A mind-altering substance


few weeks ago I went to the U.N.’s Special Session on drugs where I saw, for the first time, just how important Colorado’s legalization of cannabis is. It’s in sparking change to international drug policy as dozens of nation states are shifting their positions on cannabis in the years following the passage of Amendment 64. Behind this new global narrative are countless stories of individuals whose personal thoughts on this matter have evolved significantly. Including my own.

Born here, in Boulder, in 1986, I was brought up under the loving watch of my free-spirit, single mom. Until she had me, she was more or less a hippie from the good old days who raised me listening to Janis Joplin, throwing pottery on a wheel in the basement and eating a consistent diet of hippie slop. She taught me to respected the earth, animals and people, even if they didn’t always deserve it.    

Fast forward to 2013, when she called me to talk excitedly about the first week of legal marijuana sales. I was surprised because she doesn’t smoke, at least not that I know about, not anymore. She was ecstatic, not just because people could get high legally, but because of what it represented.

For her and her friends who lived in Boulder back in its hippie heyday, smoking weed was about altering your mind, it was about inviting in new perspectives and challenging settled beliefs. It was about peace and love and open-mindedness. She didn’t say it when she called, but I think she finally felt proud to be a Coloradan, to be a part of breaking through the way things were to the way things should be.

Since writing Weed Between the Lines, I have talked to hundreds of people about cannabis, many of them notable insiders to the politics and developing markets of marijuana. A lot of those stories turn into columns as my way of describing cannabis, in all of its multi-dimensions.

From politics to agriculture to social justice to medical rights, there is almost no subject untouched and unchanged by the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and so there is plenty of fuel for that fire. Examinations of those areas are timely, curious and impactful -— crucial descriptions of the world in a changing time.

While I love and am attracted to these stories, they aren’t why I love this column. I love it because of the personal reckoning that I experience everyday as I research and write about weed. Every day I am forced into new territory and without precedent to cling to, my own prejudices are thrust up against a blank slate with uncertain outcomes.

It isn’t easy to be open-minded, it’s uncomfortable actually, which explains the human tendency to cling to precedent when faced with an opportunity to be original and act anew. I see this, not just in my own thought processes, but also in those of many people I talk to, as we all reckon with inconsistencies in thought and opinion amid new circumstances.

For example, last week the Boulder County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to endorse changing the limits of personal cultivation in unincorporated county from 300 square feet to six plants per household, a significant decrease. They offered many justifications, but chief among them was the desire to match The City of Boulder’s code. Meanwhile, and ironically, the City’s Marijuana Advisory Panel is involved in an extensive process in consideration of ways to better align Boulder’s code with the State’s.

This is just one example of the collective tendency to rest on our laurels, or if not our own, then someone else’s. There are many more instances and some of them make me angrier than others. It is totally unacceptable that, despite decreasing arrest rates for marijuana in Colorado, blacks and other minority groups are still targeted at alarmingly high rates as compared to whites. And I get really ticked when I hear stories about mothers being criticized for using marijuana, especially when I think about the sheer number of children that accompany their parents to Boulder brew pubs. 

I’m not mad at anybody in particular and I certainly do not have an agenda when it comes to legalized cannabis. It’s just that I am so proud of us for legalizing marijuana, for being open-minded enough to usher in a mind-altering substance. For realizing that just because we didn’t understand cannabis, didn’t mean we needed to criminalize it.   

I sometimes forget that all of this change is happening because of a plant that alters the mind of the consumer in a way that challenges ingrained ways of experiencing the world. It is a rather poetic similarity, that the world is also challenging it’s long held prejudices and embracing an altered state of mind.

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.