the company makes its over-the-counter products and puts together kits for cannabis companies it has partnered with. In this regard, Apothecanna is a not a marijuana company, per se, but rather a traditional beauty company that partners with businesses in the cannabis space to sell THC-infused products.
While the CBD cream from Apothecanna is sourced from hemp, the THC creams are sourced from marijuana. Founded in 2009, the company is based on the healing properties of plants, including cannabis.
“We’re sending [the kits] out to our licensed partners who then source their own THC oil and then infuse it with our products and then sell it in a dispensary,” she says. “We’re definitely geared towards being a part of everyone’s health and beauty routine, being part of a lifestyle of caring for yourself in health and wellness in that aspect.”
The whole experience of the “mile high” massage has been rejuvenating. Self-care incorporating cannabis and massage is a great way to stay healthy by exploring the full potential of this amazing plant.
TELL US, have you ever tried a cannabis-infused massage treatment?