John Colson: No need for Caraveo’s war on pot
Hith & Run
Earlier this month, while the rest of the country was gnashing its teeth over the mosh pit of political frenzy in Washington, D.C., a planned Colorado state legislative proposal was leaked to the media and our own little frenzy erupted, according to a story in the Colorado Sun online news publication.
The proposal, from Thornton State Rep. Yadira Caraveo, was to drastically limit the potency of legal marijuana products sold in Colorado’s now-famous marijuana market, among other ideas.
I know, I know, taking time to write about pot potency in the midst of nationwide political chaos might seem just a teeny bit silly and out of place.
But, hey, that’s why they call this an “opinion” piece — it’s entirely dependent on what particular issue gets the writer worked up on a given deadline day, and that writer happens to be me, and this issue got me more than excited, it made me mad.
The reason for my pique, I should note, is my frustration over the century-long prohibition on a relatively unharmful drug (pot) that has been in use by humans for millennia and has never, that I know of, caused much of a problem for anyone.
You see, the cannabis plant and its rather mild effects have been an important part of my personal pharmacopoeia for roughly half a century. Smoking pot, even when it was illegal and might have landed me in jail, was my preferred choice for relaxing my brain (it regularly overheats,) my back (I’ve had chronic lower-back pain for decades) and my general outlook on life. I started smoking pot before I ever took up drinking.
Back in the late 1960s, when I first encountered pot, I quickly learned that I needed to set limits on my consumption or I might find myself sleeping through life along the lines of Rip Van Winkle (and no, I’m not sure if old Rip ever smoked a joint, though I rather doubt it).
I also learned that pot was illegal through a wicked combination of racism and lust for power in the person of one Harry J. Anslinger, who in the 1930s was the first-ever commissioner of the newly created Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
Reacting to a rising tide of racist attitudes toward Asians, Blacks and Latin Americans, Anslinger realized he could make a name for himself by targeting drugs perceived as being primarily used by people of color — cocaine, opium/heroin and marijuana.
Using tried-and-true racist stereotypes such as “pot will make Black men hunger for white women,” while simultaneously beating the drums of law enforcement against musicians, writers and other creative, countercultural types who liked to get high to boost their creativity, Anslinger tied his campaign to a huge corporate resistance to legalization of the cannabis plant.
You see, cannabis has been shown to have myriad other uses besides just getting high. Different parts of the plant have been widely used in such ways as making rope, medicines, industrial lubricants and a whole host of products in between (check it out online for yourself), and entire industries realized cannabis could cut into their profits if it were to gain wide use.
As a result, the plant has been demonized by corporate and medical America ever since. And I do not think it is coincidental that Caraveo happens to be a pediatrician, a profession that is under the umbrella of the pot-hating American Medical Association.
According to Feb. 1 article in the Denver area news weekly, Westword, there is some suspicion that Caraveo’s budding (pun intended) campaign (she has shelved the bill for now, saying she wants to refine and improve it before reintroduction) is being prodded along by “anti-marijuana” groups such as the misleadingly named Smart Approaches to Marijuana and closer to home, Smart Colorado.
Such groups, realizing they basically lost to battle to prevent legalization of cannabis products in states around the nation, have turned their energies to trying to attack the growing markets generated by legalization based on the old argument, “We’re doing it for the kids.”
Don’t get me wrong, I believe pot should be withheld from kids until they reach the age of 18 or so, because I can testify that it can rob a kid of ambition and mental energy at a critical time in life.
But for adults, I see no reason for the state to step into this particular policy puddle, particularly given the more conciliatory governmental attitudes toward the drinking of alcoholic beverages. Adults clearly need ways to take the edge off the difficulties they face, but why should the state favor one substance over another?
The Westword article also cited concerns among some observers that a law such as the one proposed by Caraveo might well be unconstitutional, since laws legalizing both medical pot and “recreational” pot were passed as constitutional amendments.
I’ll be interested to see what Caraveo comes up with for her revised and “improved” bill, but I’d be willing to bet it really won’t be an improvement at all — just another attempt by an ambitious legislator to make a name for herself using Anslinger as her model.
And I don’t think Colorado would benefit in any way from starting up its own war on pot at this point.
Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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