By Jonathan Kaminsky
OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - For Nate Johnson, the excitement surrounding the upcoming Super Bowl is two-fold. Not only are his hometown Seattle Seahawks taking on the Denver Broncos - football teams representing two major U.S. cities where recreational pot use is legal - but his medical weed dispensary is seeing green.
Demand for "Beast Mode" - a strain named in honor of the Seahawks' hard-hitting running back, Marshawn Lynch - has been high at his Queen Anne Cannabis Club in Seattle, Johnson said, while pot-laced blue-and-green cupcakes are also selling fast.
"Anything Seahawks colored or themed, it's ‘Boom!'" Johnson said, referring to the brisk sales. "It almost seems like it's the holidays all over again."
Johnson is among those capitalizing on the novelty of what pot enthusiasts on Twitter and elsewhere have gleefully dubbed as "Bud Bowl," "Pack-a-Bowl" and "The Stoner Bowl."
Washington state and Colorado both voted in 2012 to legalize recreational marijuana use, though the drug remains illegal under federal law. Recreational pot shops opened earlier this month in Colorado and are set to do so later this year in Washington state.
In and around Denver, pot stores contacted by Reuters were doing a brisk business even before the onset of Super Bowl fever.
Still, in the Denver suburb of Georgetown, the Sergeant Green Leaf Wellness Center's manager - who gave only his first name, Angelo - said the store plans to run some Broncos-themed specials ahead of the big game.
Glass pipes and bongs with the team's colors of blue and orange will go on sale, Angelo said, as will at least one variety of pot - likely the fortuitously-named "Orange Crush."
"THE STONER BOWL"
While Super Bowl excitement runs strongest in Colorado and Washington state, the desire to get in on the pot-themed action surrounding the event extends further.
In McAllen, Texas, as the Seahawks were minutes from securing their spot in the big game earlier this month, a website maker named John King got a text message from a friend with a business idea.
By the time the Seahawks had vanquished the San Francisco 49ers to earn a Super Bowl berth, King had registered www.thestonerbowl.com.
A day later, he was hawking T-shirts on the site with slogans like "Pass, Pass, Puff!," "The 2014 Stoner Bowl: Get Fired Up!" and, his personal favorite - a riff on Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning's on-field utterances - "Omahahahahaha."
King said he was shipping out his initial orders of 72 T-shirts, each costing $25, on Tuesday.
"What is the likelihood that the two states that actually legalized marijuana end up meeting in the Super Bowl?" he said. "It's hilarious."
Advocates of legal pot are also using the Super Bowl to promote their message. On five billboards near the site of the big game in New Jersey, the Marijuana Policy Project questions the NFL's ban on pot use by players, asserting in one that pot is "safer than alcohol … and football."
Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week that the league would follow the lead of doctors in determining whether to drop its opposition to players' use of the drug. The NFL did not immediately return messages seeking comment on Tuesday.
Kevin Sabet, co-founder of Project Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes pot legalization, said he can't fault pot backers for reveling in the fact that the two U.S. cities where pot is legal are competing in the Super Bowl, but worries the platform it provides will further spread the idea - dangerous, in his view - that pot is harmless.
Given the game's large audience, he is particularly concerned that some Super Bowl television advertisers may give a "wink and a nod" to marijuana use.
"I understand that it's in a way cosmic that the two cities going forward with legalization are both in the spotlight for the Super Bowl," he said. "I hope legalization advocates have their fun with it, just not too much fun."
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson)