John Colson: Hit and Run |

John Colson: Hit and Run

OK, full disclosure here: I am now an officially sanctioned medical marijuana patient.

I can just hear the shock and awe out there, dear readers. How could such a sober, upright American as myself admit to such a weakness, a need to use what was until recently an illegal weed?

Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve got a bad back, one that occasionally has me in such pain I can barely think. When it gets that way, if I can walk at all, I’m hunched over like a bell-ringer at the Notre Dame cathedral.

This problem, which some doctors have told me is genetic, started about three decades ago while I was taking a shower one sunny day, getting ready to go to work in that shiny metropolis known as Rifle, Colo.

I was reaching for the shampoo bottle on the edge of the tub when it hit me like a sledge hammer at the base of my spine, and quicker than thought I was face down in the tub, unable to move. The pain was like a lightning strike all over me every time I moved, and the only thing I could accomplish right then was turning myself over so I wouldn’t drown.

I managed to get dressed and get my sister, who was visiting me, to drive me to the hospital, but not before a comic episode outside the trailer I was living in. I had gone ahead to get in the car, which I knew would take some time, and was standing at the passenger door as my sister emerged from the trailer. Just as she turned to shut the door, the lightning hit again and I dropped like a stone, hidden from my sister’s sight by the car.

“John?” she called several times, while I sat there giggling and gasping at my predicament and wondering how long it would take her to get around to checking the passenger side and find me unable to choose between busting a gut laughing or screaming like I was on a torture rack – which, in effect, I was.

So we laughed all the way to Claggett Memorial Hospital, where they put me on the rack for real – traction, that is, which was the only way they could figure out to ease my aching back.

Ever since, I have been revisited by that lightning storm a couple of times a year, sometimes under very strange circumstances.

Once, I was swinging a lawn chair around me one afternoon, banging it on the ground to evict a swarm of earwigs that had taken up residence, when the lightning struck and I dropped to my knees. The only thing I could think about was how ludicrous this must have looked to my neighbors, and I started laughing hysterically as I crawled toward the house. I had to lie down for a week and recover, to relax enough to allow the muscle spasms to die down so that I could sit, stand, squirm and do all the things bodies normally do when they’re not being stabbed by a hot poker to the lumbar region.

And pot, for me, is the ultimate relaxant. I know, some people get jittery, paranoid even, when they use pot. But not me. I get comatose – not unlike someone who has just swallowed a prescription painkiller.

That’s why my doctor of 30 years agreed to recommend I become one of the 40,000 or so Coloradans who have signed on to the state registry and can walk into a storefront for their medication any day of the week, as mandated by a state constitutional amendment passed by the voters in 2000.

I never thought I’d see the day. Back when I graduated high school, in 1969, I was convinced pot would be legalized within five years. I even thought about moving to Jamaica, teaming up with the Rastafarians and starting an export business. Of course, being a stoned-out hippie left me ill-equipped to formulate a business plan, let alone actually put it into motion, so I never did it.

Standing at the door of one of the medical marijuana emporiums in the valley, I realized I’d never expected this to come to pass. Marijuana has been demonized by the government since the 1930s, when a racist bureaucrat in Washington named Harry J. Anslinger decided he could make a career out of prosecuting the hell out of what was then a largely black clientele for the weed – jazz musicians, political activists, those kinds of people.

Anslinger is quoted on the website,, as saying at a Congressional hearing, “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” He used the then-common fear of black men having relations with white women to feed the frenzy, and although the racist theme has dropped off, the anti-cannabis frenzy has not.

And so it was that I came home from my shopping trip just a little giddy about it all. I can only hope that our state legislature, in its dimwitted eagerness to undermine the voter’s will, fails in its bid to make it harder to grow, sell and buy this ancient medicinal herb.

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