John Colson: Hit and Run | AspenTimes.com

John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

What is it about people smoking pot, whether to have fun or to relieve their pains and soothe their tortured psyches, that prompts such an outburst of regulatory bile and nastiness from the mainstream American establishment?

We blithely permit people to buy booze at any outlet that sells it, in any town across the state of Colorado, no matter their status. Habitual drunks, wife beaters, petty thieves, hate-crime perpetrators, you name the criminal history – they can all buy booze any time they want to, despite the known fact that booze contributes to their craziness far more than pot ever could.

But new rules being put together by the bureaucrats and politicians in Denver would deny that right to medical marijuana patients, who would be required to identify one – repeat, ONE – outlet for medical marijuana, and stick with that one outlet to the exclusion of all others, or face criminal penalties.

It wouldn’t matter if an outlet across the street, in another part of town or even in another community entirely, is offering better service, better products, better prices or greater convenience to someone, say, traveling far from home and suddenly short of the medicine they need.

If they go to that second outlet and try to satisfy their right to buy their medicine, as established in the state constitution, both they and the proprietor of the outlet are subject to criminal sanctions.

Is that right? Is that the way we, as a state, want to treat our citizens?

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Let’s look at another example of this disparity in regulations. When you buy a bottle of booze, you may be asked to produce identification showing you’re old enough to legally do so.

But the proprietor is not required to snap a photo of your documents, or to keep on file a video of the transaction, or to check to make sure you haven’t recently purchased medicine from another outlet that was previously selected as your “primary caregiver.”

These proposed rules would require just that in the case of medical marijuana.

Why is that? What is the purpose of such rules other than to harass and intimidate the customer, the proprietor, indeed the entire industry?

Let’s not forget that the federal government remains hostile to this whole enterprise, for reasons that date back nearly a century and are rooted in an ugly tapestry of racial prejudice, political power-brokering and commercial greed. It remains a violation of federal law to grow, sell or buy pot in any form, thanks to a blend of ignorance, fear and ambition among those running this country.

Despite the announcement by President Obama that the feds will not come down on legitimate participants in the medical marijuana business, from growers to sellers to purchasers and users, the hostility remains. Federal agents still kick in doors, arrest legitimate businessmen and confiscate property, over the tiniest infractions and, in some cases, based on trumped-up evidence and charges.

Is Colorado, as a state, determined to send people back into the shadows of the black market through this kind of heavy-handed, overzealous regulation? Is that the goal of imposing the kind of control that hasn’t been used in overseeing the liquor industry, at least not since Prohibition?

It certainly appears that way. I mean, if a patient knows that the cops can obtain a video of him or her buying medicine at a local outlet, and that there are federal agents out there eager to throw him or her in prison for it, he or she will think twice about taking that risk.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not surprised that the state wants to put its mark on the industry, and I concede that there is a need for some reasonable level of regulation.

But this mess, these 100 or so pages of rules written by lawyers who charge by the keystroke, and who listen to cops more than they listen to the people at large, is over the top.

I’m worried that the whole thing boils down to the fact that pot smokers are viewed as anti-establishment by definition, and as such are suspect in the eyes of that establishment. The fact that the state’s electorate endorsed this kind of attitude in 2000, by approving medical marijuana as a constitutional right, clearly has worked the legal establishment into a lather.

And if another reactionary government grabs the reins of federal power, the feds almost certainly would put the jackboots on again and start using the records kept by medical marijuana dispensaries as a way of cracking down and asserting their authority and power.

From our state government’s performance so far, I wouldn’t expect any help from Denver if things go that way.

jcolson@aspentimes.com

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