John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

Ah, jeez, here we go again.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, in an apparent effort to use anti-marijuana hysteria as a campaign tool, has put “driving while high” on his hit list for the special session of the state Legislature, which got going on May 14.

Due to the nature of deadlines and newspaper production schedules, I wrote this column several days before you, the reader, will have it in your hands.

Which could mean the issue already has been decided by the time you read this and my words are off target. But such is the life of a columnist these days, and this is an important issue that must be aired.

So to the issue at hand, the state Legislature has been yanked back into special session because it didn’t finish its work by the end of its regular session May 8.

In case you missed it, the state’s rabidly self-righteous Republicans used legislative trickery to stop a bill that would have legalized same-sex unions, permitting gays and lesbians to have the same kind of civil rights to marriage that other folks have.

That was the real cause for Hickenlooper to call the assembly back into special session, but he just had to tack on a few other bills that got stuck in the Republicans’ game.

And a bill creating a ridiculously low drugged-driving standard, so low it essentially would recriminalize the use of medical marijuana but as a traffic offense, was one of those that got tacked on at the last minute.

The drugged-driving bill, interestingly enough, was passed by the state Senate and likely would have passed the House had it not been for the civil-unions bill, in which case this idiotic law would be on the books today.

But now, for the third time in two years, it has risen like a phoenix from its own ashes to threaten the state’s medical marijuana patients yet again.

That Hickenlooper would use this bill as a foil against the Republicans is a sign of the kind of cynical, self-promoting zeal that we all too often connect with career politicians. Knowing the civil-unions bill would meet with stiff resistance, I can imagine the governor thinking he would throw a sop to his foes by tossing the state’s medical pot users, not to mention the state’s constitution, under the bus of Republican fanaticism.

It may be that our lawmakers simply have no understanding of the way pot works in the human body, or they would understand that THC, the psychoactive ingredient in pot, is stored in fat cells and is not as water-soluble as, say, booze consumed by a heavy drinker.

So it is that, even a week after having smoked a bit of the weed, a user’s blood will retain trace elements of THC well above the limit proposed in the drugged-driving bill.

Thus, the law would make criminals of those who use medical marijuana to relieve various ailments, pains and discomfort.

This is in direct contradiction to the constitutional amendment, passed by the state’s voters in 2000, that permits the use of pot as medicine.

So the governor and the Legislature, whether through deliberate and cynical manipulation of the anti-marijuana hysteria or through sheer incompetence, seem determined to undo the vote of the state’s electorate.

And all this foolishness over a mild drug that is known to have myriad medical uses now and stretching far back through history.

What a waste.

Supporters of this dumb bill like to say that a standard is needed and that those innocent of being impaired while driving can prove that innocence through the courts.

But fighting the state takes a lot of money, and most medical marijuana patients don’t have the resources to do so.

And since most of the attention of the mainstream media will be focused on the civil-unions issue, this illogical and inhumane standard might well make it into the law books.

The unintended consequences of this act, if it is passed, will come back to bite us in the future – take my word on it.


Bar Talk: Barraquito

On a recent trip to Spain, I discovered something that I believe tops the espresso martini. It’s called a barraquito.

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