Colson: Why all the hand-wringing over Aspen Mountain High? |

Colson: Why all the hand-wringing over Aspen Mountain High?

with John Colson

It appears that the Board of Pitkin County Commissioners is tying itself in knots over a proposal to start up an “MIP” (marijuana infused products, in case you didn’t know) business at the Aspen Business Center, and I’ll be damned if I can understand why.

The business, known as Aspen Mountain High, has been trying to win local approval for close to two years, according to a chat with one of the owners. It would manufacture what are known in the industry as “edibles” — popcorn, bubblegum and other comestibles baked with varying, typically low concentrations of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in cannabis that makes people giggle and get hungry.

Could it be that the Pitkin County Commissioners, as a body, is dominated by people who feel that the voters’ mandate in favor of legalized marijuana consumption, expressed in elections in 2000 and 2012, was not clear enough?

To make it clear, according to state election records, Pitkin County voters overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana legalization in 2000, by a margin of 6,110 to 1,395, or roughly 4-to-1 (the statewide margin was slimmer, but still substantial).

In 2012, the county electorate approved the legalization of “recreational” marijuana by a smaller margin, 7,303 to 2,377, but still by about 3-to-1.

So, it seems quite obvious to me that the voters spoke out eloquently and clearly in favor of the sale, distribution and use of cannabis by those 21 years of age or older, in all its forms.

Which is what puzzles me about a statement attributed to Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman of Emma: “This is the first marijuana manufacturing site in the county. It begs a larger dialogue with the community. We’ve never really had that discussion.”

Which discussion is that, George?

Was something left unsaid when a stunning majority of the local electorate came out in favor of allowing adults to use cannabis products, whether in the form of buds or brownies?

As the attorneys like to say in court, “Asked and answered.”

Is it that a minority of the electorate remains unhappy that their fellow voters gave their approval for such businesses not once, but twice, and would like to see someone wave a magic wand and return us to the bad old days of marijuana prohibition?

Once again, to resort to legalistic courtroom jargon, “We’ll stipulate to that point.”

Meaning that yes, it is perfectly understood that there are people who are, in effect, still living in the dark ages and would like to continue to believe and foster the lies spread by law enforcement and other groups about the supposed dangers of smoking or eating pot, or “devil weed,” as some like to call it.

Others are in apparent alignment with the law enforcement community, which lost a serious cash cow when the voters legalized marijuana. Not only did the drug-enforcement budgets of various state and local police agencies suddenly start to look more than a little bloated and unnecessary, but the agencies also lost their much-loved ability to seize the assets (homes, cars, boats, cash, whatever) from those arrested and convicted of certain drug offenses.

The county already has been side-swiped by those who react violently to even a suggestion of cannabis-related odors, once again out of a knee-jerk antipathy toward the idea of legalized cannabis use.

But in a supposedly enlightened place such as Pitkin County, it is a little unnerving to hear this kind of talk coming from the mouths of elected officials, such as the statement from Commissioner Patti Clapper, who is quoted as saying, “Good idea, George.”

Which idea is that, Patti?

Did you mean the suggestion that the only way to hold a worthwhile discussion is to invite “health care providers … school representatives and members of the Valley Partnership for Drug Prevention,” as identified in a news story about the commissioners’ banter over this matter?

Never mind that all of those groups have long been reliably anti-pot in every regard, and vocally so, or that those kinds of organizations campaigned against the passage of Amendment 20 in 2000, and Amendment 64 in 2012.

Never mind that we can all predict what those groups will say before they even say it, which amounts to something along the lines of, “You have to reject this application, commissioners, or you will be doing unimaginable harm to the children.”

Well, guess what: The children have been able to get their hands on pot forever, just as they have found ways to get drunk before coming of age, regardless of the draconian laws that made criminals of them in both types of cases, and legalization has not brought about the end of civilization despite such predictions.

Unfortunately, too many of the docs, the cops, and the anti-drug crusaders have banked significant parts of their livelihoods on continued resistance to any relaxation of the war on pot, and will continue to do so if given half a chance.

Which, I guess, is what Newman and Clapper hope to provide.