Carroll: Why all of the pot paranoia? |

Carroll: Why all of the pot paranoia?

Rick Carroll
Above the Fold

A woman spotted my 2-year-old daughter and me entering the Port-O-Potty she’d just left at the Journey concert in Snowmass on Sunday night and warned me, “You’d better not take your little girl in there.”

“Oh, mercy,” I thought, shuddering to imagine what she was implying, and knowing full well that each time I enter a public outhouse, it’s a voyage into the unknown.

“It smells like pot. But it wasn’t me,” she said and sauntered off.

I made a mental mark on my calendar: It was the first time I’d ever been cautioned about what was behind the Port-O-Potty door that came from a bong and not a butt.

Will the pot paranoia ever come to an end?

Last week the U.S. Justice Department said it will back off chasing marijuana users in the two states where voters legalized its recreational use in the November elections — Colorado and Washington — provided it’s kept away from children and the cartels and doesn’t cross the states’ borders, among other restrictions.

As a Colorado resident and parent, those are rules I can live by. Yet there still seems to be paranoia about weed, whether it’s from the plant’s critics or those who use it.

Over lunch with a colleague the other day, he mentioned his use of marijuana back in the ’80s, his voice lowered to an almost hushed tone as if he were instead referring to his time as a mafia hit man.

I told him that he didn’t need to whisper, reminding him that it’s legal in Colorado (marijuana, not murder). And he reminded me that it would take awhile to get used to the legalization, given the fact that it’s been outlawed for so many years.

Fair enough, and just because pot is now legal doesn’t mean all of its users need to shout from the rooftops the fact that they’re stoners.

That’s partly because there’s still a stigma attached to pot use, despite the fact that its recreational use is allowed in two states, all because of the government’s war on drugs and the public’s forced consumption of misleading propaganda demonizing the hippie lettuce.

The very paranoia and ignorance was evident at a recent Basalt Town Council meeting, where some Holland Hills residents expressed their fears that a proposed pot greenhouse would attract crime and send the wrong message to their children. They also parlayed their paranoia onto the proposed project’s size, surely a hurdle many pot growers will face when they want to build a grow center or greenhouse.

The great and vastly known paradox here is that alcohol, indisputably much more dangerous to adults than pot, is socially accepted in a country full of hypocrites. Even in Aspen, the Food & Wine Classic romanticizes alcohol and its use. We stumble around town, credentials draped around our necks like a badge of honor. And it’s all in the name of a good time — your liver be damned.

When I was a kid, my parents made me wait in the car while they went into the liquor store so they wouldn’t expose me to the evil liquid in the bottle. It seems that every generation has a substance-abuse stigma.

But even if the stigma of pot use will be around for a while, that’s OK, given last week’s announcement by the feds. It was a benchmark moment in the movement to legalize America’s No. 1 cash crop. It also was music to my ears, and I didn’t need to be high to enjoy it.

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


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