Carroll: Marijuana clubs in Aspen? Yes, we cannabis

Rick Carroll
Above the Fold

Reader LJ Erspamer, a longtime Aspen resident who’s sat on numerous boards, including Planning and Zoning, took quite the issue with last week’s editorial in support of marijuana clubs in Aspen.

Erspamer’s fiery letter to the editor, published in Monday’s Aspen Times, questioned the logic behind this paper’s rationale for advocating pot clubs.

“Does The Aspen Times want these pot clubs to have tables on the mall to partake in this new endeavor like the Bull Dog Club in Amsterdam?” Erspamer wrote. “Just what does The Aspen Times have in mind for the demographics it wants to attract to our community? What kind of tourist dollars will be invested in our city from this group? Where will our current tourist base go once something like this is approved? Where will the young families go that we are seeing in town this summer?”

Erspamer is not alone when it comes to locals who don’t want marijuana shops to sprout up in downtown. Through early Monday afternoon, this week’s Aspen Times online poll — as highly unscientific as it probably is — already had drawn more than 500 votes, with nearly 75 percent of the respondents against pot clubs in Aspen.

Perhaps the editorial wasn’t persuasive enough, but more likely, people’s objections to marijuana clubs in Aspen are too entrenched for them to change their minds.

But I’m also struggling to identify the real problems —not the fear-based, manufactured ones — that marijuana clubs could bring to Aspen, given that Colorado residents voted in favor of marijuana legalization in 2012. People can already walk into any one of Aspen’s two downtown pot shops and legally acquire marijuana in various forms — THC-infused edibles, buds and vaporizers, among others.

If those shops aren’t driving away visitors — has anybody not seen the hordes of tourists in the outdoor malls lately? — then conventional logic says pot clubs won’t, either.

As a parent of three children — including one who’s in high school — I fully understand the concerns the community has about the image of acceptance projected by the legalization of marijuana. But my concerns about marijuana use by my children are no greater than the potential for them consuming alcohol — and they would be forbidden to walk into a pot club, just like they’d be forbidden to enter a bar.

“It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol,” opined The New York Times last week in its first of six editorials advocating the legalization of marijuana.

Prohibition also marked the end of an era for speakeasies and blind tigers, opening the doors for legal drinking establishments.

Given the restrictions on marijuana use in Aspen already — essentially you can only toke in the privacy of your home but not at outdoor festivals, parks, campgrounds or other public settings — legal pot clubs deserve their place in society. As it stands, it’s as if we’ve been given a license to drive but all of the roads are closed.

Rick Carroll is editor of The Aspen Times. He takes comments, complaints, questions and news tips at, cus omniam. Gulic


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