Aspen Times Weekly: Hit & Run with John Colson | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Times Weekly: Hit & Run with John Colson

with John Colson

It certainly seems as though the marijuana-legalization debate is heating up, similar to a joint that lights itself from the rising air temperature rather than requiring a match to be held to one end.

I’ve been away from Colorado for a bit, and so I missed the opening day of recreational marijuana stores around the state, as permitted by the passage of Amendment 64 to the Colorado Constitution by the state’s voters in 2012.

I was in Wisconsin, remembering why it was that I left the Dairy State and wound up in the Centennial State some 35 years ago. It was damned cold the week I spent in Madison, with lows in the negative-teens (Fahrenheit, for the detail-minded reader) and highs never getting much above zero.

The weather, of course, was the big news in the upper Midwest, as it always is, and more than one climate-change denier was heard to mutter, “Global warming? Hah!” or some variant of that theme.

But close on the heels of the weather coverage was a parade of images from the streets of Colorado, where eager buyers were shown lining up around the block to shop at the new stores, labeled “recreational” or “retail” pot shops instead of “medical” marijuana dispensaries, which also were legalized by Colorado’s voters in 2000.

It was an interesting perspective on the whole phenomenon, and one I’m glad to have witnessed, if only for the amusement factor.

For instance, I tried to discern from the words and pictures whether the reporter of the moment had actually ever smoked pot.

My entirely unscientific conclusion was that some probably had, others probably hadn’t, and that the ones who seemed most gleeful about the new Colorado laws were likely to be among the former group.

The newscasters who appeared concerned or even frightened by the stories probably are among those who bought the lies of the “Reefer Madness” anti-marijuana movie and other government propaganda, and continue to believe that smoking pot turns the smoker into a raging psychopath, regardless of the reality.

According to an organization called drugpolicy.org, somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 percent of Americans have admitted to smoking pot at least once in their lives, though most of those who admitted to using other illicit drugs are not reported to have become addicted to either pot or the other drug.

The website, in fact, states that “for a large majority of people, marijuana is a terminus rather than a so-called gateway drug” leading to wanton use of harder substances.

In any event, as noted above, the pro-legalization movement seems to be gaining supporters in the most unlikely places, aside from the 20 or so states that now permit pot to be consumed in one way or another.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for example, was expected to announce this week that he is relaxing that state’s notoriously punitive anti-pot laws to permit its use by patients with certain medical conditions, including glaucoma, cancer or other diseases in which pot is known to provide relief from nasty symptoms.

The new regimen, however, will only be allowed for patients at just 20 hospitals across the state, which is a limitation guaranteed to do only one thing — prompt a statewide movement to drop the restriction and just legalize weed, for medical uses at least.

Just as in Colorado, of course, if the voters of New York manage to stage an end-run around the existing laws and get legalization passed, it will then face an unending series of stalling actions and attempts to undermine the voters’ will. Ill-informed legislators, frightened law enforcement types and civic leaders afraid of anything they don’t understand usually can be counted on to do the dumb thing where pot is concerned.

But, hey, it’s a new year, and anything could happen, even in New York State.

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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