Editorial: Marijuana clubs belong in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Editorial: Marijuana clubs belong in Aspen

Just what is the Aspen brand?

It’s a question that often arises when city leaders, image-conscious because of the high stakes involved, wrestle with Aspen’s latest dilemma of the day.

For sure, super wealth and world-class skiing are the hallmarks of today’s Aspen brand. That ’60s and ’70s funky, creative Aspen brand? Those days are long gone, but Aspen leaders and observers sometimes cling to the notion that they still are reflected here in the longtime locals, older homes and lodges, and the long-standing business establishments that have managed to survive over the decades.

We bring this up because it appears as if the Aspen brand is once again on trial with the legalization of recreational marijuana and its potential impacts here.

Aspen’s elected officials are in the unenviable position of trying to understand how recreational weed fits into the grand scheme of this town’s identity, not to mention its social impact.

On Tuesday, Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association will mull over the idea of private pot clubs in town.

“I’m concerned about the Aspen brand being identified, at this point, as a haven, or a retreat, for marijuana consumption,” Skadron told The Aspen Times this week.

Skadron’s concern, while valid, is not unique. Many state leaders shared the same worries when recreational marijuana shops opened at the beginning of this year throughout Colorado. There also were concerns that crime would spike in Colorado and the state’s reputation would be sullied by legalization.

“I think our entire state will pay the price,” Gov. John Hickenlooper once said. “Colorado is known for many great things — marijuana should not be one of them.”

That outbreak of crime hasn’t happened yet, based on city of Denver data, which showed a 42 percent drop in the city’s homicides for the first five months of 2014 compared with January through May in 2013 — or since recreational marijuana was legalized.

Granted, that’s a small amount of time to make any conclusions, but it’s encouraging nonetheless.

And it makes sense to carefully navigate the murky waters of marijuana legalization.

But we’re confident that private pot clubs should not be a concern for Aspen leaders. If anything, they should embrace them. Colorado towns that allow recreational marijuana sales are certain to attract visitors looking for pot. The problem is, it’s difficult to find places to legally smoke the plant. Would Aspen rather deal with people illegally firing up in public parks, on the streets or on the slopes? Or would it make better sense for them to legally get high in the confines of a pot club, where kids wouldn’t be allowed and nonusers wouldn’t be subjected to the smell?

Part of the Aspen brand is giving the tourists what they want. Pot clubs would fit perfectly with that ideal.

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